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MR. X Creates an Armenian Town and a Cast of Thousands

For upcomimng feature film Ararat By DMN Staff Writer
The creative team at visual effects firm Mr. X, creating digital environments and building CG armies for Ararat, a feature produced by Robert Lantos and Atom Egoyan and written and directed by Oscar-nominated Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter, Felicia's Journey). Ararat features a stellar cast including Christopher Plummer, Elias Koteas, Marie-Josee Croze, Eric Bogosian, Bruce Greenwood, Charles Aznavour, Brent Carver, Arsinee Khanjian and David Alpay and is scheduled for mid-2002 release by Miramax Films in the US and Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. in Canada.

Set against the production of an epic film about the Armenian Genocide of 1915, Ararat is a contemporary story that weaves between history in the making and the impact of history on our lives. Ararat explores the quest for personal, sexual and cultural identity through the intimate moments shared by lovers, strangers and families.

For the films' numerous flashback sequences Mr. X is recreating the Armenian city of Van, circa 1914, prior to the carnage that took place there. "Onto the mountainous terrain of the Canadian Badlands we are building a computer-generated version of the city. With digital matte paintings and 3D animation software we are adding fortress walls and minarets, returning Van to its former glory," explained Dennis Berardi, president of Mr. X .

In addition, Mr. X is building battle footage.The Armenians were massively outnumbered by the Turkish presence and Mr. X is building a large Turkish army by replicating out and creating computer generated soldiers. "We turned 200 extras in full Turkish regalia into an army of 5000. It was a very technical setup. We shot the landscape on the large format film stock VistaVision -- the same technique used in the beginning of Gladiator -- shot the soldiers in quadrants, moved them around and composited them together with our digitally created combatants."

Mr. X is also doing what could be called the poster shot near the end of the film in which the persecuted Armenians are driven out of Turkey. "It's a mass of humanity being marched out of the country and there's a sweeping shot across the plains. Again we had about 200 extras and we had to make it look like thousands were being herded out of the country. We shot the 200 -- and off in the distance, over the hills and sprawled along the landscape are digital versions of the Armenians -- thousands of them -- that we're building in CGI, fully animated, fully 3D."

At the same time, the company is also working on another Serendipity Point Films production, Men With Brooms, produced by Robert Lantos. Actor/director Paul Gross' "sweeping epic" which revolves around four ex-members of a curling team who are reunited when they return to their hometown to attend the funeral of their former coach; Hypercube, the sequel to the 1997 Canadian sleeper sci-fi hit Cube; and with Director Morgan J. Freeman on American Psycho II.

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