On Sun., March 6, the Hamazkayin of New Jersey hosted the screening of a feature-length documentary film called “Charents: In Search of My Armenian Poet.” Writer/director Shareen Anderson was present at the event. Released in 2010, the film was produced by Fort Greene Filmworks and co-produced by the Naregatsi Art Institute.
The event began with a welcome speech and introduction to the life and work of Yeghishe Charents, Armenia’s beloved poet. A group of students from the Nareg Armenian Saturday School recited poems from Charents. The 90-minute film then took viewers on a journey that started in Armenia, traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia (where Charents lived and worked along with many other Armenian intellectuals in the beginning of the 20th century), and continued to Kars, present-day Turkey (the birthplace of Charents). In World War I, Charents joined the Armenian Legion with the hope of liberating his motherland. But when Armenian soldiers, along with Russian forces, withdrew from Kars, it was the last time Charents saw his hometown.
The film featured interviews with college professors, writers, poets, students, and ordinary people and villagers. As soon as these individuals were asked about Charents, they started to talk about him and his poetry. Even toddlers recited his poems spontaneously.
Anderson’s film is a constant search to discover something new about Charents: With her lens, she attempts to identify the place where Charents is thought to have been buried. She learns about the people who served time with him in prison. She finds the house in Kars where Charents was born and raised. She even follows Charents’ footsteps to where he spent his last minutes of freedom before being imprisoned and killed under mysterious circumstances in a Stalinist prison in 1937.
After the screening, Anderson talked about the years she spent in Armenia while making this film. She responded to questions asked by the audience. Father Hovnan Bozoyan concluded the event by saying a few words about Charents and the film.
The Hamazkayin organizers said they hope the film will increase the youth’s interest in Charents’ works, and will re-ignite the love of Charents in those who grew up learning his poems.