Raffi (David Alpay) is a Canadian young man of Armenian descent who has several tragedies in his background. His father was killed trying to assassinate a Turkish diplomat, and bitter, public antagonism exists between his mother Ani (Arsinée Khanjian) and his stepsister and lover, Celia (Marie-Josée Croze) who believes that Ani is responsible for the suicide of her father, Ani’s second husband. Meanwhile, a famous film director, Edward Saroyan, (Charles Aznavour) comes to Toronto to make a film about the genocide carried out against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Having recently finished a book on the painter Gorky, who witnessed the massacres as a child, Ani reluctantly agrees to act as a consultant on the project.
 

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A Quest For Truth... Among Lies, Deception And Denial.

The Armenian background of Canadian director Atom Egoyan has been a presence in many of his films, in his latest, Ararat, he addresses the deaths of nearly a million and half Armenians at the hands of the Turks nearly ninety years ago. In this ambitious complex film-within-a-film, Armenian Canadian film director Saroyan, Charles Aznavour, is attempting to make a film about the Turkish siege of the city of Van in 1915. After attending a lecture by art historian Ani, Arsinee Khanjian, he seizes on the character of the Armenian impressionist artist Arshile Gorky who was born and spent his early years in Van. Ani is obsessed with a portrait of the artist with his mother, believing that it represents the tragedy of what eventuated and contains the seeds of understanding Gorky?s ultimate suicide. Suicide haunts the present too ? Ani?s second husband died falling or jumping off a cliff, an event her step-daughter Celia, Marie-Josee Croze, has difficulty coming to terms with, particularly as she and Ani?s son Raffi, David Alpay, have become lovers. The narrative of the film is really carried by Raffi who visits modern day Turkey to try to come to terms with his Armenian roots but who, on his return to Canada, is questioned by a customs officer David, Christopher Plummer, about the contents of film cans he?s brought back with him. Egoyan is obviously trying to bear witness to history here, a history that has been forgotten by many and never acknowledged by the Turkish Government. But at the same time he seems to be questioning the validity of fictional representation, Ani questions Saroyan?s backdrop of Mt Ararat in his film, a view that could never have been seen from Van. Artistic licence is the answer she ?s given by the film?s producer played by Eric Bogosian. There are subplots galore, which Egoyan attempts to tie together rather unsuccessfully both during and at the end of the film. He?s always been a rather austere filmmaker, always very careful not to over sentimentalise and in taking on this tragic historical event that bitterly haunts Armenian communities around the world to this day he seems to have gone for overload of plot and rather turgid exposition. Egoyan is however an intelligent filmmaker, it?s just that in reaching for a broad and at the same time intimate canvas the clarity of his purpose is diminished.