Atom Egoyan’s movie Ararat tells the story of a young man whose life is changed while making a film about the Armenian genocide that took place in Turkey during 1915. This week many people are observing the Mec Ejer’n, during which this holocaust is commemorated (see my last post for more one this). As many as 1.5 million Armenians were brutally slaughtered by the Turks on the pretense that they were a threat to national security. While the film has its flaws (see my review here), there is one scene in the film that has stayed with me. In it the young filmmaker Raffi confronts Ali, a half-Turkish actor who has just completed playing his role as Jevdet Bey, a rather heinous character in the Turkish army (the following quote is courtesy of the Internet Movie Database:
Raffi: Were you serious about what you told him?
Raffi: That you don’t think it happened?
Ali: What, the genocide?
Ali: Are you gonna shoot me or something? Look, I never heard about any of this stuff when I was growing up. You know? I did some research for the part. From what I read there were deportations and lots of people died. Armenians and Turks. It was World War 1.
Raffi: But Turkey wasn’t at war with the Armenians. I mean, just like Germany wasn’t at war with the Jews. They were citizens. They were expecting to be protected. That scene you just shot was based on an eyewitness account. Your character Jevdet Bey, the only reason they put him in Van was to carry out the complete extermination of the Armenian population in Van. There were telegrams, there were communicators…
Ali: Look I’m not saying that something didn’t happen.
Ali: Look, I was born here. So were you right?
Ali: This is a new country. So let’s just drop the history and get on with it. No one’s gonna wreck your home. No one’s gonna destroy you family. Hmm? So let’s go inside and uncork this thing and celebrate. Hmm?
Raffi: Do you know what Adolf Hitler told his military commanders to convince them that his plan would work? “Who remembers the extermination of the Armenians?”
Ali: And nobody did. Nobody does.
Well today I remember, and if you have read this, so do you. May we never forget.