On body and soul: "Tonratun" review

English Daily #2
Tonratun. he Armenian History Told By Women (2023) / Yerevan Premieres
Inna Mkhitaryan
14.7 17:00 Cinema House Grand Hall

Few things are as humbling as the act of making bread. For baking bread is not so much about the modest ingredients you need, as it is about the physical act required to do it. The kneading, waiting, shaping and baking altogether resembles a meditative process, where a bit of one's own soul is transferred into the dough. On such a spiritual level, you could say that the ancient art of making lavash bread — a cultural practice that is on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity — is an almost physical manifestation of the Armenian spirit, something that Armenian director Inna Mkhitaryan tries to capture in her own humble documentary Tonratun - The Armenian History Told By Women.

Mkhitaryan films five women of various generations baking lavash together, while reflecting on their lives and their respective positions within society. It’s a smart entry point into conversations about female lives in Armenia, as the art of making lavash has more often than not been performed by the mothers, wives and daughters of men. While a product of the Armenian patriarchal traditions that this documentary quite handsomely interrogates, the bakery is also a place that affords women the possibility to speak freely amongst peers and fellow women. In Tonratun that results in frank intergenerational discussions, with topics ranging from marriage, parenting, abortion, war and trauma. While the unhurried process of making the bread unfolds, Mkhitaryan crafts an insightful microcosm of Armenia that connects its more patriarchal past to its currently more progressive, yet still unstable present. Ultimately, Tonratun will make you aware how much pleasure and pain, love and loss, and joy and suffering has always gone into the delicious bread you’re being served.

Hugo Emmerzael