Review: Should The Wind Drop
- A work of fiction awarded labels by Cannes and overtaken by current events and war, Nora Martirosyan’s first feature film lifts the veil on a land in search of existence, identity and borders
"It’s what’s called living on a volcano. You never know when it’s going to stir." When France-based director Nora Martirosyan placed the Nagorno Karabakh region centre stage in her film Should The Wind Drop [+see also:
film profile] - which boasts two labels from the 2020 Cannes Film Festival (courtesy of the Official Selection and the ACID line-up), a Special Mention from Namur, a Meet The Neighbours Special Prize from Thessaloniki and has now been presented at the 24th Tallin Black Nights Film Festival (in the First Feature Films section) - she was well aware of the possible risk of a resurgence of the burdensome conflict which, following the territory’s demand for independence during the dismantlement of the USSR, had set this little Transcaucasian region ablaze between 1991 and 1994 (claiming upwards of 30,000 lives); a war which involved its neighbours Armenia and Azerbaijan. Sadly, this autumn, hostilities resumed, giving rise to six weeks of deadly fighting before a cease-fire agreement (negotiated under the aegis of Russia) was ratified on 9 November, redrawing the zones controlled by Armenian separatists and the Azerbaijani army.
This geopolitical knot (Turkey and Iran are also involved) with tragic and far-reaching human consequences, which is now making headlines having been confined for over two decades to the confidential realm of international relations, is tackled by the filmmaker from a modest and original angle: namely the arrival of Alain (Grégoire Colin) in the Nagorno Karabakh region, a Frenchman charged with auditing the shiny-new yet deserted airport built on the outskirts of the capital Stepanakert. His mission: to authorise, or not, the opening of a complex which would mark a notable advance in the official recognition of the self-proclaimed mini Republic, and its opening up to others.
Turning up after an eight-hour journey by car from Yerevan, via the Lachine Corridor which cleaves a path through the mountains, Alain is totally ignorant of what has come to pass and of what is at stake in this land lost out in the middle of nowhere. Between technical analyses (25 metres of a hill have been lopped in order to allow for the passage of aircraft; the exact distance from the border established by the cease-fire agreement is controversial which complicates Alain’s assessment of landing procedures, determined according to wind strength, etc.), pressure from officials and media sources, and his discovery of the reality and beliefs of the country - mainly gleaned from his encounter with Edgar (Hayk Bakhryan), a little boy engaged in the curious business of selling “miraculous” water in the surrounds of the airport - our reasonable and incorruptible Westerner Alain ends up testing his own limits and ultimately finds himself dancing with danger…
"It’s a small, round country, just like Earth. Take a few steps and you’re already at the other side". As it slowly and cleverly reveals the different aspects of this microcosm (the people, the airport, the land), the story penned by Nora Martirosyan, Emmanuelle Pagano, Olivier Torres and Guillaume André manages not only to drive home the scale of the questions explored (their international geopolitical dimension, issues regarding identity and national borders), it also strikes a fine balance between a nigh-on documentarian exploration (set amidst highly suggestive scenery) and highly dramatic plot twists (a fire, a nocturnal foray into the forest which acts as a front line). All the while maintaining an ongoing thread of tension in a work which has been transformed, by recent events, into a spotlight which can help shed light on the present, as well as a valuable piece of historical archive material.
Produced by French firm Sister Productions together with Armenia’s Aneva Production and Belgium’s Kwassa Films, Should The Wind Drop will be distributed on 21 January in France by Arizona. International sales are in the hands of Indie Sales.
(Translated from French)
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