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Tjeknavorian’s ‘Embers of the Sun’ Wins at Psychedelic Film Festival

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NEW YORK, New York — American University of Armenia (AUA) lecturer Zareh Tjeknavorian’s film “Embers of the Sun” has won the award for Best Visionary Short at the third annual Psychedelic Film and Music Festival. Tjeknavorian teaches Filmmaking and Cinema Studies in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS).

Devoted to work that explores higher states of consciousness and transpersonal or visionary experience, the New York City-based Psychedelic Film and Music Festival took place on January 14-17, entirely online this year, drawing an international audience to its eclectic program of short films and features. It showcased some 68 films from around the world in a variety of modes and genres, including documentary, narrative fiction, animation, music video and experimental in programs titled “Groovy Times,” “Surrealistic Edge,” “Mind Revolution,” “Myth, Magic, Madness,” “Psychedelic Horror,” “Psychedelic Animation,” and “Visionary Landscapes.” 

“Embers of the Sun” opened the “Visionary Landscapes” block on the last day of the festival. Following the program, Tjeknavorian and his musical collaborator, Neil Mortimer of Urthona, took part in a Q & A moderated by festival director Daniel Abella. The winners were announced during an awards ceremony that capped the four-day event.

A journey into the sacred landscapes of prehistoric Armenia, “Embers of the Sun” evokes the spirit of a primeval world transfigured by monuments of mysterious origin: rock art found in the desolate volcanic wastes of the Geghama and Syunik mountains, solitary monoliths and cyclopean tombs in rural fields, and the megalithic complex of Zorakarer; vestiges of a lost cosmology that haunt the modern mind. 

“Encountering these remote monuments in the wild is a profoundly psychedelic, indeed spiritual, experience,” notes Tjeknavorian. “In ‘Embers of the Sun’ we sought to cinematically express the power one feels in their presence; the numinous, otherworldly quality of the spaces they address.”

The film features a soundtrack by the British rock band Urthona, taken from the album “Urthona plays Atlantis?”, a collaboration of the band with celebrated musician, writer and prehistorian, Julian Cope. Mortimer’s thunderous guitar, Michael York’s ethereal duduk, and Cope’s ritualistic percussion conjure up a vanished world that mirrors the film’s images in sound. As Tjeknavorian describes, “the music perfectly conveys the essence of what we filmed: the terrifying majesty of these vast and lonely places, the raw energy of the elements, the intimation of ancient powers, cosmic and chthonic. Urthona’s music is inspired by similar prehistoric spaces in Britain, and the sound of England’s windswept moors is naturally transposed to the alpine slopes and meadows of Armenia.”

“Embers of the Sun” is one of several projects in which Tjeknavorian explores his long fascination with Armenia’s ancient past and traditions. His recent article, “The Enigma of Space,” a study of the prehistoric megaliths called ‘vishaps’ (dragon-stones), was published last year by the Institute of Archaeology & Ethnography, Yerevan.

The award follows an eventful year for Tjeknavorian, whose film “Crowned & Conquering” has screened at several international festivals: the 16th Festival Transterritorial de Cine Underground in Argentina; Experimental Superstars in Novi Sad, Serbia; ‘Fisura’ International Festival of Experimental Film & Video in Mexico City; the Buskopolis Festival of Cinematic Oddities in Huntington, PA; and the Magikal Charm Experimental Video and Film Fest in New York City, NY, where it won the “In the Spirit of Analysis & Understanding” award & cash prize. In 2019 “Crowned & Conquering” won the Grand Prix at the Kinoskop 1st International Festival of Analog Experimental Cinema and Audio Visual Performance in Belgrade, Serbia, and the Theremin Award for Best Sound Design at the Hermetic International Film Festival in Venice. 

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.

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