Documentary film by Tigran Khzmalyan censored in Armenia

The screening of Tigran Khzmalyan’s documentary film “Sardarapat”, produced with state funding, has been banned. The presentation of the film was scheduled on September 26th and 27th in Yerevan’s “Moscow” cinema theater.
Hetq has published the full script of the documentary, which contains some revealing details on the behavior of the Armenian government of the First Armenian Republic, portreying the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun led authorities as incompetent cowards and traitors, ready to surrender brightest heros of the nation, like Andranik to the mercy of Turkish army. I could not stop thinking, that the film has been banned by the efforts of ARF – the party is one of the most influencial political forces in Armenia today and is member to the ruling coalition, along with Republican and “Prosperous Armenia” parties. To complicate matters even further, Tigran Khzmalyan, one of the leading film directors in Armenia today, has openly voiced his support for the Levon Ter-Petrossian led opposition on several occasions. Knowing Ter-Petrossian’s dislike of ARF (on December 28, 1994, President Levon Ter-Petrossian in a famous television speech banned the ARF, which was the nation’s leading opposition party, along with Yerkir, the country’s largest daily newspaper.), it is easy to establish a link between supporting Ter-Petrossian and wishing to blackmail ARF – the party in rulling coalition.
And while it is hard to established, whether the biased film director has produced a POSSIBLY biased documentary or not, it is clear, that banning the film by the state is censorship – in it most brutal form. An act absolutely forbidden by the Armenian Constitution. Will anyone answer for this crime?

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. Who told that film is banned?
    How banned it?
    As I know producer paid Khzmalyan money for the film is not satisfied with the content and asked Tigran to make changes. Khzmalyan refused ,so far,the film was withdrew from demonstration in the cinema theatre ‘Moscow”.
    I sow this film in one of the Yerevan clubs located in downtown. Does it mean that film is banned?
    You know,yes,we had to have heroes to grow up new generations,and if people like Khzmalyan continue to ashame everyone related with the first Republic,we will have the generation of people without armenian identity.

  2. Tigran, if the film was not allowed to be played in a forum that can attract public attention (and possible distribution), then it’s effectively “banned.” I haven’t seen it or looked at the Hetq article, but why not let it air and then have a big long critical discussion about its merits and demerits? Do you think that Armenian identity is so very fragile that a film questioning historical occurrences will destroy it?

  3. Agree the two previous replies.
    Soviet censorship is in past and the film will anyhow will be shown to public. I wish I saw the film! 🙂

  4. I don’t know what the content of the movie is but, in the “free world” where I live, there are many great movies that never make into the big screens. They usually end up in small theaters with sophisticated audiences. So by Ani’s standards movies in America kind of get banned as well. There are by the way movies that are actually banned in America, like for instance Salo by Posolini, but of course that is a different level.
    You know, the problem isn’t that the movie has been banned. The problem is that there are two societies in Armenia that unfortunately have learned how to coexist. One never does anything but telling the government that they allowed violation of human rights and the other does nothing but violating human rights and the actual people don’t seem to care much about any one of the sides. There is also a good reason that people don’t care much. Just think about. Imagine you are a coach of a football team that cannot afford shoes for the players but you are teaching them how to defend against Barcelona. If I was in that team, I would be the first to leave.

  5. Grigor, the “little” movies you mention in the U.S. have actually gotten some distribution rights. The way the film industry works is that movies get made with funding, then they go to festivals like Toronto or Sundance and play and hopefully get “picked up” by distributors, who then try to get the films into as many theatres as possible. In the case of “Sardarapat”, apparently the film got funded and made, but instead of being presented at the cinema, it’s just being shown in semi-public settings. That’s like being shown on public-access cable in America, not like being shown in art theatres in New York and Los Angeles. There are lots of films in America that never get distribution either, but the one we’re talking about is being censored for political reasons, and it’s by a well-known director, not a film student or something.

  6. Well, he is not as well known as Posolini whose movie is banned in America. No there are many great directors whose movies never make into mainstream theaters, otherwise we would see less junk. I am not saying that the government does it here but the industry but then the end result is the same we end up seeing what other people want us to see. At any rate, the heart of the problem is somewhere else and that is what is so unfortunate in all of this. The reason that no one concentrates on the heart of the problem is that people who seem to be pointing out cracks in our society always compare it with the western societies with a tacit assumption that the western society is better. Now, it may well be, but first of all, I don’t see any argument made for this and second of all Armenia lives in a different world where modern western values are more like for gods than for actual people and thirdly the west only 50 years ago was going through the same things. The point is that what Armenian people are always told by the “good guys”, which are all those who condemn this ban, is that they should fight for the rights of other people like for this guy or for Levon and etc. Seems to me it is a wrong strategy, but anyway do carry on.

