Below filmmaker Braden King shares a scene from his Armenia-set drama “Here,” starring Ben Foster (“The Messenger”) and Lubna Azabal (“Incendies”). The film opens in New York this Friday through Strand Releasing, and expands to Los Angeles and San Francisco in May.
What it’s About:
“Here” is a dramatic, landscape-obsessed road movie chronicling a brief but intense relationship between an American satellite-mapping engineer (Ben Foster) and an expatriate Armenian art photographer (Lubna Azabal) who impulsively decide to travel together into uncharted territory—both literally and metaphorically.
Shot entirely on location in Armenia, “Here” premiered at the 2011 Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals. A live installation version of the project, “Here (The Story Sleeps)” premiered at The Museum of Modern Art in 2010 as part of Creative Capital’s 10th anniversary celebration and continues to tour internationally.
What’s happening in this scene is pretty straightforward story-wise. The film’s two main characters, Will and Gadarine (who have been traveling together for days at this point) find themselves separated for the first time since impulsively deciding to journey across Armenia together. Though both are fiercely independent individuals, each begins to recognize – and struggle with – the decline in autonomy that inevitably comes with the territory of true connection.
Behind the Scene:
“Here exists no sign, no path, no distance and no time.” – e.e. cummings
The question I get asked most often about “Here” is why I chose to shoot the film in Armenia. While there are all kinds of practical and aesthetic answers to that question, the most honest response is probably tied up in the idea that if I was going to make a film about geography, relationships, time, culture, politics and exploration in the age of GPS, Google Maps and globalization, the production itself was going to have to be some kind of real journey.
“Here” is, first and foremost, a feature film, but it’s also a map of an expedition. This sequence was shot in the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is theoretically independent of Armenia, but the only country that currently recognizes it as such is… Armenia. Diplomatically speaking, to the rest of the world, what you’re seeing is occupied territory of Azerbaijan. It’s quite literally undefined territory. And I think that, in so many ways, is what everyone – from these characters to the actors to the crew to myself – wanted to explore in making this film.
Ben Foster and Lubna Azabal are the only actors in this sequence, but when I watch it, I don’t see them. What I see is somewhat strange and probably very personal: I see the characters Ben and Lubna made manifest, wandering in the World, somehow connecting the imagined and the real. I watch DP Lol Crawley’s breathing eye and hear Michael Krassner’s ambling guitar and I get lost in the birds on the wire. There is Will, walking the evening streets of Shushi as the town quiets down and goes home. There is Gadarine, out of place among the tourists at the Gandzasar Monastery, passing around some of the first research photos I took for “Here” way back in 2004. There’s the restaurant owner sitting out of focus in the background as Will takes a shot, watching one of the greatest avant-garde films of all time on his flickering black and white television (Artavazd Peleshian’s Seasons). And then there’s the waterfall, on the wall…
All kinds of crazy things happened to us while shooting in Armenia but none of them happened here. The Russian soldiers, land mines, poisonous snakes and so much more all took place somewhere else on the road. At the same time, this is where we were trying to go. Shooting “Here” is where we finally found a way to get off the map for a while. Throughout the story, Will continually struggles to find a way to get to a place beyond the lines. This is where we found it.