vodka.jpg {this new post heralds the launch of ÓBUMBLE-BEE series on my blog}

I view this movie as a series of “Postcards from desolate and snow-covered village in Armenia”, portraying a heart-warming tale of human optimism amidst lonely and frozen  mountainous landscape. And the poignant note, which this tragicomedy tale opens with, introduces you to various facets of the admirable survival instinct of  the village – the gentle conversations at the graveside, surprisingly not laden with sadness, but more like daily updates, the town market where one’s possessions are sold, the journeys and the shared grief lonely hearts indulge in a green bus, the cigarette smoke swirling within the circle of chairs occupied by elderly gentlemen ruminating the likelihood of receiving a huge parcel presumably bearing money from their sons who  emigrated to foreign lands, the photographs that came from Paris – a momentary escape from their meager existence, the empty chairs, the empty hands with no work, the heartfelt love songs sung by the bus driver ….a gentle portryal of human hardship laced with whimisical fantasy and subtle humorous grief. The bleak poverty stares deep into one’s eyes and chills one to the bone, but crushes under the unflinching beat of optimism…..what I truly liked about my brush with this movie is the excerpts of Interview given by the director – Hiner Saleem….

Hiner Saleem says : I like to quote what my grandfather used to say on the Kurdish misfortunes – “Our past is sad, our present is catastrophic, but fortunately we have no future”

In the case of the Kurds, or the Jews, or the Armenians, or of other people who have known misfortunes, if they do not have a little bit of humor, if they do not manage to put things in perspective, they can not survive. According to a famous 17th-century orientalist, “the Kurds are both the saddest and the most joyous people”. Even in truly difficult and tragic moments, there is always a little thing that makes us burst out laughing. {link: I like to view tragedy as a period, a stage that is going to pass}. I do not like playing victims.

The film is a tender fable about misery, a baring down to white in the vein of “la vie en rose”. He says, I have always longed to film Kurdistan, the mountains, the trees, the pomegranates, my mother, the Kurds! then I tapped into the ruins of post-Sovietism……      

Despite everything, Armenians remain incredibly optimistic. Hiner furthers on, all Armenians are magicians because I do not understand how they manage to live (maybe they do not understand either!}.

The Kurdish anecdote he shared with us created ripples of goosebumps all over me. “One day my friend’s friend has been forced to sell his color TV, but he did not want to leave his children without TV, so he had sold the large, beautiful color TV and bought a small black-and-white one. At some point, his 5-year old daughter asked him – daddy, why does Catherine no longer have red lips? they have become all black”. Hiner adds, “this absurdity and optimism, this misery and love, this life that veers between tragedy and comedy, these red lips become all black – these are all the reasons that pushed me to shoot Vodka Lemon in these Kurdish villages of Armenia”

When he was asked, “Two images echo one another : in the beginning, the image of the old musician who arrives on a bed, and at the end, the piano that makes a false getaway, if we can put it that way. Was this done on purpose?”…he says,we are in a barren country, yet despite everything there is hope: people do not sell their piano, they do not sell their dignity. In the last scene with the piano, it is especially love, that matters, the love that begins to grow between Hamo and Nina (the leading protagonists), this amazing power to resist the odds together and to find solutions..”

I am enthralled by the last scene – with practically all of their possessions sold, bare walls and bare corners around their homes, as a last resort, they sit huddled in warm clothing, against the frigid layers of silence, on the piano bench waiting for someone to buy the instrument.  When a prospect approaches them “Is it for sale? or you bought it”, they both without a word, go rolling down the snowy road with the piano….

{link : The Cemetery – a key element in the movie}

Hiner says Kurds have a particular relationship with the dead. The dead are not really dead.They are no longer visible to men but they are omnipresent in everyday life. People go to the cemetery with vodka and food. Family, friends…everyone sits down by the graveside. Then they drink to the health of the deceased and talk to him. The cemetery is not a place of sadness at all. When he greeted a few young people at the graveside, “what are you doing here?”. They answered him, “we smoke.we chat.where else should we go? there is no cafe. this is our buddy, who is dead. There is a chair. we sit here and keep him company”……