Thursday, August 28, 2014

August 30, 1997: Death of Frunze Dovlatyan

Almost fifty years ago, Frunze Dovlatyan’s film, “Hello, It’s Me!” (Բարեւ, ես եմ), marked a milestone in the history of Armenian cinema.
Dovlatyan was born in Kamo (nowadays Gavar), on May 27, 1927, in a family of actors. His father and his paternal aunt staged amateur plays in the theater of the town. When the Dovlatyan family moved to Yerevan, Frunze, still a school student, started his career as an actor. He performed from 1941-1952 in the provincial theaters of Armenia and in the “Gabriel Sundukian” academic theater of Yerevan. He graduated in 1947 from the theatrical studio of the latter, and appeared in a few films from 1943-1958, the first being Hamo-Bek Nazarian’s “David Bek”.
He moved to Moscow and graduated from the all-Soviet Cinema Institute (VGIK) in 1959. He had already started his career as a film director (he would still appear as an actor in several films, some of them of his own, until the late 1980s) and directed three movies from 1958-1963 in Moscow.
Soviet movie poster for Hello, It's Me.
He returned to Armenia in 1964 and the next year directed his first film in the homeland, “Hello, It’s Me,” partly based on the life of the famous Armenian physicist Artem Alikhanian, the founder of the Institute of Physics of Yerevan. The film started the career of famous actor Armen Djigarkhanian and had ten million viewers in 1966. It was nominated to the Palme d’Or in the Festival of Cannes in the same year and won the State Prize of Armenia in 1967.
From 1966-1969 Dovlatyan was first secretary of the Union of Cinematographers of Armenia. He went on to direct some important films of the last decades of Soviet Armenian cinema: “Saroyan Brothers” (1968), “Chronicle of Yerevan Days” (1972), “Live Long” (1979), “The Solitary Walnut Tree” (1986). From 1986 he was the artistic director of the Armenfilm studios. His last work was “Yearning” (1990), about the life of a genocide survivor who, led by his yearning of the lost homeland, crosses the Soviet-Turkish border during the time of Stalin.

The filmmaker was the chairman of the Tekeyan Cultural Association in Armenia during the last three years of his life. He passed away in 1997 and was buried in Yerevan.