Willemien Sanders
Dr. Willemien Sanders is a regular critic at Modern Times Review.

ARMENIA: Usually, 1915 marks the beginning of what is commonly known as the Armenian genocide: the prosecution and murder of some 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottomans.

The Eternals

Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd.

Belgium/France, 2017, 1h 15min

Many fled in order to survive, and the event is said to underlie the continuous tensions between present day Armenia and Azerbaijan. The genocide left a deciding mark on Armenian identity. Recognition of the prosecution as genocide is high on the country’s agenda and an increasing number of nations acknowledge this status, while it remains contested according to others. In the 1990s, the two Caucasian countries regularly ended up fighting and the tensions continue today. However, to what extent mutual geopolitical claims relate to the genocide of more than a century ago is unclear.

Regardless of the semantics, the question surfaces what it means for a nation and its people to be determined by such a devastating event. What does it mean to survive, to be a survivor, while others lost their lives? Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd contemplates this in his film The Eternals, which has its première at the Visions du Réel documentary film festival. He turns to Kharabagh, a region in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, to explore the status, or rather the being, of people referred to as ‘The Eternals’: survivors who enter into a state of timelessness.

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