Constantinople, April 24 1915. As the British prepared their landings in nearby Gallipoli, hundreds of arrest warrants are issued across the city. The arrival of police at poet Taniel Varoujan’s door would shatter his home, destroy his work and his family would never see him again.

Film Noir in style, “Taniel” pays homage to the era of dramatic filmmaking with extreme lighting and camera angles. The narrative is mostly heard through poetry, with Varoujan poems in Armenian expressing the emotions in each of the scenes; and narrative poetry in English written by Ben Hodgson and delivered with an emotive depth of feeling by Sean Bean.

Garo Berberian’s “Taniel” is no ordinary film. It uses dark, elegant Film Noir images and a poet’s tragic personal story – voiced through poetry of Varoujan in Armenian and Ben Hodgson’s in English, and does not fit any conventional definitions.

Taniel Varoujan was one of the brightest minds and visionaries of his time, a magnificent poet, a respected teacher and public speaker, a loved father and husband – who arrested and murdered in 1915, when he was only 31 – in what became known as the Armenian Genocide.

Filmed in the Armenian town of Gyumri and in Portsmouth, writer and director Garo Berberian combines his love of Film Noir and arthouse filmmaking to create an exquisite, moving tribute to the majestic man and poet: “When you are dealing with tragic events in history we tend to lose sight of the individuals concerned, their personalities, expression, feelings and loves, and I wanted to focus on someone that offered so much and asked for little”

Tigran Gaboyan, one of Armenia’s brightest stars, embodies Varoujan in the film. Yeğya Akgün is the voice of Taniel, keeping the authentic Constantinople accent of his Western Armenian poetry alive, and Sean Bean’s magnificent voice is narrating the film through Ben Hodgson’s poetry. 

Music by Philip Glass played by Valentina Lisitsa sets the scene of World War 1 with heartfelt minimalist tones. Tigran Hamasyan and music from the album “Luys i Luso” are the driving force across the film with his complex and emotive cascade of notes and vocals, and Michael Nyman with his “Out of the Ruins” score builds and develops the feeling of tragedy and ultimately resurrection.

Taniel is currently taking part in the film festival circuit through 2018. It won two awards at the Bermuda International Film Festival and is selected to be screened at a few more currently, including the Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Armenia and Shetland’s Screenplay Festival, curated by Mark Kermode.

Sean Bean

Finding the narrator’s voice for “Taniel”

The Soundtrack – Tigran Hamasyan

An emotive swirling cyclone of notes: Garo Berberian talks about Tigran Hamasyan and how music from Luys I Luso is the perfect sensory companion for “Taniel”

‘Taniel’ behind the scenes: The Prison Scene

Director Garo Berberian and DOP Guka Guladze filming Vahagn Martirosyan for the prison scene