YEREVAN — January 9 marks the birthday of renowned Armenian director Sergei Parajanov. He would have turned 90 today.
Parajanov made significant contributions to Ukrainian, Armenian and Georgian cinema. His notable films include the Color of Pomegranates, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, the Legend of Suram Fortress. He invented his own cinematic style, which was totally out of step with the guiding principles of socialist realism (the only sanctioned art style in the USSR). This, combined with his controversial lifestyle and behaviour, led Soviet authorities to repeatedly persecute and imprison him, and suppress his films.
Sergei Parajanov or Paradjanov (born Sarkis Paradjanian; 1924-1990) was one of the best known directors of Soviet films. Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, to an Armenian family, his work reflected the ethnic diversity of the Caucusus where he was raised.
His first major work was Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964), which earned him an international reputation for its rich use of costume and color, and its whimsical portrayal of rural life. Possibly his greatest work, The Color of Pomegranates (1969), described the life of the Armenian poet Sayat Nova. The film angered the Soviet authorities, who claimed that it evoked nationalist sentiment. Claiming that Paradjanov promoted homosexuality, the government arrested him in 1973 and sentenced him to five years in a labor camp. A large number of prominent artists, writers and filmmakers protested his sentence, but Paradjanov was only released four years later, in large part due to the efforts of the French surrealist Louis Aragon. He was banned from making films for many years afterwards, when he was living in Tbilisi, but he was allowed to make The Legend of Suram Fortress (1984), which captured much of the color of his earlier work.
He managed to direct three more films before he died of cancer in Yerevan, Armenia, in 1990. A house was built for him in Yerevan which was completed shortly after his death, but which now houses all his belongings and has been turned into the Parajanov Museum.
An exhibition of Parajanov’s photos has opened at the “Hayartun” Cultural Center in Tbilisi on the his 90th birthday occasion. Ron Holloway’s film “Parajanov: A Requiem” will be screened within the framework of the event.
“I’m an Armenian living in Tbilisi accused of Ukrainian nationalism,” Parajanov once said about himself. “Wherever I live, I shoot good films. Even if I’m sent to Africa, I’ll shoot good African movies,” he added.