Hamazkayin Toronto’s 15th Pomegranate Film Festival (POM) is back, following a two-year hiatus of in-person screenings due to the coronavirus pandemic. The festival, which will take place Nov. 7-13, will offer a hybrid experience with a combination of live and virtual screenings.
This year’s installment will focus on films about Artsakh, and its proceeds will be donated to humanitarian efforts in the war-stricken region. “Over 30 years ago, the people of Artsakh voted for independence. Any arrangement where Artsakh becomes part of Azerbaijan is an invitation for ethnic cleansing and genocide. This year more than ever, Hamazkayin’s Pomegranate Film Festival will be showcasing films about Artsakh,” organizers said.
Virtual screenings will be launched between Nov. 7 and Nov. 10, and the films will be made available online through the Eventive platform until Nov. 20. “Anyone anywhere in the world will be able to view these inspiring films from the comforts of their own home,” organizers said in a statement. The festival’s in-person screenings will take place on Nov. 11-13 at the Armenian Youth Centre’s Hamazkayin Theatre (50 Hallcrown Place, Toronto).
The festival will screen a powerful group of feature films about Artsakh, including Nora Martirosyan’s “Should the Wind Drop,” which is selected as the showcase film for Saturday evening. As Armenia’s entry for Best International Feature at the 94th Academy Awards, the film tells the story of a French auditor charged with appraising if the Stepanakert Airport meets international aviation standards.
Jivan Avetisyan’s “Gate to Heaven,” about a German journalist who returns to Artsakh after 22 years with complex memories of the previous war, will also be featured. Proceeds from the screening will be donated to Avetisyan’s next project, “Revival.”
Several informative documentaries to be featured examine Artsakh from various angles. Vic Gerami’s film, “Motherland,” takes a close look at the war from an activist’s lens, while Emile Ghessen’s “45 Days: The Fight for a Nation” offers unique insights considering the filmmaker’s background as a former British Marines commando. Personal experiences are at the forefront of Garin Hovannisian’s “Invisible Republic,” based on the diary account of Artsakh-native Lika Zakaryan, and Mariam Avetisyan’s “The Desire to Live,” narrated by Canadian actress Anne Bedian.
Additionally, Ruben Grigoryan and Mariam Yegoryan’s “Shushi, Amen” reflects on Shushi’s rich Armenian culture and history, and Armen Khachatryan’s “Unfinished Memories” highlights two generations of female soldiers who bravely fight for a better future.
POM will also proudly screen “Amerikatsi” by Michael Goorjian, who will be in attendance. The historical drama is about Charlie, who escapes the Armenian Genocide by stowing away in a trunk bound for the United States. Years later, decides to move back to Armenia in 1947, where he is greeted by the harsh reality of Soviet communism. “Goorjian’s story underscores the complex need to connect with one’s homeland,” festival organizers said.
Another inspiring film featured is the documentary “Blessing of the Mountain” by Hamazkayin Canada’s own Tamar Chahinian, which celebrates the courage of the people Musa Dagh. The closing film, “The American Good Samaritans,” is a story of hope and goodwill that should not be missed: It is the follow-up to producer Manvel Saribekyan’s” Map of Salvation.” In this new film, director Ara Mnatsakanyan closely examines the inspiring Americans who provided invaluable assistance to the Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians who suffered under Turkish rule.
Families looking for fun films will enjoy two spectacular features: “Olympicos” and “Once Upon a Time at School.” “Olympicos” is an animated film by Hayk and David Sahakyants, about the fantastic story of Varazdat, the King of Armenia, who competed in the Olympic Games. The delightful comedy “Once Upon a Time at School” by Hartutyun Khalafyan, is a whimsical story about Tigran, a clever teenager who often gets into trouble at school.
POM will also screen an impressive selection of short films from around the world. Iranian American producer and actress Mary Apick will screen her latest short, “The Cat,” which draws attention to the plight of women after the Iranian Revolution. Annette Bedrosian and Ani Mikirditchian’s “The Patisserie,” tells the story of a first-generation Holocaust survivor who retraces his parent’s past. Tigran Nersisian’s “Back to Ashtarak” is a beautiful personal story about his memories and connection to his birthplace. Several other shorts will also be presented at the festival.
Tickets and the full Festival schedule are available at pomegranatefilmfestival.com.