Discussing The Color of Pomegranates

LOS ANGELES — USC Dornsife Institute of Armenian Studies and USC Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures co-organized a groundbreaking three-day conference at the USC School of Cinematic Arts about legendary filmmaker and visionary Sergei Parajanov in honor of what would have been his 100th birthday. Titled Parajanov at One Hundred: Chimeras of Nation, Form, and Being, the centennial conference examined the myriad border crossings and hybridities that characterize Parajanov’s life and oeuvre.

Leading scholars from around the world dove deep into Parajanov’s films, art, and legacy, as well as experiences of Soviet-era repression. In addition to several keynote addresses, panels featured themes on “Crossings in Time and Space,” “Presence and Absence,” “Sensory Engagement,” “Politics and Violence,” and “Performance and Performativity.” Discussions ranged from the very practical concerns related to the restoration and preservation of his work to nuanced and thorough examinations of his films and art from various disciplines and perspectives.

(L to R) James Steffen, Danield Bird, Myrna Douzian during panel discussion

“It is no coincidence that this first-of-its-kind conference took place at USC, which houses arguably the best film school in the country, an Institute of Armenian Studies that has a unique contemporary temporal focus, and a Slavic Languages and Literatures Department, which features phenomenal scholars on the Soviet and post-Soviet experience. We’re excited that we were able to deliver an engaging conference that brought so many layers of our community together,” stated Dr. Shushan Karapetian, Director of the USC Dornsife Institute of Armenian Studies.

Stretching the boundaries of the traditional academic conference, Parajanov at One Hundred: Chimeras of Nation, Form, and Being included a hat-making workshop for panelists, deep dialogue about contemporary research on the filmmaker and his films, an exhibit of rare photos of Parajanov from the Parajanov Museum in Armenia, and standing-room-only film screenings.

“Over the course of these three days, scholars, experts, and film lovers gathered to celebrate and examine the innovative work of filmmaker and artist Sergei Parajanov. We are grateful for the support and enthusiasm of our partners, which enabled us to host this conference that generated rich insights into the lasting value of Parajanov’s legacy,” stated Dr. Colleen McQuillen, chair of USC’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

Parajanov inspired hat making workshop for panelists held at the Institute of Armenian Studies

Conference participants especially enjoyed the film screenings with expert introductions and thoughtful discussions. Included in the screening line-up were the recently restored Parajanov Triptych: The Arabesques on the Pirosmani Theme, Kyiv Frescoes, and Hakob Hovnatanyan, his best-known work The Color of Pomegranates, and his final film Ashik Kerib. Additionally, a rarely seen short documentary by Parajanov’s close friend Mikhail Vartanov, titled The Color of Armenian Land, which features Martiros Saryan, Minas Avetisyan, and Arto Tchakmakchian among others, gave a rare behind-the-scenes look into the making of The Color of Pomegranates. 

The conference was co-sponsored by USC School of Cinematic Arts, USC Levan Institute for the Humanities, USC Department of Art History, USC Dornsife Divisional Dean for the Humanities, USC Dornsife Divisional Dean for the Social Sciences, USC Department of Political Science and International Relations, USC Center for International Studies, USC Cinema and Media Studies Division, USC Department of Comparative Literature, National Association for Armenian Studies Research, Armenian Film Society, and Georgian National Film Center.

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