Aram (2002 film)

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Aram
Aram-poster.jpg
Aram Theatrical Poster
Directed by Robert Kechichian
Produced by Jean-Philippe Andraca
Christian Bérard
Written by Robert Kechichian
Starring Simon Abkarian
Lubna Azabal
Mathieu Demy
Edited by Juliette Welfling
Marie-Pierre Frappier
Distributed by BAC Films
Release dates November 27, 2002
Running time 87 min.
Country France
Language French
Armenian

Aram is a 2002 French action film. It takes place in France between 1993 and 2001, wherein French-Armenian fighters supply arms to Nagorno-Karabakh and attempt to kill a visiting Turkish diplomat. The film was released in 2002 in theatres in France, and made its American debut in 2004 at the Armenian Film Festival in San Francisco.

Plot[edit]

Background[edit]

Historically, the film is loosely based on the militant activity of small groups of Armenian youth in mostly Western Europe beginning in 1973 and lasting until 1994 during which Armenian assassins killed representatives of the state of Turkey in order to gain public awareness of the forgotten (at the time) Armenian Genocide.

Armenian War of Liberation: Karabakh – late 1980s to 1993[edit]

The film opens with scenes from the Armenian positions during the Karabakh war, sometime between 1988 and 1993. Armenian women, children, and the elderly are shown hiding in bomb shelters and being airlifted to safety.

Aram Sarkissian is a young French-Armenian member of AGJSA who has abruptly left his family in Paris and gone to fight in the war of liberation.

1993: Return to France, Assassination, Hiding[edit]

Near the end of the war, around October 1993, Aram returns to France to live a “normal life” again. However, upon his return, Aram finds out that his younger brother, Levon, is preparing a new assassination, this time against the general of the Turkish Army, Mr Azbalan Djelik, who is visiting France. Aram fiercely opposes this new plan, claiming that the Armenian struggle lies in Artsakh. Levon, however is firm in his stance and considers Aram to be a coward.

Levon moves forward with the plan, and Aram, it turns out, has reluctantly agreed. During the evening, the Mercedes in which the Turkish general is riding in is ambushed by 3 masked gunmen. The assassins shoot and kill three of the four passengers. The fourth man, sitting in the passenger's seat, pretended to be dead from the impact, and as the assassins flee, shoots Levon, immobilizing him. This fourth man is the Turkish general's aide-de-camp, Colonel Talaat Sonlez. The assassins shoot him and flee. The AGJSA claims responsibility for the attack, justifying it by reminding that General Djelik was the Black Wolves boss, a Turkish fascist organization.

Talaat survives; Levon is in a coma; and the other assassins have fled. Talaat searches for his killers, but to no avail, as Mr. Paul, the French counter-terrorism secret policeman does not reveal their identities

2001: Return to France, Arms Deal, Exile to Artsakh[edit]

Sarkissian Family[edit]

The next scene is in January, 2001, at the Sarkissians' residence in Paris. Levon is paralyzed, cannot speak, and is bound to a wheelchair; the father (Mihran Sarkissian) is bitter over what he thinks is Aram's responsibility in exploiting his younger brother's admiration for him and luring him into this criminal attempt that ultimately rendered him paralyzed. It becomes clear that Aram's whereabout have not been known to the family since the attack. Meanwhile, Meline, the younger sister, is introduced; she is engaged to be married to a Frenchman, something her father approves reluctantly, and is frowned upon by his friends.

Arms Deal[edit]

In the windy, desolate prairies of Germany, Vartan (AGJSA leader) and friends negotiate an arms deal for 300 high-tech sniper rifles (to be used by Armenian forces in Karabakh) with Kurdish militants led by Midzametin (the head of the Kurdistan Party in Europe). Also present is Djalal, Midzametin's right-hand man, who's visibly hostile to the deal. The Kurds offer only 200 rifles at a price of $800,000. However, there is a catch for the Armenians: they would have to provide support for assassinations against Turkish diplomats on behalf of the Kurds, if the Turkish Army launches a new offensive in the Kurdish regions of Southeastern Turkey. Vartan reluctantly agrees, and the deal is closed.

Aram Returns to France[edit]

In the next scene, a car pulls up to the harbor of the port city of Calais in Northern France to pick up Aram, who has been smuggled to France in a cargo ship from Karabakh. His mission is to escort the arms (sniper rifles) from France to their destination: Karabakh. Meanwhile, Virgil, a French secret policeman working on behalf of Mr. Paul, photographs Aram's arrival. Mr. Paul has been monitoring the activities of the AGJSA on whom he keeps a file.

