When her brother goes missing during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, Shoghakat decides to film her and her parents’ search and emotional process — even at times when others might have put down the camera.
When soldiers are killed, they often end up as anonymous numbers in news reports. But behind every number there is a person who leaves behind heartbroken family members. The title 1489 refers to the anonymous number of a “body of an individual missing in action.” It was the number assigned to Soghomon Vardanyan, a 21-year-old student and musician who was close to completing his mandatory military service when the conflict between Azerbaijan and his home country Armenia over Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) flared up again in September 2020.
On the seventh day of the war, Soghomon goes missing. Using her phone camera, his sister Shoghakat decides to film her and her parents’ search and their emotional process. After six months, bones are found, but DNA research is needed to show whether the remains are actually those of Soghomon, and the family will have to wait a year and a half for the results.
All the while, Shoghakat continues to film, even in the most intimate and vulnerable moments, which sometimes makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience. But at the same time, it makes the intense sadness and loss of a human being of flesh and blood all the more tangible.
Next week, this film will be screened at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).