YEREVAN, Armenia—The producers of the upcoming feature “Three Apples Fell from Heaven,” a drama set against the backdrop of the Armenian Genocide, gathered at the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies in Yerevan to introduce award-winning director Shekhar Kapur, who was in the country scouting locations for the film.
“This is a challenging project that reveals a shameful chapter in world history,” said Kapur, whose movies, including “Elizabeth” and “The Golden Age,” have earned nine Academy Award nominations. “I am not one to back down from a challenge, and I believe the world is ready to join me in finally examining this tragedy and its far-reaching consequences. My films aspire to put human faces on history and I think that’s what makes them relevant. That’s what I hope to do in depicting the Armenian Genocide.”
The Tumo Center event welcomed the production team to Armenia, where they hope to do some of the filming. “Three Apples Fell from Heaven” is based on Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s award-winning novel of heroism and heartbreak set against the savage backdrop of the Ottoman purge during the years 1914-17. The film’s executive producer, Vahe Yacoubian, introduced Marcom, along with producer/actress Sona Tatoyan and her husband, Oscar-nominated screenwriter José Rivera (“The Motorcycle Diaries”), who has adapted Marcom’s novel for the screen. They were joined on the podium by the film’s French producer, Edgard Tenembaum, and its Turkish co-producer, Cigdem Mater.
“I cannot express my joy in working with Shekhar Kapur on this project,” said Tatoyan. “José and I just spent a week with him in Yerevan working on the script and location scouting. I’d read that he is a director who works at the intersection of art, myth, and activism, and that is a perfect description for this film. It is the first of its kind—an epic historical drama, to be filmed in a country with little film infrastructure. ‘Three Apples’ will be the catalyst to creating a world-class film industry in Armenia, so it really is an act of activism. The other important thing to note with the film is that it is a co-production with Armenia, France, and Turkey. This is obviously historic and challenging in an amazing way. The film is not only a narrative about genocide; it works on several levels. Like the book, it is surrounded by passion and love. We want to share the film with people around the world, with all cultures and people of all faiths. Not only with Armenians, but with all human beings who look at genocide as a universal tragedy.”
“Launching this film in Armenia, surrounded by so many talented artists and internationally recognized filmmakers, was an emotionally charged experience,” Yacoubian added. “It gave the proper inspirational foundation for making a film that will commemorate the Armenian Genocide and help pave the way for a peaceful and harmonious future for humanity.”
After filmmaker introductions, Yacoubian introduced a performance by electronic musician and vocalist KÁRYYN (Karin Tatoyan), who was joined by an ensemble of classical musicians from Armenia’s Philharmonic Orchestra and the prestigious Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory.
Following the musical performance, each guest spoke about his/her involvement with the film. Rivera uttered a few Armenian phrases, to which the audience responded with enthusiastic applause and laughter. Following the presentation, the film’s co-producer, Alex Kalognomos, hosted a closing reception that allowed guests a closer look at the state-of-the-art Tumo facility. Kapur continued to share his impressions of being in Armenia for the first time and his deep respect for the historical significance of the “Three Apples’” story.
Micheline Aharonian Marcom
Marcom won Columbia University’s Anahid Literary Award for her debut novel Three Apples Fell from Heaven. It was also named a Notable Book by the New York Times, was cited as one of the best books of 2001 by both the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post, and was a runner up for the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction. Marcom has published four novels, including a trilogy of books about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath. The second book of the trilogy, The Daydreaming Boy, was the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year for 2004 and was awarded the PEN/USA Award for Fiction in 2005. Marcom was also the recipient of the 2004 Lannon Foundation Fellowship and a 2006 Whiting Writers’ Award for emerging writers, and was a 2008 Fulbright Fellow. Her fifth book, A Brief History of Yes, is forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press in the spring of 2013.
Shekhar Kapur is a globally recognized film director, activist, and media visionary. Having started his career as an accountant, management consultant, and economist in London, Kapur returned to India in search of a new direction and went on to become a well-known actor, director, writer, and producer. He is best known for his films “Elizabeth,” “Golden Age,” “Bandit Queen,” “Mr. India,” “Masoom,” and “Four Feathers,” which have won or been nominated for numerous awards, including the Oscars, BAFTA’s, and Filmfare Awards. He has diverse environmental interests while currently championing the cause of water as a resource, and is recognized as one of India’s leading proponents in this space. He was given one of India’s highest civilian state awards, the “Padma Shiri,” for his service to media in the nation.
Screenwriter and Academy Award nominee José Rivera is the author of “The Motorcycle Diaries,” a film directed in 2004 by Walter Salles. As a playwright Rivera studied with Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez at the Sundance Institute in 1989. He has been the recipient of a Whiting Foundation Award, a McKnight Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant, and a Kennedy Center Grant. On a Fulbright Arts Fellowship, he was writer-in-residence at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Since the success of “The Motorcycle Diaries,” Rivera has gone on to pen screenplays for Sony Pictures, Dreamworks, Summit Entertainment, Miramax, and many others, as well as teleplays for Showtime, HBO, NBC, and CBS. Re-teaming with Walter Salles, Rivera wrote the screenplay adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s seminal novel On the Road, executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola. The film recently premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and stars Kristen Stewart (“Twilight”), Kirsten Dunst, and Amy Adams.
Sona Tatoyan is a first-generation Syrian-Armenian-American actress, producer, writer, and director living in New York. Tatoyan is the founder and president of Door/Key Productions. Currently in pre-production are “Three Apples Fell from Heaven” and “Celestina.” In development are a biopic on the Armenian abstract expressionist artist Arshile Gorky and “The Der Zor Project,” a documentary about the infamous death march through the Syrian desert during the genocide. Marking Tatoyan’s feature writing and directorial debut, “The First Full Moon” (Sundance RAWI Middle-Eastern Screenwriting Lab Fellow, 2011; Dubai Film Connection/Festival 2012 project) mingles past and present to explore the ghosts, the traumas, the guilt, and the loves of a modern Armenian heroine. In this and other projects, she seeks to explore the untold stories of her scattered people and share her rich, ancient, multi-faceted culture with the wider world. As an actress, her lead roles on film include Eve in “The Journey” (winner, Audience Award, Milan International Film Festival, 2002), the No Name Girl in the short “The Tape Recorder” (José Rivera, director), and Laila in her writing/directing debut short “Toujours” (Arpa International Film Festival, 2012). Upcoming title roles are in the independent feature “Celestina” (José Rivera, director; Walter Salles, executive producer) and Lusine in “Three Apples Fell from Heaven.”
An innovative, open media studio in the heart of Yerevan, the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies is equipped with state-of-the-art digital technology and is staffed by educators and media professionals. For more information, visit www.tumo.org.
For more information about “Three Apples Fell from Heaven,” visit www.facebook.com/ThreeApplesFellFromHeaven.