Toronto–Atom Egoyan’s “Seven Veils” won the coveted title of Best Feature Film at the 16th Pomegranate Film Festival (POM) in Toronto. The festival, which took place virtually from Nov. 13 to 16 and in person from Nov. 17 to 19, showcased a diverse selection of Armenian-inspired cinema and highlighted the resilience and creativity of the Armenian film community.
The world-renowned Toronto-Armenian director’s latest film stars Amanda Seyfried as Jeanine, a theatre director dealing with repressed trauma, as she prepares to mount a production of the opera “Salome.” Rebecca Liddiard, Douglas Smith, Mark O’Brien, and Vinessa Antoine also star.
This year’s festival was a poignant and impactful event, which focused on raising funds and awareness for refugees forcibly driven out from their native “Due to recent events, we are reluctant to use the word ‘sweet’ when describing the 16th edition of the Pomegranate Film Festival; however, what we can do is offer 68 memorable films to help raise funds and awareness for refugees that have been forcibly exiled from their sacred lands in Artsakh,” festival organizers said in a statement.
In the Best Feature Film category, Gor Kirakosian’s “Women in Black,” which disrupts the peace at a wealthy man’s wake, and Aram Shahbazyan’s “Chnchik,” a story of an innocent girl in a village bullied by her family and villagers, received well-deserved honourable mentions for their compelling narratives.
Serge Avedikian’s “Back to Sölöz,” which provides an up-close look at Sölöz, a village representing Turkey’s dying Armenian heritage, took home the top prize in the documentary category, demonstrating its impactful storytelling. Hakob Melkonyan’s “Blockade,” which follows the daily struggle for the survival of Chinari’s inhabitants during the Artsakh conflict, earned an honourable mention.
The short film category showcased emerging talent, with “250 KM” by Hasmik Movsisyan emerging as the winner. The short film is based on true events during the 2020 War when Azerbaijan attacked Artsakh. “The Mud” by Vahan Grigoryan and “It Takes a Village” by Ophelia Harutyunyan received honourable mentions for their creativity and depth. Aram Ohanyan’s “Damala” claimed the top spot in the short documentary category, while “Lahmajune” by Anahid Nazarian earned an honourable mention for its compelling storytelling.
Creativity and innovation were celebrated in the experimental and animation category, where “Nowhere” by Garin Hovanissian emerged as the winner. “Armenian Papers” by Ornella Macchia and “Ensouled” by Toronto’s Kamee Abrahamian received honourable mentions for their unique contributions.
As in previous years, the POM audience played a significant role in recognizing outstanding films by voting for their favorites and determining the audience choice awards. “We Are Our Mountains” by Federico Lemos was the top choice in the documentary category for its captivating storytelling about Artsakh. In the feature film category, the audience was equally captivated by “It’s Spring” by Roman Musheghyan and “Love Is in the Water” by Armen Poladian, sharing the honour as Audience Choice Feature Film winners. Poladian is near and dear to the Toronto-Armenian community and the Pomegranate Film Festival. His “Love Is in the Water” depicts an introverted young man’s quest for love with a supernatural twist.
Among the rising talents in the Armenian film industry, Milena Mooradian received the prestigious Rising Star Award for her exceptional direction in “Cycles.”
The Gala Night at the Pomegranate Film Festival was a dazzling affair that added a touch of glamour to the event. Held on the evening of Nov. 18, the Gala brought together filmmakers, actors, and film enthusiasts for an unforgettable experience. The evening began with an array of delicious food stations that delighted the senses, offering an authentic culinary journey. Attendees enjoyed the enchanting tunes of Armadi Tsayn, a contemporary folk ensemble from the U.S. founded by Alek Surenian and Sam Sjostedt, who had the crowd swaying to their mesmerizing melodies.
The night’s highlight was the screening of “Ararat Uncovered,” which transported the audience to a world of discovery and adventure, leaving them both informed and inspired. The film presents an exciting blend of travel documentary and comedy, offering viewers a unique journey through regional Armenia with the charismatic Kev Orkian. “Ararat Uncovered” is the follow-up to the successful “Armenia Uncovered.” In it, Kev sets his sights on a life goal–conquering Mount Ararat.
The Pomegranate Film Festival, founded in 2006 by the Toronto Klatsor chapter of the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society, has grown into a unique community event celebrating Armenian-inspired cinema. As the 16th edition of the festival comes to a close, POM has once again demonstrated its commitment to showcasing the vibrant Armenian film industry while supporting the urgent needs of Artsakh refugees in Armenia.
Throughout the festival, POM organizers expressed their anticipation of continuing the tradition of celebrating Armenian culture through film and nurturing the talents of the Armenian film community in the years to come.