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However, finding our roots is sometimes not easy. Should a trip abroad be considered good enough to go to jail in an unknown amount of time? That’s the premise behind Michael Goorjian’s new passion project, where he writes, directs and stars as an American who has gone back to Armenia – his ancestral home. And what makes it even more exciting? It is 1948 and it is a Soviet republic that survived through World War II. Amerikatsi (The American) based on true events can be rightly referred to as a serious comedy drama that does not always make easy viewing because of its tough subject matter but which never fails in terms of emotion.

It’s now 1948 in Soviet Armenia, and we see that young boy all grown up — eventually. Firstly, we have Sona (the beautiful Nelli Uvarova), a local who gets into a fight on the streets; the grown-up boy named Charlie (Michael Goorjian), comes out of nowhere at the nick of time and saves her from trouble. As gratitude, they take him out for dinner, Sona with her military husband Dmitry (Mikhail Trukhin), where his American accent and non-Soviet style clothes are plainly visible among all other Soviets. Charlie has come here to rediscover his roots during post Second World War days and instead of acquiring nice house and job from Dmitry and Sona he was unreasonably thrown into prison…

As Soviets misunderstand an innocent American due to failed translation, despair takes over Charlie’s life making authorities believe that he is still worse than they initially thought. However, thanks to Goorjian charmer trying to communicate with other prisoners through song along with deadpan humor from some members of staffs such as calling Charlie “Mr. Charlie Chaplin”, Amerikatsi remains funny till its end for Charlie even if things turn extremely bad. This happens when looking through the window of Charlie’s cell; he discovers a flat where Tigran – the prison guard (Hovik Keuchkerian) lives with his lovely wife, and not only that.

This is where some old movies may appear as possible influences on Goorjian’s passion project. Films like Rear Window, The Shawshank Redemption, Life Is Beautiful, and even Disturbia seem to come to mind once things begin happening at the jail. Charlie watches them from afar and provides dialogue for their silent conversations. And it is just as well too because an earthquake strikes at the same time stopping him along with other prisoners from being sent to Siberia again. Instead, they have to stay put and help restore the jail.

Charlie who has taken on further physicalities becomes entangled in Tigran’s life. Once Charlie started watching through the transparent windows of Tigran’s home how Armenians properly toast one another during dinner parties this was among other details that made him feel closer to his heritage. In addition he sees Tigran serenading his lady friend with guitar music that might be considered a secret talent otherwise locked somewhere inside a closet which Tigran cannot open for some reason. With regard to character motivation, this is an observation that Charlie takes advantage of by devising ways of sending notes to the guard in order to help him find its key and reunite with his wife after some kind of disputes witnessed within their marriage life.

It was his heart that made Amerikatsi a good-natured triumph, but Goorjian brings us back to the bad times through reminiscing on Charlie’s traumatic background of witnessing executions as he hid inside a box. It is evidence that Charlie has to play with what he has, and Tigran is one way in which he finds comfort. Finally, this tubby officer understands it all; hence, he covertly returns painting materials into Charlie’s cell as an act of gratitude. Sometimes you want to raise your hands up high in glee, or feel like doing so – in such moments when prisoners bond with their custodians (Eagleton 13).

However, we can’t afford not to think about Charlie being trapped for no known reason at all for a very long time. This could push him into pretending that he is really present next to Tigran in the dining room more especially after discovering that he would be relocated again from this preferred prison; then later threaten him again with a transfer to Siberia. At around the same time Sona steals the scene again by asking about where Charlie might be found. Thus another strength of Amerikatsi resides here since while Goorjian himself delivers an awards-caliber leading performance which can make the movie a home run already itself there are also endearing supporting cast members who make the film whole. These parts are not disposable; they stay with you even though words may separate them.

There’s certainly one “all is lost” moment later on in Amerikatsi when somebody (we won’t say who) tells upon an old friend of Charlie’s and ends up hurting them too (not excluding other inmates). It is painful how society lets someone so charismatic and brilliant suffer such fates as Charlie did here: however, neither does he give up on life nor do we. Amerikatsi was filmed in Armenia, so everything about the appearance of the film comes out real. This serves to highlight the central themes in Goorjian’s story here. Charlie brings a bit of warmth and humor that makes the character seem ironically futuristic. He is all about resilience; he has heart, and so Amerikatsi is one family movie you should check out at home.

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