Sun 14 Jun, 1pm
Tue 30 Jun, 7pm
“An inspiring portrait of democractic self-determination, the lifting of a national depression, a shaking off of doubt and despair.”
In March 2018, world-famous-in-Armenia journalist and activist Nikol Pashinyan set off to walk to his country’s capital, Yerevan.
His aim was to protest against governmental corruption, specifically the attempts of the then President, Serzh Sargsyan, to become Armenia’s Prime Minister for life.
“Take a step” became the motto for Pashinyan’s protest movement, and I Am Not Alone strides off into stranger-than-fiction territory. Its story arc – all true – is barely credible.
Pashinyan is, of course, the sort of underdog hero we root for – David against Goliath, the rebel fleet against the Death Star, intelligence against Trump. This time, we get a real dog too. Almost as if scripted by Disney, a cute cur joins the protest at the beginning and sticks with it.
I Am Not Alone is also a tale of its time. Pashinyan’s protest grows from being a one-man band (plus dog) to building a small following and reaching a tipping point as his campaign goes (although one hesitates to use the word at present) ‘viral’.
This is the coming of age of a new generation whose tools are not barricades and bullets but social media, along with the ability to use those platforms to organise, reorganise, combat state propaganda with instant messaging, and share information and plans.
System of a Down’s lead singer, Armenian-American Serj Tankian, is among the Executive Producers. (Tankian’s previous work includes a live version of the album Elect the Dead, with an orchestral score by Wellington composer John Psathas and recorded with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.)
In I Am Not Alone, there’s little doubt where filmmaker Garin Hovannisian’s sympathies lie, but he does a great job of adding nuance to the story by securing interviews with the ‘other side’: establishment figures including Yerevan’s police chief, new president Armen Sarkissian, and the now former president Sargsyan. Mostly, they don’t co-operate in painting themselves as cookie-cutter villains, but add some depth to the issues being debated.
As The Hollywood Reporter’s Sheri Linden notes, I Am Not Alone is “an inspiring portrait of democratic self-determination”.
Previous festival selections include:
TIFF, winner: Audience Award
DOC NYC, winner: Audience Award