ARTsakh Arts and Cultural Foundation to present theatrical release of Jivan Avetisyan’s Gate to Heaven

ARTsakh Arts and Cultural Foundation is proud to announce that Gate to Heaven – «Դրախտի դարպասը», a film by Jivan Avetisyan, has been included in AMC’s independent programming schedule. Gate to Heaven will see its theatrical release starting October 21, 2022 at the following locations:

Boston, AMC Methuen 20
Detroit, Forum 30
Glendale, Americana at Brand 18
Las Vegas, Town Square 18
Orange, Orange 30 

Avetisyan spent 38 days in Artsakh during the 2020 war, which began on September 27 and ceased on November 9. He documented the atrocities and war crimes committed by Azerbaijani forces against the Armenian population of Artsakh, including his family. Avetisyan’s quest is to bring awareness to Artsakh by telling these stories and promote peace through the art of filmmaking.

Gate to Heaven is an international war drama starring Richard Sammel, Tatiana Spivakova, Sos Janibekyan, Leo Pobedonoscevas and Naira Zakarian.

In the midst of our unprecedented times coupled with the brutal war in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), Gate to Heaven, a film from Armenia/Artsakh, received a considerable amount of publicity, especially in Europe, Russia and the US. The riveting war drama takes place in Artsakh during the four-day war in 2016.

The film tells the story of Robert Sternvall, a German journalist haunted by his past who returns to Artsakh after a 22-year absence to cover the resurgence of war. In the course of his reporting, Robert meets Sophia Marti, a young opera singer and daughter of missing photojournalist Edgar Martirosyan, who Robert abandoned to be taken captive during the fall of the village of Talish in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1992. As their romance develops, Robert cannot escape from his guilty conscience and must face the truth of his past actions. Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of the Berlin Post is preparing a grand exhibition to showcase  Robert’s talent and celebrate his accomplishments. Sophia is eager to attend the prestigious event, not knowing what awaits her.

Film still from Gate to Heaven

Gate to Heaven has been selected at numerous international film festivals. In September, the film opened the Be Epic! London International Film Festival, where it won in the category of “Best Cinematography.” 

Gate to Heaven won “Best Production Design” and “Best Sound Mixer” at the third annual Anahit Film Awards held by Armenian National Film Academy. In October 2021, the film won four awards at the Ontario International Film Festival (ONIFF): “Best Sound,” “Best Music,” “Best Script for the International Feature” and “Best International Feature Film.” 

Gate to Heaven film composer Michele Josia of Italy was recognized at the Global Music Awards and was honored as a finalist for “Best Score of the Month” at the Tracks Music Award.

The film’s creative team partnered with MPM Premium International Sales of France in early  spring of 2020 to participate in the virtual screening of Cannes Marché du Film. MPM  Premium has received numerous leads across the globe, including the United States.  Shortly thereafter, Gate to Heaven was selected at Moscow International Film Festival, Non Competition Category. 

The film was removed from the festival shortly after the start of the Artsakh War, for which the creators of the film received contradictory explanations. They received an official letter from the festival director six hours after the start of the Artsakh War, stating that the film will be removed from the festival as a precautionary measure “to avoid clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Moscow.” Yet the team was also alerted that the screening was canceled “due to the political  pressures received by Azerbaijani government officials.”  

Within a few weeks of the Moscow International Film Festival, the Golden Apricot International Film Festival took place in Yerevan, Armenia. Gate to Heaven was screened during the “Dedication to Artsakh” program, the proceeds of which were donated to Artsakh. 

In December 2020, the Cinema for Peace Foundation in Berlin hosted a virtual screening of Gate to Heaven. Sammel joined producer Kestutis Drazdauskas from Lithuania and executive producer Adrineh Mirzayan from the US on a panel titled “Conference for Peace on Nagorno-Karabakh.” They addressed the response of the international community to the war and the role of civil society organizations, filmmakers, human rights experts and EU politicians in peacebuilding.

All proceeds from each screening will benefit Avetisyan’s next film project Revival.

Revival gained international interest by the selection committee of Berlinale Talents at the Berlin International Film Festival. Avetisyan was selected amongst 3,400 applicants to attend Berlinale Talents 2020. Within the talent program, Avetisyan became the subject of a  documentary by German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, DW Documentary.

The project was also selected by Roy W. Dean Grant in the “Hot Films in the Making” category. From the Heart Productions hosted the film on their website for a year to help raise funds.

Avetisyan and his team are also in the development phase of the Black List, a feature film inspired by the life of Alexander Lapshin, a popular Russian-Israeli travel blogger who unwittingly found himself on Azerbaijan’s infamous black list.

Gate to Heaven was produced by Fish eye Art Cultural Foundation (Armenia), Artbox Production House (Lithuania), 7 Morgen Filmproduktion (Germany), Glaam Media Invest (France), ARTsakh Arts and Cultural Foundation (USA), Timeless Production Group (Bulgaria), The Lab – a Media Production Company (Czech Republic) and Ala Bianca SRL (Italy). 

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Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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