By Andy Turpin
WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—On Nov. 5, the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) presented a special screening of director Alex Webb’s short film “Hove” (The Wind), which portrays the relationship between Zara and Nina, two modern-day Armenian women who deal in their own ways with the unresolved legacy of the genocide. The film stars Oscar-winning Greek American actress Olympia Dukakis and Armenian American actress Shirleyann Kaladjian.
“Hove” was an Official Selection at the 2009 Boston Film Festival, the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, and the Montreal Film Festival.
As a film, “Hove” is a good beginning, but is simply that—a beginning. Five of the film’s 10 minutes is essentially long silence, with two stirring images and four long grimaces of deep grief and angst by the film’s protagonists, Zara and Nina. Both actresses perform tersely and with well-acted intensity, but one must remember that implied greatness is not the same as greatness. Although “Hove” is an en vogue film with its subject matter, its script must be expanded to succeed its larger narrative objectives.
Director Alex Webb spoke about the origins of the film at ALMA. “After being in the Armenian community for many years now by marriage [to actress Shirleyann Kaladjian] the Armenian story and history have become my story and history as well, especially as a father to our son,” he said.
Of “Hove’s” formulation, Webb stated, “I sat around with about 15 Armenian friends speaking with them about the genocide, asking them whether its occurrence and denial by Turkey affected their daily lives. The debate raged on for two hours with opinions that varied from ‘I never think about it’ to ‘I wake up every day thinking about it.’”
From his own point of view, Webb said, “If you’ve seen the photographs [of the genocide], in a way, it makes you a new witness because you remember them and can tell others what happened. Outside of the Armenian community, I’ve met few people that have seen images from the genocide.”
The organization Facing History and Ourselves, he added, “will now be using the film in their upcoming curriculums to teach the Armenian Genocide. Of course, I was very fortunate to have gotten Olympia. Her father was an Anatolian Greek that nearly lost his life and lost his entire family business and livelihood in the Ottoman Empire at the time, so this issue is very close to her heart.”
“I think it’s important to remember that these aren’t just pictures that haunt your dreams, these are the personal stories of families that are missing half their family trees.”
Of the noticeable amount of silence in the film, Webb said, “A lot is in the silences between people. I’ve noticed that a lot with my Armenian friends, that often the most important things in the conversation are those not said outright.”
Speaking to “Hove’s” relative shortcomings and limited running time, Webb explained, “The fact of the matter is I didn’t have a master plan. As a writer I wrote a short story about my feelings on the genocide from interacting with Armenian friends and of course my wife Shirleyann. Because the film originated from a short story, in my mind it is complete.”
He is, however, interested in garnering support for a larger Armenian-related film project. “My feeling is that the more people I can get on a project, the less likely anyone is to be scared off later,” he said, as has occurred with projects involving the genocide with larger studios since 1928.
Ultimately, Webb said, “the genocide is something that’s going to be you [the characters and Armenians] forever. All you can do is acknowledge it.”
A light reception concluded the afternoon’s event.