2019, Movies

I Am Not Alone (2019, directed by Garin Hovannisian)

This is a surprisingly slick documentary about the 2018 Armenian Revolution. We need a different word for non-fiction films like this, though because calling it a documentary implies a level of impartiality that is not present in this film. Nevertheless, it’s a “ground truth” view of the protests and it manages to get some interviews with people you would not expect would be willing to participate such a film.

This film has a perspective, and that perspective is that the Prime Minister of Armenia in 2018 is bad. Now, the film does give us some idea of why he’s bad. But the problem with this film is that the person it follows most, who it was us to support, is the current PM of Armenia. And the film, which depicts his rise from an MP to PM, through rallying some of the Armenian people to protest against the sitting PM, doesn’t really tell us much about this man. We learn he was a journalist and a thorn in the side of the government. His resistance to an autocratic government is admirable, it would just be easier to take all of this if he didn’t become PM.

The film is more valuable for how it shows the power of people to affect change if they’re just willing to. (And how this power is amplified by social media and the internet.) It’s also a pretty incredible example of a relatively peaceful transition of power. (I don’t know how much has changed since, of course.) There’s also the impressive coup of getting the former PM and some members of his party to talk to them. (This is extremely rare for these types of “documentaries.” Usually they can’t get the participation of the other side.)

Another quibble: I am a fan of System of a Down and Serj Tankian but his presence here doesn’t help. His brief appearances in the film don’t add anything and his score is remarkably derivative. For such a fun, interesting musician, it’s shocking to hear a score that mostly sounds like it’s ticking off the political advocacy documentary score checklist. I get how important this is to him, I do, I’m just not sure he made the film better.

I would feel a lot more comfortable with this film if I knew more about the new PM (from the film) or if he had lead a protest movement and hadn’t then become the most powerful man in the country. (Apparently it’s a weak presidential system so the PM is in charge.) I have been burned by these movies before, where I thought really highly of a politician depicted in a film as fighting for change in his country and then later read his Wikipedia page. (They’re usually men, though not always.) I haven’t read anything yet about this guy but I can’t help but worry there are skeletons somewhere given how unequivocally positive he’s portrayed in this film.


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