Just this week, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Vatican after Pope Francis remarked on the Ottoman Turks’ genocide of Armenians 100 years ago. As the historical debate rages on, artistic representations of the event have lagged.
An IMDb keyword search turns up fewer than three dozen titles, the most notable being Atom Egoyan’s 2002 “Ararat.” Now, at the centennial of the Armenian genocide, two releases are grappling with its aftermath: Turkish-German director Fatih Akin’s upcoming “The Cut” and filmmaking novices Garin Hovannisian and Alec Mouhibian’s “1915.”
Much like “Ararat,” “1915" addresses the horrific event abstractly as modern characters trudge under the weight of history. After a seven-year hiatus, Los Angeles Theatre’s tyrannically impassioned resident director Simon (Simon Abkarian) is mounting a one-night-only performance to commemorate the tragedy. While his actors flounder through dress rehearsal on a seemingly haunted stage, protesters amass outside over the play’s controversial premise: Its Armenian heroine ultimately escapes with a Turkish soldier.
The film plays out like a pensive, high-minded version of “Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).” Amid thespian antics, it contemplates weightier ethical dilemmas such as personal tragedy versus collective grief, artistic license versus historical responsibility, revisionist history versus corrective narrative, forgetting versus moving on. It’s one creative way to do justice to such a monumental topic when full-blown reenactments aren’t within the budget.
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Laemmle’s Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena; MGN Five Star, Glendale; Starlight Terrace, Rancho Palos Verdes; Starlight Whittier Village.