This patchy but emotive doc explores the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the traumas it inflicted on the Armenian people
Royal Marine turned documentary filmmaker Emile Ghessen has spent the last few years in war zones, from Syria to Ukraine, but the battlefields of 45 Days: The Fight for a Nation tell a more hidden story. Launched by Azerbaijan against Armenia in the midst of the US presidential election aftermath and the second round of COVID lockdowns, the war over Nagorno-Karabakh went largely ignored by Western media, allowing a war of aggression and the subsequent war crimes to go unanswered.
Ghessen’s film seeks to correct this, telling the story of the war through interviews with ethnic Armenians, be they soldiers, civilian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, or members of the worldwide Armenian diaspora. It’s an undeniably emotive technique, especially when paired with Armenia’s brutally-oppressed history at the hands of the Turks, who provided backing to the Azeri armies, although Ghessen’s very broad approach does at times lessen the power of some moments.
He covers not just the 45 days of the war itself, but Armenian history all the way back to 301AD and the months following the ceasefire that handed Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan. This lack of focus somewhat dilutes the pain and fury felt in the film’s best parts, a process exacerbated by the spotty graphics used to fill in blanks between Ghessen’s on-the-ground footage.
The whole exercise can end up feeling like a special report on the nightly news rather than a full-fledged documentary, insights often interrupted by the need to dash to the next point on an overly long list of ideas. There is value in this, to be sure, making up for the war’s paltry appearances on the news cycles at the time, but if the focus had just been a little tighter, 45 Days could have emerged as a genuinely devastating account of modern war and the apathy of major nations. As it stands, it’s still an effective reminder that, no matter how far away the fighting might feel, there’s no such thing as a “minor war” for the people caught in the middle.
45 Days: The Fight for a Nation is available to stream ahead of a wider release in 2022.Where to watch