David Safarian: 28:94 Local Time (28:94 teghakan zhamanak, 2016)

reviewed by Ani Hakobyan© 2016

A Recollection of Our Cold Days

The Armenian melancholy of the 1990s, seasoned with intellectual humor and the irrefutable ruthlessness of reality, are immortalized in David Safarian’s film Hot Country, Cold Winter, which also has a longer version titled 28:94 Local Time.

local timeThis film is a real time machine. It does not just tell the story of one family, but it conveys with extreme verity the feelings and perceptions of people living in Armenia in the 1990s. This was a place where time was stretched out, and the hours had lost their natural count and became 28:94, eventually growing to infinity… Even the clock can lose its mind without water, food and electricity. The viewer is invited to sit before the screen and kill long stretches of time with the main characters, because when there is no light, it is only natural that work and life just stop: what else could there be besides boredom? Those who avoid “aestheticized boredom” avoid a re-evaluation of our past: they expect only pleasures and spectacles from cinema. Any kind of film has a right to exist, yet the place for good art-house cinema on Armenian screens is narrower by the day.

“We are losing viewers of real cinema”,—said Safarian after stating that the film was taken off Armenian screens a month after its release because of a lack of viewers. However, this film’s journey has just begun. The film was presented at the European Film Market (EFA) during the Berlinale and got the attention of European distributors: the rights have been sold for Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg. Moreover, it has already found a place in the Netherlands Film Museum. At the Golden Apricot IFF in 2016, 28:94 Local Time won the Silver Apricot in the Armenian Panorama competition, as well as the Hrant Matevosyan award for Best Screenplay. Safarian has been working on this film for nearly twenty years (he says he would have completed it much sooner if it had not been for constant financial limitations) and one can say that all the hard work is starting to pay off.

However, the film’s most important achievement is that it gave Armenian cinema a fictional film document of an essential era in recent Armenian history. There is no need to tell stories to children anymore: just put on the film and let them watch it. Not only the atmosphere and the human relationships ring true, but also the clothing, objects and surroundings. At times, objects say more than the characters do.

local timeThe era is unveiled through the relationship of a man and a woman. A married couple finds itself in severe conditions. Problems and conflicts are many, but in the end they overcome them, because not only are they married, but they are also good friends and understand each other immediately. Ironically there is not a single sex scene, not even hugging, in the entire film. The only physical contact between them is when they warm each other’s hands after playing the piano.

Yet the characters are not afraid of expressing themselves. Both are artists: one is a puppet-maker and the other works through bad experiences by photography. And sadly, the more severe their problems are, the better their works become. The director shows the difficulty of being an artist in the 1990s: the canvas will not dry, there is no electricity to print photos, and the circus might be closed sooner or later. As one of the heroes, the clown Karo, says: “Factories have been shut down, offices. But they can’t close the circus! People need a place to have fun, and kids have to be happy, otherwise how’re they going to grow strong?”

The film features wonderful performances from Yana Drouz (co-writer and the director’s wife), Ashot Adamyan, Heghine Hovhannisyan, Karen Janibekyan, Vigen Stepanyan, Hrachya Harutyunyan and many others. All of them are so natural and organic in their roles that it becomes clear that they are not playing, but merely reliving their past.

David Safarian and Yana Drouz have given Armenian audiences a painting of their past. The least we can do now is not condemn it to oblivion. For even now, we have citizens living in the same conditions that most of us lived in during the 1990s.

Ani Hakobyan

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28:94 Local Time, 2016
131 minutes
Director David Safarian
Scriptwriters David Safarian, Yana Drouz
Director of Photography Armen Khachaturyan
Production Designer Mikael Antonyan, Vardan Sedrakyan
Sound Anna Drozhenko, Levon Karapetyan, Hmayak Rostomyan, Asatur Demirchyan, Maria Soboleva, Alexei Yurovski
Editing David Safarian
Cast Yana Drouz, Ashot Adamyan, Heghine Hovhannisyan, Karen Janibekyan, Vigen Stepanyan, Harutyun Movsissyan, Hrachya Harutyunyan
Producer David Safarian
Production Studio DS

David Safarian: 28:94 Local Time (28:94 teghakan zhamanak, 2016)

reviewed by Ani Hakobyan© 2016