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Yerevan Theater Institute Cancels Artdocfest Over Russian Director’s Insensitive Visit to Azerbaijan

Yerevan Theater Institute Cancels Artdocfest Over Russian Director’s Insensitive Visit to Azerbaijan

The Artdocfest festival, scheduled to take place at the Yerevan State Institute of Theatre and Cinematography (YSITC), has been abruptly canceled following a social media post by Artdocfest chairman and Russian film director Vitaliy Manski. The controversy stems from Manski's visit to Azerbaijan on their "Victory Day," a decision that has sparked backlash in Armenia.

In a statement released by the YSITC, the cancellation was attributed to Manski's social media post, in which he expressed enthusiasm about being in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, twice on their "Victory Day." Manski shared a photo from Baku airport, emphasizing his eagerness to capture the festive atmosphere he had witnessed during previous visits.

The Artdocfest, initially banned in Russia two years ago, found a new home in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. However, Manski's recent actions have cast a shadow over the festival's relocation.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Manski responded to the controversy, stating, "I almost never delete my posts. But today my friends from Yerevan called and said that many people in Armenia misunderstood my text about leaving for Baku. I deleted the post and will try to explain."

Manski clarified that his use of the word 'impressed' in his social media post should not be construed as approval but rather as a strong emotional reaction to what he observed in Baku. He expressed concern about the ongoing tensions, suggesting that despite "Victory Days," the war is not over, and Armenia faces a tragic future in such a neighborhood.

"I plan to come to Yerevan and continue this difficult conversation face-to-face about a world doomed to war," Manski added.

Manski mentioned that the screening program included the film 'Nina's Children' about the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) war, expressing hope for a chance to discuss the film during the canceled festival.

In an attempt to clarify the purpose of his visit to Baku, Manski explained, "As for filming in Baku, this is an episode for a great anti-war film that is being filmed in various countries around the world. The Azerbaijani authorities didn't invite us, they didn't pay [us] anything, and we filmed it with great difficulty."

Manski’s visit to Azerbaijan, especially on their “Victory Day” is controversial given Azerbaijan’s ongoing war crimes, Armenophobia, and occupation.


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