Temple of Cinema

A site-specific installation featuring nine wooden tables of different heights, in which a total of twenty four monitors of different sizes are installed horizontally. Each monitor features an unedited single reel of out-takes from Sergei Parajanov’s ‘Sayat Nova’ playing on a loop. Monitors can be viewed individually, in groups of two or three, or as a whole from above. Tigran Mansurian and Yuri Sayadian’s original sound collage plays on speakers while incense burns. The title refers to a quote by Jean-Luc Godard: “In the temple of cinema, there are images, light and reality… Parajanov was the master of that temple”.

The installation marked the 50th anniversary of the Armenian release of Sergei Parajanov’s ‘Sayat Nova’. Production memos reveal how Parajanov’s vision was compromised both during and after editing at both a local and international level. While the Soviet authorities ordered the destruction of all material not utilised in the final cut, over a hundred cans of outtakes survive, thanks to the staff of Armenfilm Studios. 

The installation is part of a broader project to both preserve, catalogue and
restore the complete surviving outtakes and camera tests, which present a remarkable insight into both Parajanov’s creative practice and Soviet film production. This joint project required extensive negotiations with both the Ministry of Culture of Armenia and the National Archives of Armenia. Having agreed to the project, the outtakes needed to be catalogued in Yerevan and shipped to Warsaw where they were cleaned and scanned.

Concept: Daniel Bird
Producer: Shushanik Mirzakhanyan (National Cinema Centre of Armenia)
Restoration supervisor: Lukasz Ceranka (Fixafilm)
Sound montage: Tigran Mansurian and Andy Votel (Finders Keepers)
Consultant: James Steffen
Curator: Edwin Carels
Producer for IFFR:
Siuli Ko
Marco Truyen
Art director: Danielle van der Kooij

Presented in Arminius, Rotterdam

as part of Art Directions at International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) 2019.

A rather unimpeachable highlight was an exhibition of newly restored outtakes from Sergei Parajanov’s 1969 masterpiece The Color of Pomegranates, which were presented on video monitors embedded within tables in a church replete with a mammoth organ, creaky stairs, and an atmosphere lousy with the scent of incense. Restored from the original camera negatives by the heroic restorationist Daniel Bird, these outtakes peel back the top layer from Parajanov’s practically unsurpassed compositions to reveal not only that, yes, these otherworldly images were obtained in this very world that we ourselves live in (signaled by a jeans-clad technician on a ladder in the background fixing a light amid an otherwise transporting tableau), the final product to which they amounted was deeply informed by the decisions of the Soviet censors. Bird’s ongoing exploration of the “behind the scenes” machinations surrounding the work of one of cinema’s all-time great visual stylists promises to enhance Parajanov’s work, and this labor is already paying off.

‘Rotterdam 2019 Dispatch’ Film Comment
Dan Sullivan
February 20, 2019

Presented in Kino Ararat, Yerevan

by the National Cinema Centre of Armenia (NCCA) as part of Golden Apricot International Film Festival (GAIFF) 2019