I am an international journalist from Armenia, currently based in Los Angeles. My most impactful experiences in this regard have taken place in Europe. I have worked closely with prominent media organizations including RNTC (Radio Netherlands Training Center in 2015) and non-governmental organizations, conducting research on topics such as freedom of speech and democracy.
Since 2015, I have been an elected Free Media Ambassador to Armenia by EYP (European Youth Press) for my critical role in Armenian’s largest media outlets such as Public TV and Radio Company of Armenia. I have been a member of the International Federation of Journalists since 2013, and I am also an authorized member of the Eurasian Academy of Television and Radio.
With extensive work experience and a solid foundation of scientific studies, the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University in Armenia invited me to deliver a lecture on journalism and modern media management. That was back in 2015, and it significantly influenced my professional trajectory by enabling me to educate and mentor hundreds of students. I was the youngest lecturer. Over the span of multiple years, I embarked on a captivating intellectual and scientific journey with my students. It brings me great pride to witness their accomplishments and successes in their endeavors.
Currently I am based in Los Angeles working as a leading TV Host/News Anchor at LA based Horizon Armenian TV, which is the longest running Armenian media network here in the U.S.
Your project has entered in our festival. What is your project about?
In light of the persisting global conflicts, this project was established to bring attention to the widespread infringement of children's rights on a grand scale, using major screens worldwide. Its purpose is to shed light on the immense humanitarian crisis that impacts the lives of 450 million children around the globe today, who live in war zones. These chronicles are the stories of children who never had a choice. They were forced to witness life-changing events, war, tragedy, loss, injury, and chaos, since they first opened their eyes to this world.
What are your ambitions with your project?
As previously stated, our primary objective revolves around safeguarding children's rights. My utmost aspiration is to elevate this issue to the most influential platforms, which is accompanied by significant challenges. Being a child of war myself, and having to live the first five years of my life in underground bomb shelters in a borderline village in Armenia, under sounds of explosions and soil raining from above, I felt a calling to bring to light the horrific tragedies that children experience often in silence. Having experienced my own journey through war and trauma, at the start of the 44-day Artsakh war (September 27, 2020), I came to the frightful realization that an entire generation will go through the same horrors. That was the moment, when I felt a calling to give these children a voice.
Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?
The filming of the movie occurred in the Nagorno Karabakh, which were previously the sites of active war operations just months ago. Presently, these areas are entirely under the control of Azerbaijan. Since the 1990s, this region has been acknowledged as a conflict zone, witnessing numerous fatalities due to recurrent wars. The filming process was extremely challenging; we faced obstacles in movement as the Azerbaijani Armed Forces' snipers were surveilling the area from a close range. I knew that with the whole crew, we would be constantly targeted by the Azerbaijani armed forces. I had a good idea about the existing problems we would face, but never imagined the support and assistance we would receive from fellow Armenians in Artsakh to help make this film happen.
Working with children posed additional challenges as they inhabit an environment of constant fear, making it arduous for them to recount the horrors they have experienced.
For what group of spectators is your film targeted?
The film holds significant value in its content and the way it's presented. It's designed to reach a broad audience, including both professional circles and scientific/educational institutions. Numerous educational establishments are currently extending invitations to host screenings of the film, providing students with insight into the legal issues affecting children, the extensive humanitarian crisis prevailing globally, and the profound physical and psychological trauma experienced by children due to the impact of war.
Any individual who conscientiously views the film becomes deeply moved by the humanitarian urgency it conveys. It prompts a search for ways to offer assistance as the film resonates as a desperate plea from the children, a heartfelt cry for help.
Why should distributors buy your film?
This film captivates distributors with its compelling content and the pressing relevance and urgency of its subject matter. It highlights a substantial and ever-evolving crisis—an ongoing modern humanitarian disaster with potentially worsening consequences in the near future, considering the escalating frequency of wars. The number of children living in active military zones, currently at 450 million, continues to rise due to the ramifications of these conflicts.
This narrative is a contemporary chronicle that will endure for an extended period. It delves into the lives of children who may emerge as the real heroes of our society or, unfortunately, as tyrants. The film encapsulates the future, not just for these children but for all of us and the planet as a whole.
How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?
The film was crafted within the documentary genre, but it portrays a universal representation of our world through the artistic language of cinema. It evokes strong emotions, often prompting tears. Yet, within the context of children enduring war, humor also finds its place. The simple, innocent humor of children serves as a means of resilience, keeping their spirits alive. This aspect was essential and could not be overlooked—a direct, heartwarming conversation with children longing to be heard.
Enhanced by its musical composition, the film carries an essence akin to a prayer, a constant supplication directed towards the skies. Blue skies, often synonymous with peace, have become a thing of yearning for young children living in the conflict zones.
This is the essence of what we aim to showcase.
Why did you decided to become a filmmaker?
I never distinctly pinpointed the exact moment I committed to making films. The decision seems hazy in my memory now, but I've known from a very young age that this was my calling. The art of filmmaking has forever held my unwavering passion.
What's particularly intriguing is that I was born in a small village in Armenia during a period of conflict. In the 90s, resources were scarce - there was a lack of electricity and limited availability of food. Even amid these challenging times, whenever there was a flicker of electricity, I found myself glued to the TV, indulging in programs and movies for hours on end – an activity I simply couldn't tear myself away from.
I eventually set foot on a more serious path in the field, delving into scriptwriting and using film as a medium to shape public perspectives. It became clear to me that this was the right path.
When it came to choosing a career, the decision came naturally. While I entertained dreams of acting, my heart was set on journalism. I began this journey at the age of 16 when I entered university, fueled by a clear vision of what it meant to become a professional.
