“Bon Voyage” film reveals the true nature of the unrecognized status of Artsakh

Despite being filmed two years prior to the 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Garegin Papoyan‘s film about Artsakh’s airport is still quite relevant and a must-see for anyone interested in Artsakh’s unrecognized status.

His approach to telling the story of this pristinely renovated yet non-operational airport is hypnotizing, keeping you waiting for the next scene in anticipation.

Through this documentary, we see the airport represents a microcosm of the in-between nature of the Republic of Artsakh as part of Armenia and a nation as a whole. Artashes Matevosyan’s cinematography beautifully captures the sinuously still nature of the functioning yet non-operational life of the airport.

The truth is, Artsakh’s only airport has been completely renovated, rendered operational for eight years with over 50 employees, and yet it remains without a single commercial flight.

In Bon Voyage, we see the staff of a sleepy airport in the vicinity of a small city go through its daily routine. Weather is checked in the control room. The secretary makes coffee for the director. The workers come in for an obligatory medical check-up, while the cleaners ensure that the marble floors are spotless. Something’s not quite right, however. The airplanes and the passengers are nowhere to be seen.

Through wry observational scenes, Bon Voyage describes the absurd ironies of a not-so-ordinary post-Soviet community stuck in the political impasse generated by a frozen military conflict, which has since erupted into full-blown warfare. Fully equipped for accommodating small civilian flights, the recently rebuilt Stepanakert Airport in the breakaway Republic of Artsakh does not operate due to the permanent threat of missile strikes, which is exacerbated now that much of the surrounding areas are under Azeri-control.

Unwilling to risk any lives, the airport, nevertheless, remains “open.” The dreary ritual of keeping the standby facility operational turns the workers into a closely-knit family unit, where each individual lives out their personal dreams while continuing to hope for the basic freedom to cross borders and receive guests.

Since the pandemic effectively had shut down many festivals and theaters throughout the year, and the Artsakh War delayed many creative projects in lieu of more emergent needs, Bon Voyage is now being pre-released on the Vimeo Video-on-Demand platform by Open Studio.  

Pre-orders are available. The film will be released on December 15.

“Bon Voyage” film still
Aramazt Kalayjian
Aramazt Kalayjian is a creative professional with a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary story-telling and visual communication. His current project is TEZETA, a film about the Armenians of Ethiopia.

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