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Stepanakert Airport lies in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-occupied region that is situated inside the internationally recognised border of Azerbaijan. Built in 1974 by the Soviet Union, it hasn’t had any flights since the beginning of the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1990. In fact, it’s nearly impossible for the airport to operate: if they fly outside of the republic’s borders, there is the very real chance that the Azerbaijani troops will shoot the plane down.
Should the Wind Drop uses this current reality as the backdrop from a fictional story, focused on a French engineer Alain’s (Grégoire Colin) audit of the airport to decide whether its ready for international flights. For the locals, including Alain’s driver Seirane (Arman Navasardyan) and airport owner Korune (David Hakobyan), this is a point of national pride: if they can have flights towards Yerevan, Moscow, and even Paris, then they will have to be recognised as their own country.
Shooting on location, director Nora Martirosyan stresses the reality of the Armenian people in this region, bringing to life a mostly unknown and unthought of part of the world. Alain’s difficult decision is directly juxtaposed with the life of a young boy who cuts across the airport’s weak fences in order to shorten his walking time. By directly contrasting the prospect of international flight with the on-the-ground reality, Should the Wind Drop gently reminds us of the very human stakes at play in the region.
Like Maria Sahakyan’s Mayak (2006), also set during war in the Caucasus, yet without any scenes of actual violence, Should the Wind Drop avoids obvious politicking in favour of a more poetic approach. We see the beauty of the rolling hills and the aridity of the grass, as well as the lived-in reality of cities, shops, restaurants and bars. Their country may not officially exist, but the people definitely do. They deserve a peaceful solution to their crisis.
Given the current situation in the region, Should the Wind Drop feels rather prophetic. One character describes the entire place like a volcano, somewhere that seems peaceful on the outside, but could blow up at any moment. This is stressed by the quietness and beauty of maybe of the epic, sweeping shots, allowing us to bask in the countryside. Should the Wind Drop may have frozen a precarious moment in time before the region descended once more into conflict.
With this outside entity of Alain given such a big decision in a region that he barely understands, Should The Wind Drop reads as an allegory of the way the West tries and fails to mediate conflict. The choice of a Frenchman is no accident: the French saved the people of Musa Dagh from annihilation, and also became the first European country to recognise the Armenian genocide. Yet even France (or Russia, or the USA) cannot be expected to be the saviours this time. The conflict is simply too dense for anyone outside of the region to fully understand.
In writing and researching this review, I have purposefully avoided declarative opinions on this difficult reality. After all, a mere film or a search on Google Earth cannot explain away a region and its vast, complicated history. But what a film can do is foster a sense of empathy for those living under such difficulties. By that metric, Should the Wind Drop is a quiet success.
Should the Wind Drop plays as part of the First Feature competition at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, running from 13th to 29th November. It was originally selected to show at this year’s Festival de Cannes (which was cancelled).