It’s an absurd to enslave one’s love. Hovhannes Iskhanyan

The documentary film “Listen to me; Untold stories beyond hatred” created by Pink Armenia NGO initiative is about LGBTI community in Armenia. 10 representatives of the LGBT community talk about their experiences in front of the camera.

LGBTnews talked to film screenwriter Hovhannes Iskhanyan

What do you think is the value of the film for which it had to be created?

–When there is a negative opinion about a whole community, that opinion isn’t about specific people but just about an abstract group. They do not realize there are individuals and each of them has his/her story and life. This film gives an opportunity to see who those people are, people who aren’t accepted by the society and who are the most vulnerable in this country.

–That is to say, can we expect the heroes of the film to make people think and change their attitude towards LGBTI people?

If people ask themselves questions instead of closing themselves not to study human features, then, the film will definitely make people think. For instance, the latest study carried out by Pink Armenia with support of “Heinrich Boll Foundation”, found out that hatred towards homosexual people is mainly expressed by those people who do not know them and haven’t dealt with them.

– Film heroes are 10 people who tell their experiences in front of the camera. Did only 10 people express willingness to speak up, or just 10 people were chosen among those willing to speak up?

– From the beginning we had a principle to choose those people who would not be mind showing their real personalities. We wanted them to be seen. When we were discussing the format of the film with film director Gagik Ghazareh, we thought of a solution not to show the faces of the characters, as we were afraid people wouldn’t agree to speak with open faces. However, when I presented the project during “Rainbow” forum a few people immediately got excited and expressed their readiness to speak openly in front of the camera and tell their stories. Thus, we chose those who agreed to speak without hiding their faces.

– Why exactly “Listen to me”?

– It was the idea of director Gagik Ghazareh which I really liked. It is about voicelessness, about a person who wants to explode. The thing is that all negative thoughts, curses and hatred wards towards LGBTI people are always into circulation and those peoples’ speech isn’t heard under that noise. It can be because of fear or something else. Maybe it’s normal for people to avoid speaking under those curses, whereas it’s significant to hear those people’s voice.

– Which is the fuel of the film for you?

– It’s the courage of the heroes. If we weren’t in Armenia, but in another more natural environment, courage might not be a fuel. Apart from it, the characters have lived a full life and are quite charismatic. What I like more about the film is that each of 10 heroes is an individual, one different from another.

There is diversity in the film which shows the individuality of LGBTI people. And when people put them all in a saucepan announcing they all should be burnt… When there aren’t people to be burnt in the saucepan… the film seems to show who hatred spreaders want to burn.

_ Who do you expect to see as a film audience in the first place?

– I think it’s important for deputies to see the documentary. It’s well known that many prominent representatives of authorities are homophobe, and I really hope they will at least think about it a little after watching the film. Although the problem isn’t only internal homophobia, on the other hand it’s just politics. Some of them think they will lose their electoral votes in case of protecting the rights of LGBTI people, and, as a result, they do not take any steps about it. There are people who even publicly say about this. I also want my friends to see the film; childhood and teenage friends, or friends I got during university years, with who I often argue about this issue. It is one thing when I personally say all that, but quite another when they see a specific person appearing in front of them and speaking to them.   

–It was the first private screening of the film on 11 October, which was followed by other screenings as well. Did you invite competent people who are bound to take up the protection of LGBTI persons’ rights? 

– We invited corresponding representatives of ministries to the first screening; those ones who we believed bear a relation to that issue. However, they didn’t come. We also invited members of opposition political partiesand some of them came.

– Did you pursue that the film will also bring some words of LGBTI community to public notice?

– I had never thought of your question before. But film heroes all have really been in the stage of self-rejection at certain age of their lives and had problems, they were depressed and thought they should be changed, which is actually impossible. There is a person in the film who tells about his attempts to commit a suicide due to being powerless at that age. We don’t know those people who might have the same problems as film heroes had in different stages of their lives, but if they see the film it might help them to overcome it a lot easier. It always helps finding similiar one. To make your outer life easier you shouldn’t make your inner life complicated. I have been thinking recently of LGBTI person’s story to be often the same situation as girls’ getting married at an early age without their wish or it’s the same story of “Romeo and Juliet” when their families do not let them love each other. It’s the same with LGBTI people; they do not allow them to love the person they chose themselves. It’s an absurd in 21st century to enslave one’s love. Aren’t curses and hatred words said just to forbid a person to love the one s/he wants to love.