Standing in the exhibition hall that showcases their unconventional heroes, three young filmmakers are discussing what they would do if they win a prize. They’re friends and classmates, from the same university, but here, at the gallery of the Artists’ Union of Armenia, in Yerevan, Artur and the two Manes are also competitors. Their documentary films have made it to the final stage of the President’s Youth Prize in the category of art. Artur has made a film about those who struggle with the winds of Lake Sevan; Mane Grigoryan’s film is about the Molokans of Yerevan; and Mane Baghdasaryan’s film is a reflection on the loneliness felt by a resident of her grandfather’s village who lives alone.

These thought-provoking, socially-conscious works have made it tougher for the jury to pick a winner. “This year, some very powerful documentaries were submitted,” says filmmaker Mikayel Dovlatyan, a member of the President’s Youth Prize judges’ panel. “We selected three finalists. Their works are quite mature — which will make it difficult to pick a winner.”

Among the profusion of outstanding artworks on view at the gallery is a digital collage by Siranush Mkhitaryan. It features urban landscapes beyond the periphery of central Yerevan. Images of the city’s black-and- white outskirts are so intricately arranged that the collage leaves the impression of embroidered fabric. “I take frequent walks through the outlying neighborhoods,” Mkhitaryan says. “When viewed as a whole, those drab, ugly buildings seem like a labyrinth. Since I’ve tried to look at their lack of architectural definition through an unusual angle, the resulting work is something that can’t be categorized.”

A spirit of poetic realism is felt in all of the works exhibited at the gallery — whether they be paintings, photographs, sculptures, or films. There are more than 35 finalists. The jury will select two winners, but their names won’t be revealed just yet. Rather, they will be announced during the President’s Youth Prize awards ceremony. In the meantime, the exhibition at the Artists’ Union gallery will remain open, until April 6.

Established in 2005, the President’s Youth Prize is sponsored by the Boghossian Foundation (Belgium and Switzerland) and administered by the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund. Winners receive a certificate, a medal, and a monetary award equivalent to $2,500 each.

Stay tuned.

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