Aram meets with Vartan, where they drink and toast. Vartan, who is coordinating the deal, informs Aram that Kervedjian is in charge of the delivery end of the weapons with the Kurds. It's unclear when the weapons will be available, but they should arrive within days. Aram reveals his reservations over Vartan's promises to the Kurds of support for criminal assassinations, which to him seem to be ineffective, even undesirable for the Armenian cause, and for any cause, for that matter. (This perhaps highlights one of the messages the film director wants to get across in this film.) Vartan brings up his suspicions on Djalal, Midzametin's right-hand man who seemed hostile to the transaction and who was asking too many questions. Vartan doesn't know much about him, except that he's a new personality. Aram auspiciously tells Vartan to be careful, as if hinting to events that will unfold.

Betrayal[edit]

Aram, Vartan, and friends prepare for the weapons-money exchange. The Kurds prepare the arms for shipment in a van. En route to the rendezvous-point, the Kurdish driver of the van is killed with a drive-by machete blow by Talaat, who we see for the first time since 1993. The man who betrayed the Kurds (and the Armenians) is none other than Djalal, who has been cooperating with the Turkish side...

At the rendezvous-point, an isolated beach, Aram and friends are greeted by Djalal in the cover of night. Vartan goes first and never reappears. Instead, Talaat appears from the dark and the gang of Turks open fire on Aram and friends, and Aram's other comrade is killed. Aram manages to kill Djalal, and narrowly escapes, as his comrade, who is also killed, tells him to flee.

Seeking Vengeance[edit]

A wounded Aram makes checks into an apartment and recovers from his injuries. The next morning, Virgil is at the crime scene and concludes that the destroyed car is the same as the one that had picked up Aram the night before.

Unaware of Djalal's betrayal, Aram first suspects that Kervedjian (a Karabakh diplomat residing in Paris) has betrayed him and his friends. He abducts Kervedjian and threatens his life if he does not explain what happened.

Meanwhile, Mr. Paul, with knowledge of Talaat's involvement in the previous night's killing, visits Talaat at a Turkish bath. Paul asks Talaat what he's doing in France again, after he had told him not to come back in 1993. Talaat says he's in France on an official (government) mission and has been named cultural attache. But Paul reveals his knowledge that Talaat is a Black Wolves boss and that he is involved in the Turkish mafia. Paul makes it clear that his presence is not wanted in France. Talaat arrogantly claims that the Armenian Genocide is as little a reality as is the Kurdish one.

Old Friend[edit]

In Paris, Aram seeks the help of his long-time Arab friend, Fodil Boushaour, with whom he has had a relationship-building experience in prison, perhaps because of other joint ventures. Fodil provides him with new handguns, a car, and a driver's license. Fodil's two Arab friends, Saad and Mamad, are entrusted to Aram to help him on the rest of his mission.

The Sarkissians[edit]

At home, Mihran Sarkissian is upset that her daughter is losing traditions and shows a lack of respect for the family, too interested in her fiancé. Mihran and Meline argue over Aram: whether he's alive or not, whether he was a good person. Mihran expresses his complete bitterness towards Aram, that he's a murderer and is responsible for Levon's condition; Meline shows her sympathy toward Aram, given her limited knowledge of her oldest brother.

Reunion with Meline[edit]

The next morning, Aram finds Meline and they spend time catching up. When he finds out that his father blames him for what happened to Levon, Aram explains to her that it was not his fault, that he was against the attack from the beginning, and that Levon was the one who insisted.

A New Deal[edit]

Aram finds Kervedjian again, who informs him of Djalal's betrayal and cooperation with the Turkish government. Aram is still suspicious of Kervedjian, but he agrees to follow through with the new plan: in a new deal, the Kurds are to deliver the weapons in the next few days; Aram is charged with killing the Turks involved in the betrayal (Talaat and party); Aram will again escort the weapons. This time around, the payment will be made only after the weapons have been delivered and after Aram's safe return.

Reunion with Levon[edit]

Aram is united with his paralyzed brother, escorted by Meline, at a public park. Meline invites Aram to her wedding and asks to reconcile with their father.

Hammam Killings[edit]

As part of the new deal, Aram tracks down Talaat and friends at a Turkish bath. Although he assassinates 4 members of Talaat's party, including Talaat's girlfriend Nassima, he fails to kill Talaat and his aide, Mehmet.

Back at the Turkish embassy, Talaat is furious over Nassima's death and instructs Mehmet to find his assassins and kill them.

