CAPSULE: This is a fictional story set in the present about the production of a fictional play about the 1915 Armenian holocaust when 1.5 million people were killed. That is too many layers of fiction between the viewer and the historic fact. The film covers the issue of today's people and their responsibility to keep alive the past. But this is a film with better intentions than execution. There are stories about this period that desperately need to be told, but we are just too many levels removed from what is at heart certainly not the most compelling story of the experience. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
If one wants to come to understand what happened in the 1930s and 1940s European holocaust there are any number of film dramatizations of those events to help. There are films like SCHINDLER'S LIST, THE PIANIST, NIGHT AND FOG, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, and THE GREY ZONE. But these films are about another holocaust. There is very little information in cinema about the 1915 to 1923 genocide of the Armenian people by the Turks. Wikipedia list only thirteen films on the subject and only two or three are in English. The only one I have seen was Atom Egoyan's ARARAT (2002). But that film was not about the history of those days primarily, it was about a (then) modern-day film company making a film about the genocide. The film that was desperately needed so people will not forget the genocide was not ARARAT, but the film that was being made in ARARAT. Sadly, that film within a film was not made instead of Egoyan's film.
Simon (played by Simon Abkarian) has written a play that will have one single performance. And then the play will be performed in what appears to be a tiny audience in a beautiful antique theater that mysteriously has gone unused for seven years. There are several things happening that stand in the way of the production. The theater is as intriguing as the play being presented. There are mysterious accidents. There is even a suggestion that what is happening is in the realm of the supernatural. Understandably the local Turkish community is protesting a play about Turkish barbarity. But even the Armenian community is protesting the play's production because they are afraid it would distort history. Even the play is unsatisfying. In it, an attractive Armenian woman is given the choice of escaping the killings with the protection of an amorous Turk or dying with her people. One could argue that the real horror of the history is with the people who are given no choice at all.
1915 is a film written and directed by Garin Hovannisian and Alec Mouhibian. It is a short 82 minutes long. Yes, it is about the Armenian genocide, among other things. It also has discussions about the nature of acting that I would have expected more from BIRDMAN. There are philosophical nuggets like, "The wound has to sting before it can heal." What we learn of the genocide is in five or six sound bytes. It fails in precisely the same way that ARARAT fails. Obviously Simon's play cannot be a big spectacular production within his budget, but he could tell more directly the history in a small personal story like THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK.
This is not a bad film by any means. It is intriguing, but it could have been more effective. It leaves the viewer with bewilderment where it could have left him with conviction. Admittedly, it is not quite fair complaining about what 1915 *was not* instead of what it *was*, but there is a real need to document the Armenian experience before too much time passes and too much is forgotten. I want to know more about the history of the Armenian Massacre but found myself being told of the problems producing a play in current-day Los Angeles. The film suggests that that this is history that is being forgotten while doing almost nothing to preserve the memories. I rate 1915 a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3781762/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/771415682/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper