Mikael Vardanov

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The world's first Chechnya-born filmmaker, Russian Academy Award recipient, Armenian master documentarian Mikael Vardanov (Mikhail Vartanov), became the youngest professional photographer in Grozny then graduated Europe's oldest film school (VGIK) in Moscow. His diploma film "Monologue of the Mask" (1966) won Dakar's Golden Antelope Award in a tie with the great Alain Resnais.

Best known for decades only for his exquisite cinematography in Artavazd Peleshian's black and white classic "The Seasons" (1975) and the world famous behind-the-scenes episodes of Sergei Parajanov's landmark film "Sayat Nova" (1968) -- Vardanov spent 20 years on KGB's blacklist for his debut documentary "The Color of Armenian Soil" (1969).

This dark period of frequent unemployment and rejected screenplays was highlighted by only a few events which, under the circumstances, were remarkable: in 1973 Vardanov was named Cinematographer of the Year at the Sixth Annual USSR Film Festival; in 1979 he co-wrote, supervised and lensed Gennadi Melkonian's debut "Shelkovitsa" which became one of the most popular Soviet comedies; and in March of 1986 Vardanov's work appeared on the pages of the prestigious Cahiers du Cinéma in Paris.

In 1987 and 1989 Vardanov completed the first 2 films of the anti-KGB trilogy "Erased Faces" and Minas: Rekviem. In 1992 his poetic masterpiece, the influential documentary Parajanov: The Last Spring received the county's highest honor, Russian Academy of Cinema Arts Award, then screened to standing ovations of tearful audiences worldwide. After garnering the praise of the critics, such legends as Allen Ginsberg and Tonino Guerra, and top awards in San Francisco and Beverly Hills, Mikhail Vardanov disappeared in Hollywood where he conducts cinematography and photography experiments.

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