Back To Sölöz is about precisely what the title promises. Serge Avédikian is an Armenian-French director and actor who has been away from his ancestral roots for eight years. But, every time he visits, Avédikian chronicles his journey via the camera. The documentary is a compilation (for the lack of a better word) of those four visits across 30 years.
While in Sölöz, the filmmaker interviews several lifelong residents, points out what has changed and, most importantly, what’s stayed the same. As these people are formed before audiences’ eyes, Avédikian probes the most important questions: what is it like to be Armenian living in Turkey today? Can one fully be integrated into a new country or different culture whose history has been so terrible to their ancestors?
“…what is it like to be Armenian living in Turkey today?”
Back To Sölöz runs a brisk 65-minutes and rather quickly gets to the point. Unfortunately, the first 15 or 20 minutes is all set up, as Avédikian leaves from Paris, travels through Istanbul, and finally settles in the town of the title. There’s a lot the director needs to get through, establishing a timeline of Armenian culture, discussion of the Genocide that began in 1915, discussing the 2007 killing of journalist Hrant Dink, and his ties to Sölöz. That is a lot of framework to breeze through in order to begin the dissection of everything there within, and a longer runtime would have benefitted the production so that each element could be introduced less hastily.
But, that is a minor problem overall, as Avédikian has a keen eye for the personal. Viewers will get to know and like the denizens of Sölöz with ease, as the filmmaker makes everyone at ease. They open up about personal issues, frankly discuss their Armenian heritage and the harassment that comes with it, and share their hopes and desires. The film is intimate, and that intimacy gives the proceedings a surprising amount of heft and gravitas. The ending is about as perfect as one could hope for.
Back To Sölöz could and should be longer, as the introduction to everything on the filmmaker’s mind seems crammed in to establish the idea before exploring them. However, the director brings the citizens’ story to life in a glorious, intimate way, allowing these strangers to be as close as friends and family to all watching. Viewing how the town has transformed adds a certain timelessness to the narrative, and the ending is flawless.
"…that intimacy gives the proceedings a surprising amount of heft and gravitas."