Release Date: September 8, 2023
Jeanne: Michael Goorjian, an actor and filmmaker of Armenian descent, writes, directs and stars in AMERIKATSI, a fable of hope from Soviet Armenia. Written as an homage to his native land and its storied culture, Goorjian has created a memorable film destined to remind Armenians all over the world of their varied and influential heritage.
Charlie was a little boy in Armenia when the genocide began. His mother hid him in a trunk bound for America. In 1948, Charlie (Goorjian) returns to his homeland only to end up in a Soviet Communism prison. His crime --- wearing a tie. In reality, the Russian Commander, Dmitry (Mikhail Trukhin), is jealous of Charlie because his wife, Sona (Nelli Uvarova), is intrigued by the American and likes him.
To punish Charlie further, Dmitry has him locked in solitary confinement. But Charlie prevails by watching the Armenian couple, Tigran (Hovik Keuchkerian) and Ruzan (Narine Gigoryan), who live in an apartment visible through a hole in the prison wall. Tigran is a guard in the watchtower at the prison. But his passion is art, an outlet the Soviets strongly disapprove of.
As time passes, Charlie watches Tigran and Ruzan incessantly --- eating when they eat, singing and dancing along with them, all the while learning more and more about the rich Armenian culture. And most importantly, when Tigran realizes Charlie has been peering into their lives, he embraces Charlie’s curiosity and includes him from afar.
It's impossible not to imagine Charlie’s shock and horror at finding himself in a Soviet prison. He just wanted to repatriate to his native country, but instead ends up being punished for his “cosmopolitan” ways. But Goorjian doesn’t dwell on the negatives. Rather, he chooses to have Charlie remain upbeat and optimistic. He’s kind to his jailers and they, in turn, begin to treat him with humanity.
AMERIKATSI is truly a heartwarming film which demonstrates the power of hope and love. Goorjian is superbly convincing as the wide-eyed idealist who is able to see past the rigorous communism and retain his enthusiasm for his newfound traditions. Plus, Goorjian has penned a sincere and believable script, and gathered a marvelous cast to bring AMERIKATSI to life. It’s an impressive accomplishment for this Emmy Award winning actor.
Opinion: See It Now!
David: AMERIKATSI is a film that has won a slew of awards at film festivals in the U.S. and the world over. It is also Armenia’s entry for Best International Feature Film at the next Academy Awards. It is unlike most movies you are likely to see.
The main character is named Charlie. He is played by Michael Goorjian, an Armenian-American who also writes, directs and produces AMERIKATSI. Goorjian is an Emmy winning actor who has an extensive film resumé playing alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names.
Charlie decides to emigrate to Armenia from America to enrich his knowledge and appreciation of his family’s heritage. He is immediately befriended by Sona, (Nelli Uvarova), the pretty wife of Communist party Commander Dmitry (Mikhail Trukhin). But things don’t go well for Charlie as he is arrested and imprisoned on a trivial charge and sentenced to 10 years in a Soviet prison.
The unique aspect of AMERIKATSI is how much of the story is told without dialogue because Charlie discovers he can see into an apartment across from his cell window. He eventually bonds with the husband therein, Tigran (Hovik Keuchkerian), an artist constrained by the authorities who do not condone his ardor for painting. Charlie is also an artist, and it is through this shared skill that they find common ground, even without actually speaking.
AMERIKATSI has Goorjian’s stamp all over it. His acting is a joy to watch as his character finds ways to overcome his depressing circumstances. Even the prison guards who initially ridicule him become admirers if not actual friends.
Early on we see Charlie as a young child hidden by his mother in 1915 to avoid capture or worse by the Russian perpetrators of the Armenian genocide. Charlie’s mother advises him to “never lose your smile” regardless of any situation in which he finds himself. Clearly the adult Charlie has taken his mother’s words to heart as viewers can regale in his positive attitude.
Opinion: See It Now!