45 Days: The Fight for a Nation Review

Synopsis: In 2020, during the Coronavirus pandemic, the world was shocked to see Armenia and Azerbaijan enter open conflict in the region of Artsakh. Recognizing the significant amount of disinformation emerging from the war and lack of world news coverage, Emile traveled the region and embedded himself with local people – those who took up arms to fight. This is their story.

Review: Documentaries are one of the most difficult types of movies to make. In order to tell a true story, you must be careful to document the events and provide insight without sacrificing the integrity of the proceedings. But, some documentaries must take a definite stance in order to effectively tell the story they set out to. 45 Days is the story of the Armenian people fighting for their lives against Azerbaijan in a war that many of you probably did not even know happened. Set over the six-week conflict and featuring first-hand footage of the frontlines, 45 Days is a haunting, if specific, look at these tragic events.

45 Days is a powerful chronicle of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War and a hard one to watch. I mean that with the utmost respect to the filmmakers and the subject of this story as it is a tale of conflict, death, and a legacy of fighting in a region far from where I live. It is also a story that will strike a chord with many of you who have family or friends from countless countries around the globe where wars like this take place. Personally, I have connections to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which shares many elements to Armenian-Azerbaijan hostilities. Even if you don’t have first-hand connections to this story, as a person you will find yourself emotionally affected by the soldiers and their families whose fates we see play out on the battlefield.

Narrated and directed by Emile Ghessen, 45 Days opens with a summary of Armenia’s history as a people and a nation including the genocides that still serve as a point of contention for many today. While Ghessen remains even-keeled in his delivery as a narrator, it is very apparent that he has personal stock in this conflict and the history of the Armenian people, so the film is slanted in this perspective. Ghessen, who has no formal training as a filmmaker, does have a background as a Royal Marine which lends a lot of credibility to his ground-level look at warfare. His insight into tactics and weapons are one of the better elements of this documentary

The documentary does offer a wealth of information about the war which was unique in that it was entirely fought during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. That additional wrinkle certainly showcases war unlike how we have seen it before but it also gives us a look at the impact it had on the world as a whole. Armenian people exist as a diaspora around the globe and 45 Days shows how the globe responded via protests and fundraising. We also see some famous Armenians like System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian took a stance.

The war itself consists of less than half of 45 Days with the aftermath of the cease-fire and surrender of Armenian lands to Azerbaijan serving as the focus for the second half. Shifting from the rapid-fire history introduction to the embedded elements of the war itself to the evacuation of the disputed territory is somewhat jarring and created an imbalance for me as a viewer. While the content of what we are watching is never hard to follow, I found it difficult at times to keep track of what this documentary was really about. Couple that with inconsistent graphics, maps, title cards, and subtitles, and at times 45 Days feels like it needs a little more polish. To be fair, Emile Ghessen thoroughly impresses with his calm presence through the film both as a participant and a filmmaker.

45 Days is an unflinching look at what many may dismiss as a minor conflict but one that has everlasting repercussions for the participants. While the camaraderie between the filmmaker and his documentary subjects sometimes creates a specific take on the events being chronicled, it is nevertheless a unique first-hand look at a horrifying moment in history. While wars always have victors, no one truly wins when you view what happens at the ground level. I am thankful that this documentary exists in that sense alone and hope many people see this and learn from it.


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