Maria Saakyan in conversation with Second Run
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born and also grew up in Yerevan, Armenia. Unfortunately, when I was 12 years old, our family was forced to move to Russia, to Moscow, because of the war in the Caucasus.
In Moscow I finished school, entered the Film Institute - VGIK - where eventually we started work on The Lighthouse with the help and initiative of a Russian film company.
For the past two years I’m now living again in Armenia because finally I was able to return home.
When did you decide to become a filmmaker and what influenced that decision?
My decision to become a filmmaker came pretty early.
I was just discussing a few days ago with my friend and editor Nusha Altufjeva about our influences in cinema – and I remember, that there were two films which really impressed me: A Zed and Two Noughts (1985) by Peter Greenaway – we saw it at retrospective in Moscow in 1992 when I was 12 - and also the works of Artavazd Peleshyan. I was at a screening of all his works – and after that event I knew I wanted to become a film director.
From the age of 9 I was thinking about directing – but, before seeing these films, I wasn’t sure if it should be in film or theatre. But after seeing these two auteur’s films I discovered how magical cinema could be and decided to work in this field.
What inspired The Lighthouse? How autobiographical is the main character and what were the historical and personal things you wished to say and represent?
This is a personal story not just for me but it is a story which has been part of the autobiography of many people of our generation.
This is a personal story also for our screenwriter, who is Georgian, for our set-designer, who is from Serbia. We were all forced to leave our home countries because of local wars. And this very strong desire to return, to come back home to the country you were forced to leave, brings us to this film. Finally, it’s not only in the film – for example, my own wish finally came true. After The Lighthouse was released I, just as my protagonist does in the film, was also finally able to return home and live in my home country Armenia - even if now that decision looks to other people pretty absurd.
For us, it was more important to try to reflect the personal truth about these “1990’s local wars”. We tried to make a film not only about the Nagorno-Karabakh war or the Georgian war – but one which could be understood globally.
Yerevan, February 2011
The complete text of this interview, plus new essays by So Mayer and Vigen Galstyan, appear in the booklet which accompanies this release.
Lost Highway Hotel
The Geek Show
The Time Out Film Guide
(i) Maria Saakyan obituary
(ii) Heavenly Authors: Discussing 'The Lighthouse' with Cinematographer Maksim Drozdov
(iii) Larushka Ivan-Zadeh on Mayak
(iv) Sofiko Chiaureli
(v) The Hamo Bek-Nazarov Project
(vi) Armenia House
(vii) Program of Armenian Studies