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Anastasia doniants

photographed by grisha petrosyan




Are you from Yerevan?

I currently live in Yerevan. I was born in Moscow, but I lived in New Zealand since 2001. I am Armenian, Russian, Jewish. I came to Yerevan to volunteer and work for the National Cinema Center of Armenia. It’s a program which lasts a year, so I’ve been volunteer g at NCCA since October and then I started a new job at the Golden Apricot (a local international film festival) in June.

Can you tell us about your work?

I’m a commercial and film editor. In New Zealand I was working as a film editor, specialising in documentaries. I also edited ads, music videos and different things. This year Armenia is celebrating hundred years of Armenian cinema, so I specifically came to help to promote old Armenian films for the international market. And so at NCCA I made trailers, brochures, PowerPoint presentations, like really stupid stuff sometimes. I got to see some old Armenian films for my job. In New Zealand I also briefly worked as a fashion stylist and I like shooting fashion films. I’ve got a super 8 camera and a mini DV camera, which I had since I was eighteen. And here I met Nensi, we’ve just shot a film together and I think it’s going to be really cool.

Well, you have a magnificent wardrobe, when did you start collecting designer clothing? Have you always been interested in fashion?

I feel like I was always interested in fashion, my mother was stylish and she could sew, so everything looked good on her. I grew up in communism, yearning to have foreign things - not just clothes but even a chewing gum from overseas was special. One day, my family received humanitarian help and there was an entire wardrobe of a girl from America, suddenly I had an all American girl look. Perhaps that’s how I got into vintage clothes. New Zealand has a culture of op shopping (thrift / charity stores). It’s actually really fun to look for designer things, handmade old sweaters or whatever you’re after. Sometimes you find a terrific piece and it’s not necessarily wearable yet I’d buy it anyway cos it’s amazing and so cheap. My collection grew slowly due to my op shopping addiction. I only brought a suitcase of clothes here - my fave pieces - so I’m mostly well dressed in Yerevan simply because I don’t have much to pick from. I love dressing up and I try to mix vintage and new as think it’s more interesting and that way I don’t follow a trend, it’s my own style. Oh and I don’t like buying fast fashion, I am just against it morally.

Can you tell us about your cameras? Where do you buy film?

In Armenia, there is no one who could process and digitise super 8 film sadly. so everything I’ve shot here has to be sent to Amsterdam or Berlin which makes it very expensive. I’ve brought some film with me and then I bought more online, on ebay. Super 8 film is not hard to find, I think the medium has become quite popular in the past few years, especially for skateboarding videos - this is what I’ve heard from my super 8 guy in New Zealand. I think he was fed up processing skater boy videos. I’ve been shooting a lot here actually, just documenting what I’ve seen and I made a fashion film for my friend’s brand in NZ. As per what I shoot on - I have a super 8 camera which I bought in NZ from my super 8 guy, I think it’s the last model Nikon released for this format maybe late 70s before they switched to tape cameras and the super n8 format became obsolete. They stopped making cameras and now if you wanna shoot on this format, you have to buy an old camera and most of them have stopped working. For photos I use a Canon AE-1 and I buy my film from Box Photo Lab, they process my photos too. I think these guys are doing an amazing job with their shop. I also have a mini DV camera, I used it to shoot videos for Nensi Avetisian, which are coming soon!

About the apartment, how did you choose this place?

I really had very few options. I started looking for a place while I was still in New Zealand once I knew I was accepted into this job. There wasn’t much choice at the time, cos the Russian immigrants were moving to Yerevan at the same time as me. I only had 2 types of options to pick from - opulence, super expensive Marie Antoinette style apartments and then the cheaper options looked like a set for Polanski’s ‘The Tenant’. I was actually getting desperate

because I already packed everything and was ready to go. And then my boss from the National Cinema Center of Armenia told me about this place which was advertised on Instagram. I looked at the photos, I talked to the guy, we actually became friends, he is an artist. So, I took this place, no one has lived here, it was clean and fresh.

What did you change in the interior?

I feel like the interior of this apartment doesn’t represent me and my persona. For example, in New Zealand my house looks very different. I like collecting art and I like nice lighting, lamps, rugs. I’m here temporarily and I can’t afford to spend money on things to improve this space, but I grew to love it as it is. I do wish I had some nice velvet curtains though and an Armenian vintage rug. I brought with me - my bag collection, photos of my family, just a couple of things to add and that’s it. Oh, yes, I bought a really nice bed cover which is Armenian made, handmade by people in Karabakh (which is where my Armenian family is from). I really wanted to buy one nice thing to take back to New Zealand. And I just think that this bed cover is beautiful and super special for me.

Do you miss your home?

In New Zealand people live in houses, not apartments. In Auckland I had a garden where I grew my own herbs, veggies and I had flowers all year around. So I miss gardening and my cat. The first few months in Yerevan - I really missed just basic things, like my desk and my reading lamp, my stainless steel carrot peeler. Luckily I got over my pathetic sadness and now I’m super grateful for everything I get to experience here. And my stuff became just stuff that I don’t actually need, it’s a very liberating experience.

What is your favorite place in Yerevan?

I like walking through the English park and seeing the huge fountain when it’s on. For some reason the amount of water that constantly pumps, the sound that it makes and its strong presence make me feel calm. I love watching sunsets from the Cascade, seeing Ararat. It’s very peaceful and powerful. I like walking through the backyards, the little courtyards in Yerevan. Especially now, there is a lot of greenery, it looks like a jungle.

Can you share with us some of your favorite Armenian films?

I got to see a lot of Armenian films when I worked at the National Cinema Centre, some of them are not great, but some, which haven’t been restored yet, are incredible. “Բարեւ, ես եմ”, which is “Hello, it’s me” (1966) by Frunze Dovlatyan is one of the Armenian films that I loved. It’s just been to the Cannes Film Festival where it played in the retrospective program. The Ministry of Culture of Armenia paid to restore the film in 4K. It was restored in Latvia and the Latvian folks did an amazing job. The soundtrack is so dreamy, very Miles Davis. I know jazz is huge in Armenia. I was really surprised to see a film called “Catastrophe”. It was shot in 1992 in Gyumri, just after the earthquake. It’s a film about the earthquake and how a group of people from a mental institution were affected by it. Their building collapsed and I guess only a bunch of them survived. I watched it in Armenian, it hasn’t been translated yet into English or Russian. The footage is so beautiful, it was shot in winter, so there’s a lot of snow. The contrast of white with the earthquake debris is haunting. And the soundtrack is so cool - I think the composer is a genius. Armenia has some neat silent films too. There is an incredible documentary which has also been restored recently. It’s the first film that Armenia has ever made, in 1923. And actually, a really interesting composer from England wrote the score, she came here and recorded the score with the Armenian Symphony Orchestra. Her name is Juliet Merchant and the documentary is called The House on the Vulcano.

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