A film showcasing an unimaginable reality, Nora Martirosyan’s Should the Wind Drop (Si le vent tombe, Երբ որ քամին հանդարտվի) is a bittersweet portrait of an anxiety-ridden Artsakh through the eyes of international auditor Alain Delage (Grégoire Colin), who arrived to appraise the Stepanakert Airport. Set in the small Republic of Artsakh, Alain’s job is to make sure the airport meets international aviation standards. Almost immediately, he notices a young boy named Edgar (Hayk Bakhryan) running a small business around the airport. Edgar’s distant presence, as well as the connections Alain builds along the way, inspires him to risk everything to help enable this isolated territory to open up to the outside world.
An authentic story from a foreigner and a local’s perspectives, coupled with gorgeous cinematography of sempiternal scenery and a lush soundtrack, Should the Wind Drop tells the tale of self-determination and what it means to be truly free, unshackled from the chains of a constant battle for autonomy and recognition from the international community.
“It’s a symbol of this country that’s ready to fly, that wants to fly, that desires to be recognized, but at the same time, is not allowed to,” Martirosyan told the Weekly. “Visually, the airport showcased in the film is also a symbol of modernity, which is why my narrative heavily focuses on it.”
Martirosyan had a self-described “blind conviction” that the film should be made in Artsakh, which helped paint a more honest narration about a world that bystanders could never truly understand. The Armenian characters in the film knew this very well; Alain did not, but more truthfully, he could not. How could a Frenchman possibly understand that an airport to the inhabitants of the area is not just a designated area where planes land and take off? How can one explain that the airport instead represents a symbolic moment of screaming “I exist!” from the rooftop?
Simply put, one cannot. That is the story Martirosyan tells—an oblivious Western peep into a world so disregarded, even though the situation is quite literally life or death. Alain, for his part, meets a cohort of characters who welcome him with open arms: Seraine (Arman Navasardyan), Armen (Vardan Petrosyan), Korune (David Hakobyan), and Karine (Narine Grigoryan).
The driving force behind the film was Martirosyan herself, whose extensive background in the arts paired with her resolute vision, is what brought the film to life. Martirosyan studied at the Yerevan Academy of Fine Arts in her native Armenia, prior to graduating from Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam and Le Fresnoy in northern France.
As her first feature film, Should the Wind Drop has already accomplished so much. Supported by the Cinéfondation workshop at the Cannes Film Festival, the Villa Médicis and Eurimages, Should the Wind Drop was the first Armenian film selected for the Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival since 1965. It later officially premiered in the United States through the Golden Gate Armenian Film Festival (GGAFF), whose goal is to build and strengthen the connection between Armenian film directors and the Armenian diaspora in the United States. Armenia has chosen Should the Wind Drop as its official submission to the 94th Academy Awards in the international feature film category.
“When visiting Artsakh in 2009, I was shocked at how a country that was physically in front of my eyes didn’t have any visibility, whether it be on something like Google Maps or on a larger-scale, geopolitical or legal level. It even has its own president, constitution and capital,” recounts Martirosyan. “I told myself that it’s very important to let the world discover this country, and the best way to do that was through a feature film.”
Following her initial visit to Artsakh, the film’s 10-year development began. Martirosyan called the work her “most important film to date” and “a huge chapter of [her] life.”
Martirosyan understands the Armenian condition, stating, “We are made of Armenian culture. I am made of Armenian songs, Armenian churches, Armenian mountains. It is inescapable. It is the way I see the world.”
Martirosyan’s world view materialized into a subtle yet monumental depiction of the struggles of indigenous Armenians, who can and will exist, against every single odd. Teetering on the lines of necessary hope and soul-crushing despair, Should the Wind Drop takes viewers on a journey through a curious outsider’s perspective and the gentle eyes of a diligent child sweeping them away into a tragedy tinged with a glimmer of light.
The film will be screened on Wednesday, November 10 at 6:30 pm at Asian World Film Festival in Los Angeles.