My first film, created in 2011 at a tender age, was an intriguing blend of fiction and documentary. We depicted real events with the aid of actors, intersecting their stories with the lives of real people. Since that moment, the realm of "film" has taken on an entirely different significance for me.
Who is your role model?
It's a challenging question that doesn't have a straightforward answer. I draw inspiration from various individuals across diverse fields. As a journalist, I regularly interact with people who hold significant authority in different domains, often studying their life stories and developing friendships with many of them. When selecting role models, I consider the professional success of influential figures along with their humanitarian attributes, their rapport with the public, and their involvement in significant societal processes. It's essential to recognize those who leverage their authority and resources to enhance our surroundings and contribute to a better world.
Which movies are your favorites? Why?
I'm an avid viewer and am constantly learning through film. Movies offer a vivid depiction of the era in which they're set. They shape mindsets, alter routines, and will perpetually stand as one of the most influential tools to sway public opinion.
However, truthfully, I take pleasure in disconnecting from the world, immersing myself in a film to understand the director's techniques and unravel the nuances of the script. I indulge in movies spanning all genres, except for horror, which doesn't particularly resonate with me.
Where do you look for inspiration for your films?
When I used to live in Europe, I was often driven by the impulse to write and articulate my thoughts through written expression. Following my relocation to USA, I became increasingly engrossed in the intricacies of visual storytelling. I believe that every facet of life contributes to inspiration. I find inspiration in the elements of nature, and I'm also moved by instances of human bravery. I find great inspiration in the real people who live alongside us. I believe that within each individual lies the potential to become the hero of a compelling and dramatic movie.
However, what's truly compelling is the inspiration that arises when the audience comprehends the essence of a film. One profound moment that remains etched in my memory involves a woman who, having lost her children in the turmoil of war, tearfully expressed, "You are fulfilling my son's unfinished legacy. I am proud." These words resonate deeply with me, serving as the ultimate source of inspiration, affirming that I'm aligned with my mission's purpose.
Which topics interest you the most?
The American mainstream media has already dubbed me a "humanitarian filmmaker." However, I see myself simply as an ordinary journalist engaged in an ongoing battle against social injustice, humanitarian crises, and the violation of human rights. These are the issues that deeply concern me because I firmly believe that every individual can positively influence their environment through their work. As a journalist, I am committed to utilizing all available resources to serve the public, highlight pertinent issues, and advocate for the most vulnerable in our society.
What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
My most significant achievement is the community of hundreds of thousands who listen, believe, trust, and follow me. No material gain can replace that human connection. During one of the exclusive screenings of my film, world-renowned human rights activist Hannah Garry spoke, affirming, "Vruir, you've addressed a topic that few dare to discuss, and it's of immense importance." This acknowledgment represents the pinnacle of achievement for me.
What do you consider most important about filming?
The filmmaking process is a fusion of various elements. It begins with a theme or character that evokes strong emotions, perhaps even to the point of moving you to tears. Once that emotional core is established, the rest of the process unfolds naturally. Equally important is conducting thorough and organized preparatory work, as the success of your film greatly hinges on this phase.
I place significant emphasis on the symbolism within a film. Often, viewers might not consciously recognize how they absorb information, but in a film, utilizing symbols to illustrate the relationship between nature and humanity holds immense importance. Employing specially crafted symbols allows for effective communication and facilitates conveying the complete and profound message to the audience.
In the midst of an intensifying financial crisis, acquiring the desired budget is indeed a challenge. However, I firmly believe that dedication and passion pave the way for opportunities to manifest.
Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?
As a filmmaker, I place great emphasis on the balance between light and shadow. When selecting filming locations, I opt for environments where characters feel unrestricted and at ease, devoid of inhibitions. Technical precision and filming quality are crucial as they contribute to the film's longevity. Given my sensitivity, each shot must convey a wealth of emotions.
One film critic described my film as "a 45-minute canvas painted with a brush, from which a prayer is also heard." To me, this critique stands as the most fitting and commendable assessment.
How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?
I often perceive that within today's mainstream, low-quality, propagandistic, and commercially-driven genres tend to receive an outsized share of attention from distributors. I yearn for this artistic realm to have a long and vibrant life as it serves as the most accessible language for communicating with the global world, akin to literature. While it's acceptable in certain contexts, I must emphasize that films are the most potent means to influence public consciousness; yet, we must also contemplate their future.
Simultaneously, technological advancements have significantly contributed to the creation of high-quality, creative films. Unfortunately, these films don't enjoy the same level of popularity. It's imperative that we invest efforts in this direction as well.
What can disappoint you in a movie?
The inadequacies of low-quality editing, the simplistic nature of the script, and substandard dubbing techniques can be disappointing. It appears that every conceivable topic worldwide has been thoroughly discussed and presented in numerous languages in different ways possible. Today, there is a premium placed on presenting fresh, "new" perspectives, as novelty and ingenuity are highly valued.
Who supports you in your film career?
As previously mentioned, the most significant inspiration and support I receive come directly from the general public. Their backing is more than enough to last me a lifetime.
The Tales of the Blue Sky
This documentary illustrates the impact war has on children.
'The Tales of The Blue Sky' tells the stories of war and peace through the eyes of children. According to the United Nations, there are more than 450 million children living in war zones in the world currently. “The Tales of the Blue Sky” documentary will take you into the worlds of these children, ripped apart by war. Their stories of challenge, survival and triumph will bring you tears, laughter, and the stark shock and realization, that fate like this can still exist. Hear and see their truths. Take their extended hands, and let them take you into their wondrous worlds.
© Cannes Film Awards 2020 - 2023