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Go see it now, while you still can!

Amerikatsi is an independent multi-language drama film that was written, directed, and stars Michael A. Goorjian. It premiered at the Woodstock Film Festival on September 29, 2022, but wasn’t given a limited release until September 8, 2023. 

The film is set during the 1940’s, during which time the Soviet Union invited Armenian diasporans from around the world to repatriate to Armenia. The plot follows Charlie, an Armenian-American, who decides to take part in the repatriation program, despite his limited knowledge of the language. However, Charlie quickly finds himself thrown into a Soviet prison for a ridiculous reason, and he discovers that he can see into an apartment through his cell window. 

The presentation of the lives of the couple who are living in that apartment is perhaps the greatest part of the film. We see their relationship through Charlie’s eyes: all without dialogue. Through masterful cinematography, directing, and acting, we understand everything that the characters are going through, even though we don’t hear them speak a word to each other. 

The film has a firm mastery over the concept of “show, don’t tell.” Besides the expert framing of the couple’s lives, the movie also trusts us to pick up details about our main character’s personality. It doesn’t tell us that Charlie is crafty and intelligent; it shows us this, through scenes where he creates little mechanisms in his cell and manipulates the guards. It’s refreshing to see a film that lets the audience pick up on things by themselves for a change.

Another thing that really gripped me is the overall premise for the movie. Most Armenian stories usually revolve around the Genocide. But the Soviet repatriation program of the 1940’s is something that I had literally never heard of. It made for a captivating setting and a protagonist that is relatable for all diasporans who long for their homeland, painting a stark contrast between the Armenian identity and the Soviet one. This is definitely a step in the right direction for Armenian cinema. 

The performances in this film are all very solid. Goorjian obviously knocks it out of the park in the lead role. I also enjoyed Jean-Pierre Nshanian as the prison warden. He is pretty amusing, which leads me to my big issue with the film.

This movie is funny, but sometimes it shouldn’t have been. I’m a big believer in finding humor in tragedy, but especially in the beginning of the story, some of the humor seems a little misplaced. However, it all gets back on track quickly, finding a favorable balance between jokes and hard-hitting emotional moments. 

Another thing I fully didn’t enjoy was the score, which I feel slightly guilty about, since it was actually performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Armenia. I think the score really adds to the film’s tonal issues. Sometimes it sounds generic, and at other times, it’s just not the right mood for the scene at all. It certainly has its good moments, but I was expecting a lot more. My favorite part is a surprisingly amazing version of the Armenian folk song “Zoma Zoma” that plays over the closing credits, and a great rendition of “Mayro” in the middle.

But to be honest, those small problems aren’t even enough for me to deduct a point from my rating, because this film is just so powerful. We see our main character slowly lose his naivety and realize why he came to Armenia in the first place.

I read a review that criticized this movie for being a “tale of obsession,” which I find to be incredibly out of touch. Like, if you were put into solitary confinement, and you could see people through your window, look me in the eyes and tell me that you would have anything better to do than to watch them. 

No, this is a tale of hope. 

This is a story about preserving your roots when all the odds are against you. 

You don’t have to be Armenian to relate to this movie. It is phenomenal and it deserves your support, especially since it’s in select theaters only for a limited amount of time. 

Go watch it. 

Like right now.

About the Contributor
Hasmik Tumasyan
Hasmik Tumasyan, Staff Writer
Hasmik Tumasyan is a junior at Glendale High School. She is involved with the color guard, Creative Writing Club, and the cinema department on campus. She enjoys listening to music and playing Dungeons & Dragons. Come find her in the art quad at lunch for a fun argument or a tarot reading.
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