  7. Okay, Grigor, so now I looked up “Salo” to see what you were talking about. So off-topic, but “Salo” (you’re talking about a 1976 movie) isn’t actually banned in the U.S., it’s been in copyright limbo problems.
    The August 1998 Criterion was removed from the market due to copyright problems. So, this version of the DVD with the “white ring around the hub” can be easily sold for 600 or more US dollars in good condition. This makes it one of, if not the most, valuable DVD in the world. Bootlegs are extremely common due to its value. Research should be done before purchasing.
    Anyway, never fear, a new release is being worked on, maybe in time for Christmas! 🙂ò_o_le_120_giornate_di_Sodoma
    In its on-line blog, On Five, the Criterion company said, in November 2006, that they re-acquired the distribution rights Salò. In May 2008, Criterion released the cover art of the reissue DVD, slated for release in August 2008, comprising two discs: (i) the movie (with an optional dubbed-English track) and (ii) three documentaries and new interviews.
    In August 2008, the BFI announced a new release of Salò on both high-definition Blu-ray and standard-definition DVD, claiming it to be “fully uncut and in its most complete version”, and that “the film has been re-mastered from the original Italian restoration negatives” and would be accompanied by a second disc containing extensive additional features. The BFI re-issue does indeed contain the missing 25 second poem intact. The films transfer differs from the criterion release as colours are more subtle without contrast boosting, like the criterion re issue.
    Fun fact from IMDB: “The “ex crement” in the coprophagia scenes was a mixture of chocolate and orange marmalade.”

  8. Well, for whatever reason my comment disappeared, but the Pasolini (not Posolini) film is not banned in the U.S., it’s got copyright problems. See IMDB and Wikipedia for details. And Wikipedia says the copyright’s been solved and two new versions will be out soon, just in time for Christmas shopping…
    Anyway, it’s in no way comparable to the topic at hand, which is political censorship. How are Armenians ever going to “move forward” if uncomfortable subjects get banned and nobody discusses things? I don’t understand the point, Grigor. You want to continue having modern values for gods only??

  9. >>I don’t understand the point, Grigor. You want to continue having modern values for gods only??
    This is exactly the problem. Nobody understands that we should care more about the average people not being able to do basic things instead of wasting our time on whose movie was banned. The point is that everyone who has been talking about issues, the real ones, talks about issues that concern the elite. It feels like that in Armenia only rich people’s rights get violated. Well, I am sorry to say, but if this dumbness continuous you will have nothing else than more of the same. Stop the nonsense and the dramatization when someone’s movie is banned while there are millions whose stories are never told. Stop pretending that this ban has anything to do with the average man’s story.
    The way societies moves forward is by talking about their rights not about how someone in the elite cannot show his movie. But of course, our elite consists of people who got educated in the west and all their education is good for is identifying “censorship” and presenting it as if it is the end of the world. But don’t listen to me. I did get educated in the west and didn’t take a word of what they are saying seriously, so I am pretty much out of this pack. Do carry on with the stories of the rich people not being able to do what they want to do. It is fascinating how disconnected you become from the society with all of these stories.
    I also want to say that my attack isn’t directed at Observer though I wish that I didn’t see this here. It has been covered by everyone and I am sick and tired of this story and stories that tell who in Levon’s camp got beaten up and who is in the prison for political reasons and etc. Why are you feeding us with this crap? Please, ask yourself this question next time around?

  10. Ani, you also forgot to mention that the movie was actually banned and what you wrote there are new developments. It all actually changed quite recently and the movie is only not banned in very few countries. Also, during the McCarthy era many movies and artists were banned and sent to prison. Well, now maybe you are wondering what this got to do with the topic and that is where my rage comes in. All these happened in a country that many use to criticize what happens in Armenia. Fine, but if you are doing that then how about also telling the story of how they got out of the mess. You know, black people got rights because they fought for their rights not for the rights of the likes of Ray Charles so that people could hear his music. This is unfortunately a triviality that is missing from your and most people’s understanding of the situation. It feels like everyone is waiting when the next ban will come around so that they can write an essay using the words “freedom of speech”, “censorship” , “democracy”, “human rights”,……….. I am just sick of it.

