Reviewed by: George Williamson

The Middle East has been a popular topic in recent years. We are set in front of films, where nameless bearded terrorists are massacred by a muscular protagonist because they are obviously the bad guys. Aram is different. We have a hero who is a terrorist. We see his side of the story and can empathise with his desire for revenge and reconciliation. We don't have to condone it, but, at least, we are given the chance to understand it.

Aram (Simon Abkarian) is an Armenian in Paris. Infuriated by Turkish oppression of his people, he joins a terrorist cell. When his brother Lévon (Mathieu Demy) decides to assassinate a Turkish general, he agrees to help, but the hit goes wrong and Aram flees the country, leaving behind Lévon as a quadriplegic, unable to speak, and a father who blames and resents him.

Copy picture

Seven years later he returns to conduct an arms deal, but when it goes wrong and he finds himself stuck in his home town, he decides to exact revenge upon the scarfaced Turk who crippled his brother and try to make peace with his father.

The film is a fusion of traditional Western, Cold War thriller and gangster flick, mixed in with a healthy portion of Middle Eastern culture. We are led through seedy Kurdish bars, dodgy looking embassies and steamy Turkish baths. We see a dark side of the Parisian underworld, where arms dealing is rife and complex loyalties bind people together with oaths that are stronger than family, where trust and loyalty is everything.

Robert Kechichian manages to build a keen sense of this darkness and tension, an atmosphere that feels genuinely dangerous, which is only let down by sentimentality and a plot that feels lifted from a Seventies political thriller. Nevertheless, it looks great, dark and atmospheric, and the soundtrack is suitably exotic, filled with the music of traditional Armenian instruments, making the film feel as though it exists in a different world.

Although not as good as it could have been, with full social commentary and truer, deeper meaning, Aram is an engrossing, interesting film that is well worth a visit.

Reviewed on: 11 Aug 2003
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Aram packshot
An Armenian terrorist returns home to see his family and exact revenge.

Director: Robert Kechichian

Starring: Simon Abkarian, Lubna Azabal, Serge Avedikian, Alain Mottet, Mathieu Demy

Year: 2002

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: France


EIFF 2003

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