Multi-award-winning Khojaly documentary Endless Corridor screened at leading Parisian arts hub

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The French office of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), under the auspices of the Justice for Khojaly campaign, has organised a screening of the independent documentary 'Endless Corridor' in Paris, commemorating the victims of the Khojaly Massacre. The screening was followed by speeches by Lithuanian journalist Ricardas Lapaitis – an eyewitness to the massacre – and H.E. Jean Perrin, first French Ambassador to Azerbaijan from 1992–96.

Lithuanian journalist Ricardas Lapaitis – sitting alongside H.E. Jean Perrin, first French Ambassador to Azerbaijan – displayed disturbing photos of the Khojaly victims

Khojaly was left to burn, but we must understand that conflicts disturb peaceful lives and remember our common humanity.

On 9 March, the multi-award-winning independent documentary Endless Corridor – a US/Lithuanian co-production – was shown at the long-established multi-disciplinary Parisian literary arts hub known as L’Entrepôt. The evening commemorated the victims of the Khojaly Massacre on 26 February 1992. This was the worst single atrocity of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and claimed the lives of 613 civilian victims in 1992. The death toll included 106 women, 63 children and 70 elderly people.

Attended by 70 Parisians from civil society and think-tanks, together with diplomats from the UNESCO Permanent delegations, including H.E. Anar Karimov, Head of the Permanent Azerbaijani Delegation to UNESCO, the screening was organised by the Paris branch of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) under the auspices of the Justice for Khojaly campaign, in collaboration with Europa Film Akt (EFA). EFA is the organiser of the annual L'Europe autour de l'Europe festival, which regularly features the latest in Azerbaijani art cinema.

Following its international premiere throughout 2015, Endless Corridor, directed by Aleksandras Brokas, has attracted plaudits from critics across the world. It has received the Best Documentary and Best Director for a Documentary Prizes at the Tenerife International Film Festival in Madrid; the Best Documentary Editing Prize at the Milano International Filmmakers Festival; and in the prestigious US-based Accolade Global Film Competition, it achieved two awards – Best of Show in May 2015 and in January 2016 the Outstanding Achievement Award in the Accolade Humanitarian Awards 2015. It has also been screened on the pan-European Eurochannel, CNN Turk and TV 24 (Turkey) channels.

Marie-Laetitia Gourdin, Director, TEAS France, remarked: “History is always the subject of debate and interpretation and, in a conflict, both parties are the victims. Tonight’s screening is not intended to increase tensions, but to develop awareness of the saddest chapter in the recent history of Azerbaijan. This territorial conflict with Armenia remains unresolved, and continues to have human consequences.

“The tragedies of today should not cause us to forget those of yesterday. The millions of refugees seeking sanctuary today should not cause us to forget the approximately one million Azerbaijanis who have been waiting for more than 20 years to return to their lands that are still occupied by Armenian troops.

“Their sufferings are real and documented. Let us achieve the path to justice and peace and realise that, only then, can Azerbaijan and Armenia fully and durably develop, after achieving harmony between neighbours.”

Irina Bilic, Director, EFA, said: “Tonight’s film contains some very emotional testimonies. This conflict is often covered in the films screened during the L'Europe autour de l'Europe festival, and needs the sincerity of artists to be adequately understood.”

H.E. Jean Perrin, first French Ambassador to Azerbaijan from 1992–96, recalled the aftermath of the Khojaly Massacre saying: “The Armenians used the Khojaly Massacre to terrorise and subdue Azerbaijan. I recall going to see some of the massacre survivors in the central hospital in Baku. Their injuries were not just those of war, and I will never forget what I viewed.

“On the ‘contact line’, this is still a ‘hot’ war that has continued for over 20 years. The Armenians are continuing to occupy Azerbaijani territory and words are insufficient to describe the sufferings of the refugees and IDPs. Soldiers are killed constantly, and despite four UN Security Council resolutions being passed against Armenia, nothing has been achieved. The negotiations continue through the OSCE Minsk Group, but Azerbaijan continues to suffer.”

Lithuanian journalist Ricardas Lapaitis – an eyewitness to the massacre, whose return journey to Khojaly is central the film – vividly recalled: “I was in Agdam in February 1992, immediately following the massacre and the collapse of the Soviet Union. There was an absence of medical expertise in Agdam, and I will never forget the injuries that I saw, many of which resulted in amputations.

“My experiences changed my life and made me realise the value of becoming a journalist. Khojaly has been overlooked, yet it was an act of terrorism. Armenia and Azerbaijan must now work together through civil society to find a solution. Khojaly was left to burn, but we must understand that conflicts disturb peaceful lives and remember our common humanity.”

The screening was followed by a lively question-and-answer session covering such subjects as the reasons why Endless Corridor has not been screened more in France to highlight the massacre and the conflict.

Despite the passing of four UN Security Council resolutions against the invasion, Armenia continues to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts to this day. Currently nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory remains occupied, and nearly one million refugees and internally displaced persons remain spread across Azerbaijan. The evening was dedicated to the memory of the Khojaly victims and those Azerbaijanis who have only one wish – to return home to live in peace with their neighbours.

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