Listening through the Lens

Greet Anzhela Frangyan, a filmmaker, producer, and our 2022 Fellow. 

September 16, 2022  |  by Creative Armenia

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A patient listener and story enthusiast from a young age, Anzhela Frangyan’s career in film has been as much of a choice as it has been destiny. While relentless in pursuing every opportunity that would allow her to be closer to the world of cinema, her curiosity and empathetic nature made a safe landing in the waters of the film industry. From staging small productions for her friends and family to directing her own documentary films and co-producing films with award-winning filmmakers, Anzhela has allowed every experience to teach her something valuable about the craft, emerging as a stronger creator out of every hurdle. 

 

Filled with resilience and perseverance, Anzhela’s inspiring journey and insights are worth sharing. Read the interview of our 2022 Creative Armenia-AGBU Fellow and let her guide you through her life and career, the important lessons she has learned along the way, and the audacious plans she has for the future of Armenia’s cinema. 

 

Creative Armenia: Tell us a little about how you began your journey of becoming a filmmaker and producer.​

 

Anzhela Frangyan: I would describe myself as a story enthusiast and listener. I was a silent kid who loved listening to people’s stories and visualizing them. When I was younger, I staged performances in my neighborhood, bringing my relatives and neighbors in as an audience. But being from a small city, I did not know where to go to learn “how to make movies.’’ So I just went to the department of Art and Culture. Later on, I did my best to use every opportunity that came my way to stay close to the world of cinema, working all kinds of jobs from a location fixer to the first assistant director.

 

CA: Tell us about your creative inspirations and what you have learned from them? 

 

AF: When I was a child, there was a TV program called 8½. It showed really good movies very late at night. I would stay up to watch the films and my mother would always scold me, telling me to go to sleep because I had classes in the morning. But instead, I would hide in the room that had the TV and watch movies. Later on, I learned that the films I admired were created by Sergei Parajanov, Artavazd Peleshyan, Abbas Kiarostami, and other legendary filmmakers.


Then I met great filmmakers in real life and was inspired even more. I wanted to understand what kind of people they are, what values they have, how they listen to stories, and how they create. One such inspiration has been the Armenian documentary filmmaker Vardan Hovhannisyan. I loved how he presented films, pitching every project with ease and finding new ways to inspire you. From him, I have also learned what kind of a filmmaker I want to be. And that my way will be very different from his. 

 

I think it was an important moment in my life – understanding how to trust my own experience and what I want to bring to my films. Then I was lucky enough to meet documentary filmmaker Anastasia Kirillova, famous Swedish director Anna Eborn, and Belgian-American director Jessica Woodworth. I got the chance not only to watch their great films but also to receive their support. They taught me to trust my intuition; they gave me inspiration and courage. One has to be happy to meet such talented women in her life. I hope they would not mind if I call them my mentors.

 

CA: One of your most recent projects – Toot: Homemade Mulberry Vodka – documents an unexpected journey through the post-war Artsakh. What motivated you to capture that story? 

 

AF: I was in Artsakh with my friends when the war started. On the third day of the war, I found myself under a missile attack. I was lucky enough to be saved by a man in his 60s but then I was hit by survivor’s guilt. I stayed. Following the incident, I tried to understand how to deal with that feeling of remorse. 

 

After the war, when I would go back to Artsakh, it would amaze me how the people who are living in the region where the peace is so fragile do not lose hope. How they know how to feel the joy of life. When they harvest mulberries, they feel as happy as children. I often return to learn from them how to distill “the sweetest taste of mulberry’’ from this life and how not to give up on the taste of mulberries.

 

CA: While rewarding in its essence, the world of documentary filmmaking can be mentally and physically tough. How has the profession changed you as a person? What do you appreciate and struggle with the most? 

 

AF: I have always believed that we are given this life to collect experiences. And being involved in documentary filmmaking gives you a chance to experience a lot. Throughout my career in the field, I became more and more open to listening to people’s stories. But I have also learned to share my personal ones with them. l learned not to judge people I am filming and just listen. 

 

This is what makes art interesting. If you are going somewhere with a predetermined viewpoint on the subject, you lose the ability to learn something new and look at the story from a new angle. Being open and listening is what helps you break stereotypes. In short, documentary filmmaking has taught me that whatever I can imagine is less than what life is capable of creating itself. And that I have to stay open to the world and to the people to experience all the beauty of life.
 

CA: In 2019, you established DoKino, an Armenian production company that has been (co-)producing many international and local films. Tell us a little about its mission. What kind of projects does the company embrace? 

 

AF: To be able to make my independent films, I founded DoKino.
 

At DoKino, we see co-productions as one of the main ways of supporting the growth of the film industry in Armenia. We are learning from the process, gaining experience, and sharing our knowledge by creating stories that we hope will become part of the world. 

 

DoKino also supports women filmmakers, helping to bring their stories to life. One of our priorities in this area is allowing women to create films on all the subjects they want. It is important to show the female viewpoint on different subjects; they do not have to make movies only about women.

 

CA: What project of yours are you most proud of? What makes it special for you?

 

AF: After becoming an independent filmmaker I have only been involved in the projects that I really love. They are about people who might not be very notable but their stories deserve to be told. I strongly believe that all of us have stories to tell; as a filmmaker, you just need to help them open up and then listen.
 

In all of these projects, I have found things that relate to my own childhood. Even if they are not about my parents, family members, or neighbors, I still feel like through all of them I tell my story.

 

CA: What is your long-term vision for your creative career?

 

AF: I have always loved living in Armenia but I also want to be a part of the world; get acquainted with other places and cultures, meet people and make new connections. Since life for me is about experiences, making films allows me to collect unique experiences and learn about the lives of others. 

 

Other than that, I dream that while continuing to work from Armenia, my projects will be worldwide co-productions. I want to learn new things about others and share something new with the world about Armenia. 


l also dream that our local professionals will work together and learn from each other more as well. And that Armenia will become the place where every filmmaker finds inspiration. From Parajanov to Komitas, from Matendaran to little villages – we have a lot to learn from and share with the world. I hope DeKino will become one of these bridges. 

 

As for me, I want to learn and learn. And, once I have the courage, I want to share my very personal stories with the world. Throughout my life, from a very young age, I have been learning to love life more and more. And hope I can communicate that love through my stories. 

 

CA: What do you plan on doing as a Creative Armenia-AGBU Fellow?

 

AF: The program has been of great support, helping me continue what I have been working on already. What makes it even more valuable is that it benefits not only me but also everyone involved in my projects, which gives me great strength.
 

I will continue learning from all the opportunities I am given and find new ways of sharing knowledge with the ones who need it in Armenia.
 

I have already had many meetings with famous mentors, and hopefully, I will keep in touch with them and build relationships that will lead to new co-productions. And not only for me. I will also try to connect people who may be useful to each for other projects. 

A patient listener and story enthusiast from a young age, Anzhela Frangyan’s career in film has been as much of a choice as it has been destiny. While relentless in pursuing every opportunity that would allow her to be closer to the world of cinema, her curiosity and empathetic nature made a safe landing in the waters of the film industry. From staging small productions for her friends and family to directing her own documentary films and co-producing films with award-winning filmmakers, Anzhela has allowed every experience to teach her something valuable about the craft, emerging as a stronger creator out of every hurdle. 

 

Filled with resilience and perseverance, Anzhela’s inspiring journey and insights are worth sharing. Read the interview of our 2022 Creative Armenia-AGBU Fellow and let her guide you through her life and career, the important lessons she has learned along the way, and the audacious plans she has for the future of Armenia’s cinema.