Kervedjian provides Aram with details of the new operation: Aram will travel as a French doctor; collect the weapons (hidden inside a case of medical supplies) from the Northern harbor port at Dunkurque (about 4 hours from Paris) from a Kurdish doctor; and escort the weapons to Athens, from where he will head to Karabakh. Aram hands Kervedjian the money for the weapons (the money was originally provided by Vartan).

Talaat arranges a meeting with Mr. Paul at a public location. He wants to provide information on the Kurdistan party as well as other information on the Islamic terror network that he claims to know, in exchange for the identity of the person trying to kill him. Paul turns down the offer. As Paul and Virgil walk away, Talaat makes a gesture to Mehmet as to harm one of the two.

Mehmet and his gang abduct Virgil as he's about to enter his apartment.

Reunion with Father[edit]

Aram visits his family at their home. His father doesn't accept his presence, and furiously asks him to leave, striking him with his cane. Aram takes the beating and leaves, without explaining his side of the story...

Upon leaving the Sarkissian residence, Aram is chased by Mr. Paul and his associate, Dailland, who have been tracking him and positively identify him, for the first time, as Aram Sarkissian, who was supposedly officially killed in Karabakh. Aram flees and Paul fails to arrest him.

Back at the hotel, we see a more human side of Aram, as he helps a beaten female neighbor back to her room.

Talaat the Butcher[edit]

At the counter-terrorism office, Paul receives a package from Talaat: it contains an amputated finger of Virgil, his watch, and a note to Paul (likely threatening Virgil's life if Paul doesn't hand over the identity of the assassin trying to kill him). Paul tells Dailland to arrest Fodil Boushaour. Paul calls the Turkish embassy and reveals Aram's and his friends' identities.

Marriage of Meline[edit]

Méliné and Stefan get married in a cathedral, with a traditional Armenian Apostolic marriage ceremony. Aram is present.

Meanwhile, Paul speaks privately with Fodil Boushaour. Fodil claims that the last he heard from Aram was 7 years ago, and that he rests in a grave in Northern Karabakh. Given that Talaat has turned the matter into personal business for Paul (with Virgil's life at stake) Paul seems to have allied with Aram and Fodil in order to see justice done against Talaat. Paul informs Fodil that Talaat now knows about Aram Sarkissian and his friends, and that Talaat's out to get them.

Fodil warns Aram who's riding with Saad and Mamad. They turn around to go to the marriage party. At the party, Talaat and Mehmet make an appearance. The two ambush Mihran and Levon in the restroom. As Talaat aims to kill Mihran, who's being held at knife point by Mehmet, Aram shoots Talaat and Mehmet, in this climax of the movie.

Aram leaves the scene and has Saad and Mamad drive him north to Dunkerque, as Paul looks on outside.

Exile from France, Back to Karabakh[edit]

Aram reaches Dunkerque by dawn. As he enters the ship that will take him to Athens, two cars approach him quickly: out come armed secret police from one car and Paul, along with Aram's father, Mihran, from the other. Aram and his father say goodbye without words, and Mihran quietly redeems his son. Showing his sympathy towards Aram, instead of arresting him, Paul asks Aram to leave and to never return to France.

Cast[edit]

Actor Role
Simon Abkarian Aram Sarkissian
Lubna Azabal Méliné Sarkissian
Serge Avédikian Talaat Sonlez
Alain Mottet Miran Sarkissian
Mathieu Demy Lévon Sarkissian
Gilles Arbona Monsieur Paul
Isabelle Sadoyan Tante Anouche
Olivier Loustau Mehmet
Marc Samuel Vartan Madarian

DVD release[edit]

Although the American debut featured English subtitles, there is no DVD being sold which contains English subtitles.

Trivia[edit]

  • The Black Wolves, the Turkish fascist organization of which General Djelik and Talaat Sonlez are leaders, is likely a reference to the Grey Wolves, an ultra-nationalist Turkish organization with ties to the Turkish mafia, counter-insurgency movements within Turkey, and repression of the ASALA and the PKK.
  • The choice of "Talaat" as the name of the lead Turkish character might be a reminder of Talaat Pasha, a leader in the Young Turk government and Minister of the Interior during the Armenian Genocide, and therefore one of the key figures in organizing the Armenian Genocide.
  • In real life, Abdullah Çatlı was a Turkish ultra-nationalist who was second in command of the Grey Wolves; the character of Talaat Sonlez closely resembles this man. Incidentally, one of Abdullah Çatlı's operatives in real life is named Mehmet, as was Talaat Sonlez's operative.

External links[edit]