Long years of thirsty and love for cinema resulted in the establishment of Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival in 2004.  It was just a dream, a thought in three people’s mind: Harutyun Khachatryan, Film Director and Festival General  Director; Mikayel Stamboltsyan, Film Critic and Program Director; and Susanna Harutyunyan, Film Critic and Artistic Director, which became reality in Yerevan, the capital city of Republic of Armenia in 2004. The film festival was called so as the apricot symbolizes Armenia, it is indispensable part of Armenia: a Latin name of an apricot is “prunus аrmeniaсa” that means “the Armenian plum” and the warm colour of apricot is found in Armenian national flag.

Nevertheless, the festival was not born casually. Armenian cinema since the independence in 1991, though shy, but break through the international festivals. The Armenian cinema has caused big resonance of festivals and retrospective shows in Paris (Pompidou's Center, 1993), in Montreal (2000), in Bologna (2003), and etc. The international success accompanied to the new films of Harutyun Khachatryan, Suren Babayan, Vigen Chaldranyan, David Safaryan, Narine and Arsen Mkrtchyan, Edgar Bagdasaryan, and other Armenian film-makers. It became obvious that in Armenia, country with the settled tradition of film production (the first film studio was founded in Armenia in 1923, and the first feature film “Namus” by Beknazarian was screened in 1925), country, in which the cinematograph is connected to the names of   Sergey Parajanov and Artavazd Peleshian, needed its own International film festival, which it hasn’t had before.

 Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival carries the theme: Crossroads of Cultures and Civilizations. The title may well serve as our impassioned mantra for building cultural bridges and fostering dialogue. It also reflects the history of Armenia itself, which for millennia has existed as a flash point for competing geopolitical forces. Armenia's desirable geographic position has made it into a bone of contention for various empires, but has, on the other hand, resulted in a civilization replete with world influences and a dynamic arts heritage. We welcome films representing diverse ethnic groups, religions, and nations that depict the human experience, the everyday lives of people, ordinary and extraordinary, their troubles and their joys, as they try to find meaning in a changing world; as they struggle to redefine themselves in a world that recognizes fewer and fewer boundaries.

Yerevan is an evolving testament to that heritage, and the Golden Apricot has fast become a premier destination for regional filmmakers, particularly those advancing universal values of peace, cultural harmony and mutual understanding. Accordingly, the Golden Apricot features a multitude of films representing various nations, ethnicities, and religions, collectively depicting the full richness of the human experience.

The Golden Apricot festival is different from other such events in the sense that it is smaller scale and more intimate, but it continues to garner international attention and respect. The films are presented in two international competition sections: features and documentaries. One Grand Prize Golden Apricot and one Special Mention (Silver Apricot) are awarded in each category. The festival has a special pan-Armenian competitive section - Armenian Panorama - for films produced by filmmakers of Armenian descent. The opening of the festival is always marked with a traditional blessing of apricots, for which Armenia is famous.

 Among the honorable guests of the festival during 14 years were: Marco Bellocchio, Wim Wenders, Tonino Guerra, Claudia Cardinale, Fanny Ardant, Alain Terzian, Theodoros Angelopoulos, Nikita Mikhalkov, Alexander Sokurov, Claire Denis, Jafar Panahi, Michael Glawogger, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Bruno Dumont, Fatih Akin, Lee Chang Dong, Jos Stelling, Krzysztof Zanussi, Dariush Mehrjui, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Bela Tarr, Kohei Oguri, Catherine Breillat, Leos Carax, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Semih Kaplanoghlu, Godfrey Reggio, Victor Erice, Agnieszka Holland, Istvan Szabo, Margarethe von Trotta, Jia Zhangke, Kim Ki-duk, South Amos Gitai, Otar Ioseliani, Robert Guediguian, Ornella Muti, Nastassja Kinski, Jacqueline Bisset and others.

Since 2005 then Atom Egoyan’s name is strongly connected to the Golden Apricot festival as for more than 10 years he was appointed a permanent President of the festival.

Among the main winners of the festival there were Ararat by Atom Egoyan, 2004, The Sun by Aleksandr Sokurov, 2005, Three Times by Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2006, Import/Export by Ulrich Seidl, 2007, The Mermaid by Anna Melikian, 2008, The Other Bank by Georgy Ovashvili, 2009, Kosmos by Reha Erdem, 2010, Nader and Simin, a SeparationbyAsghar Farhadi (Iran), 2011, In The Fog by Sergey Loznitsa (Germany/Byelorussia), 2012, Circles by Srdan Golubović, (Serbia/Germany/France/Croatia/Slovenia), 2013, The Tribe by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy (Ukraine), 2014, Embrace of the Serpent by Ciro Guerra (Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina), 2015, Ungiven by Branko Schmidt (Croatia), 2016.

In 2009 Golden Apricot Yerevan IFF received the Hollywood Foreign Press Award which was the worthy estimation of the Armenian festival by this prestigious organization of cinema journalists and film critics. It acknowledges the international prestige and high rating of the GAIFF (http://www.gaiff.am/en/kCXwFUV83eo8rl1PQ8EDHRH6M7).

The 13th GAIFF had about 1000 submissions from 91 countries. During the seven days of the festival the viewers had an opportunity to watch over 138 films. In addition to a wide range of international titles, the festival played host to an ever-expanding film market, offering a gateway to an entire region’s cinematic output.

Based on the vital need for a wide professional and cultural network Golden Apricot IFF has launched the Directors Across Borders (DAB) programme in 2007. On 30 January 2007, DAB Programme was officially recognized as the basic regional co-operation platform between Golden Apricot IFF, Rotterdam IFF and Pusan IFF. DAB is a regional network of film directors and film professionals that share a common belief that cinema is a unique medium of expression that transcends political, ideological, racial or religious borders and connects people. The aim of DAB is to determine the common problems typical for the states in transition, to facilitate film co-production projects addressing the issues of multinationals and multiculturalism, values tradition, social cohesion, diversity, and cultural heritage. DAB is dedicated to transnational and multilateral cooperation, exchange, professional training and knowledge sharing between Armenia and the region and wider. The main event of DAB program is the annual DAB Regional Co-production Forum consisting of workshops, presentations, pitching sessions, seminars, and film program. It is a unique film industry event in the region, providing an environment for regional and international film industry professionals to meet. In total 250 filmmakers and cinema journalists from the region underwent trainings and workshops organized by the DAB Project.

 ‘Armenia - The Apricot Revolution’ - this was the title of David D’Arcy’s article on Armenian cinema, published in Screen International on 25 July, 2008. It highlights the importance of Golden Apricot International Film Festival, which was founded in 2004 in Yerevan. The festival has been seen as a revolution in overcoming the deep crisis of national film-production in Armenia and in integration of Armenian cinema within the global film community.     

D’Arcy continued: ‘At the Golden Apricot…international cinema is meeting the culture of this small nation whose Diaspora reaches from the former Soviet Union to Paris, Santa Monica and Toronto…’

Armenia does not have much film production today, but Armenia has acquired a new symbol – an international film festival, Golden Apricot. By this new symbol Armenia has got known also in the world of modern cinema.

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