Artavazd Peleshian (b. 1938)

Earth of People (1966)
Beginning (1967)
We (1969)
Inhabitants (1970)
The Seasons of the Year (1975)
Our Century (1983)
Life (1993)

Artavazd Ashoti Peleshyan (born November 22, 1938, Leninakan) is an Armenian director of film-essays, a documentarian in the history of film art and a film theorist. However his work unlike Maya Deren's is not avant-garde nor tries to explore the absurd, is not really art for the art's sake like Stan Brakhage's but should be rather acknowledged as a poetic view on life embedded on film. In the words of the filmmaker Sergei Parajanov, his is "one of the few authentic geniuses in the world of cinema". Renowned Master of the Armenian SSR arts title (1979).

He is renowned for developing a style of cinematographic perspective known as distance montage, combining perception of depth with oncoming entities, such as running packs of antelope or hordes of humans. Characteristic to him is also the use of archive footage alongside with his own shots and, especially, fast intercutting between these two. Telephoto lens are often used to get "candid camera" shots of people engaging in mundane tasks.

His films are on the border between documentary and feature, rather reminding of the work of such avant-garde filmmakers as Bruce Connor than of any kind of conventional documentaries. Most of his films are short, the longest being 60 minutes and the shortest 6 minutes long. His films feature no dialogue; however, music and sound effects play nearly as important a role in his films as the visual images in contributing towards the artistic whole. Nearly all of his films were shot in black and white.

Already his student films he made while he was studying at VGIK were awarded several prizes. As for now, 12 films by Peleshyan are known to exist. The Beginning (Skizbe) (1967) is a cinematographical essay about the October Revolution of 1917. One of the unique visual effects used in this film is achieved by holding snippets of film still on one frame, then advancing only for a second or two until again pausing on another, resulting in a stuttering visual effect. Other important films by him are We (Menq) (1967, a poetically told history of Armenia and its people and Inhabitant (Obitateli) (1970), a reflection on the relationship between wildlife and humans. Artavazd Peleshian's most brilliant film is "The Seasons" (1975), exquisitely cinematographed by another great Armenian documentarian Mikhail Vartanov (Vardanov) - it is an outstanding look at the contradiction and harmony between the humans and nature.

Peleshyan is also the author of a range of theoretical works, such as his 1988 book Moyo kino (My Cinema).

Being from a country far away from internationally significant cinema circles, Peleshyan's efforts were never been properly recognized by world cinema until very recently. After the fall of Soviet Union, he has been able to make two more short films, Life (1993) and The End (1994). He is now living in Moscow. His most recent film was edited at the ZKM | Karlsruhe Film Institute in 2005-2006 and has not yet been released.


""It's about what I'm striving for, what we're all striving for - every person, humanity...the wishes and desires of the people to ascend, to transcend..." (Peleshian on his film "Our Age" - from an interview with MacDonald in "A Critical Cinema 3").

""...I was thinking of everything. It's not specifically the seasons of the year or of people: it's everything." (ibid)

""Eisenstein's montage was linear, like a chain. Distance montage creates a magnetic field around the film... Sometimes I don't call my method "montage". I'm involved in a process of creating unity. In a sense I've eliminated montage: by creating the film through montage, I have destroyed montage. In the totality, in the wholeness of one of my films, there is no montage, no collision, so as a result montage has been destroyed. In Eisenstein every element means something. For me the individual fragments don't mean anything anymore. Only the whole film has the meaning." (Peleshian - ibid)

""For me, distance montage opens up the mysteries of the movement of the universe. I can feel how everything is made and put together; I can sense its rhythmic movement." (Peleshian - ibid)

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