  11. Well, Grigor, whatever. The post was about a Armenian film that was funded by the government but suddenly was pulled for uncertainish reasons. If you don’t want to discuss it, then just don’t. I assure you that I have quite a detailed understanding about the topics you’ve mentioned (and far more knowledgeable than yours, to be honest), but this forum isn’t about the United States, it’s about Armenia. Perhaps you can suggest a topic to Observer that you ARE interested in discussing, or create your own blog and invite people to come and talk about it with you there–that’s what Tigran has done, and Artur, and etc. Meanwhile, enjoy the Pasolini film.

  12. >>assure you that I have quite a detailed understanding about the topics you’ve mentioned (and far more knowledgeable than yours, to be honest)
    Ani is that really the best answer you could come up with?
    >>> Perhaps you can suggest a topic to Observer that you ARE interested in discussing
    Sure, how about writing about ordinary people whose rights have been violated? That would be a great start. Of course, as I said I don’t blame Observer in anything. This is just a blog, but media could do a better job at things like this.
    >>>> or create your own blog and invite people to come and talk about it with you there–that’s what Tigran has done, and Artur, and etc
    Now that you have granted me the privilege to open my own blog, can I also plant flowers in there?

  13. Grigor – Don’t waste too much time arguing the point; for some people there is only one litmus test: If some decision or action can be portrayed to make the government (or the state – there is usually no distinction made in this respect) look bad, then Y’all better get fired up over it.

  14. Grigor – I am a person who is heavily engaged in media production. I make films, radio programs, write articles. And I consider myself an ordinary person. When I see Khzmalyan’s film is banned, I understand, that the same can apply to me – the ordinary person and very soon. In fact, from March 1-20th, the government illegally deleted the domain name of the news resource I was working on at that time: Ilegally, because we hadn’t been violating the conditions of the presidential decree on State of Emergency and didn’t have a single publication after 22:00 of March 1. So why the hell did they have to delete the domain name? Wasn’t it a violation of rights? Doesn’t it get you worried?
    Having this background, when I was out to purchase a domain name for my blog, I looked at buying but than I changed my mind and bought My money, which could go into the Armenian economy, went into the US one instead. So who lost in the aftermath? The Armenian Economy! I’m sure, that most people now will rather stick to foreign domain registrars, rather then the Armenian one. Government actions, when they violate human rights and democracy, always leave their negative effect on the economy, which translates into lost opportunity for the ORDINARY PEOPLE here. Don’t you understand?

  15. Thanks AH.
    Observer, why am I now thinking that your story is more interesting to me than this guy’s? Well whatever. Just to make it clear. Even though you may think that I was blaming you, I wasn’t. I can easily connect with your story but not this guy’s. I don’t know, and it seems like I am in the few. It may actually be something psychological as since the times of Soviet Union people have been so sensitive when it comes to discussing film directors and artists and etc.
    >>>Don’t you understand?
    I am not sure what I don’t understand but I am pretty sure you don’t understand that your story is better! I will follow AH’s advice and won’t waste my time anymore.

  16. I’ll add one more thing: I find it weird that if indeed the govt is sponsoring a film, then why the censorship? Seems like a strange choice of sponsorship (why hit up the govt, and on the flip side, why fund it??)
    I am not sure, Observer, how much can be generalized from the lack of promotion (is this equivalent to censorship, btw??). Having said that, I wouldn’t want to see censorship in Armenia, but that is something quite different from the lack of follow-through to a govt funded movie.

  17. May the problem is with the name Tigran?:)

  18. yes, your comments often get moderated on this blog too :)))))

  19. […] բլոգն անդրադարձել է Երեւանի «Մոսկվա» կինոթատրունում Տիգրան Խզմալյանի, ապա նաեւ Տիգրան Պասկեւիչյանի ֆիլմերի ցուցադրման […]

  20. […] “Moscow” cinema theatre days after another film – by Tigran Khzmalyan this time was also denied the chance to be displayed on the same cinema screen. “Censorship should have no place in Armenia. Censorship should be (and will be) […]

  21. I would love to see the film. Is it available on the internet? On DVD?
    Whatever its value, Armenians need critical evaluations of their failed history, especially the failed 1918-1920 Republic. We can only learn from the mistakes.

  22. Hi Zareh,
    you can watch the video here:
    or you can watch and vote for it to give it more support here:

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