While a film within a film set against the 1915 Turkish massacre of Armenians might seem like a hard sell, Atom Egoyan's Ararat has already been picked up for France by ARP. Meanwhile, TMN has taken Canadian pay TV rights.
Not that commercial considerations are upper most on the filmmakers' minds. As producer Robert Lantos puts it: "Some movies are made with marketing in mind and some are made because they must be, because a great story needs to be told."
"I've been trying to find a way of doing this material for so long," Egoyan told Screen International on the eve of shooting. "It allows me to deal with the reconstruction of history and how it impacts on the present."
The catalyst for a film that seems certain to be Cannes-bound for next year's festival was Charles Aznavour, the French-Armenian crooner and actor, who approached Egoyan five years ago. After an initial meeting, says Egoyan, "I received a note from his agent that he'd love to work on a project about the genocide." Egoyan says that until that moment he'd been unable to find an approach to the subject.
"When I had the picture of Charles, it fell into place: a famous European director coming to make a film about the genocide, his dream project, and to juxtapose that with the perspective of an 18-year-old driver on the production. It all began to fall into place."
The approach to the material is typically Egoyanesque. The production of a historical film set during the Genocide is the backdrop for the personal challenges of a cast and crew confronted by a crime against humanity.
"I wanted to deal with pressure on the director to 'get it right' because it has implications not just for the film they're making but in their lives." Ararat stars Charles Aznavour, Eric Bogosian, Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Christopher Plummer, Brent Carver, Marie-Jose Croze and Arsinee Khanijian.