Mardik Martin: From "Raging Bull" to "The Cut"

Mardik Martin: From “Raging Bull” to “The Cut”

Mardik Martin
January 30, 2015 09:36

>From February, the Yerevan cinema theaters will screen The Cut
historic drama shot by German director of Turkish descent Fatih Akin.
The plot hinges upon the period during the Armenian Genocide and
following years. The closed screening of the movie for journalists
will take place in Yerevan today. Mardik Martin who is of Armenian
descent is among the screenwriters of the movie, and he agreed to talk
to us.

The Cut stands out not only because it’s the first time in the history
that a Turkish director shoots a movie on the Eghern, but the fact
that Mardik Martin who has Armenian roots is among the creative cast
of the film as a screenwriter. Few people know about Mardik Martin now
while he was one of the people in the 1970-s who changed the “face” of
the Hollywood cinematography and showed real lives on the screens.

Born in Baghdad, Mardik settled in New York in the 1960-s, as his
father didn’t want him to serve in the Iraqi army. After shifting
various professions, he entered New York Film School where he got
acquainted with his future partner and legend of cinematography Martin
Scorsese. By the way, Armenian Hayk Manukyan was one of their
lecturers. It was him who advised them to work together.

The advice proved more than effective. In 1973, “Mean Streets”
criminal drama was released. The film brought fame not only to
director Scorsese and screenwriter Martin but also leading actors
Harvey Keitel and Robert de Niro.

Then followed 2 documentaries – Italian Americans featuring the story
of Scorsese’s parents and Last Waltz dedicated to the Band rock group
(it is considered one of the best pieces of rock-documentary), and 2
more movies – “New York, New York” (Frank Sinatra’s famous song of
the same name was composed as a soundtrack to the movie) and “Raging
Bull”, popular sports drama with De Niro starring as boxer Jake La

Afterwards, Scorsese’s and Mardik’s paths diverged. The director
re-found himself and achieved many heights, while Mardik gradually
left the “big cinema”.

“The Cut” is his first major work over the 34 years.

– When exactly did you join Fatih Akin? Did he already have a story in
mind at that point?

– Fatih had a rough of a story, which we used as the main thread to
base the script on. My main contribution was making the story simpler,
more cinematic, and rewriting the last third in a way which was
different than what he had.

– Few years ago in Yerevan, Akin told me in an interview that Raging
Bull is one of his most favorite movies ever. Was that one of the
reasons why you worked together? And have you seen Akin’s previous

– I don’t know about his love of Raging Bull except that it’s a movie
he loves. I assume he liked my work, especially Mean Streets. My
reason for working with him: this was a story I wanted to tell and I
didn’t put any of his films as a reason, although I liked his work.

– What attracted you most in this project?

– This is a story that has to be told. I wanted to be one of the first
to tell it to the world. It’s about time audiences learned what
Armenians had to go through.

– I guess Genocide is not just a historical event for you but
something that made your family move from Armenia to Baghdad many
years ago. Did you use stories you heard in your family while writing
The Cut?

– Indirectly. My only family connection with the massacres was through
my mother’s father, who was killed in defense of his family’s village.

– Not that many Genocide films have been shot till now. Did you watch
any of them -Henri Verneuil’s Mayrig, Atom Egoyan’s Ararat etc before
you started working on The Cut? If yes, what you liked and disliked in
them? And what is the most important part in reflecting such tragic
historical events in films?

– I did not see any of the above movies. Frankly, I was told that they
were not good. The important part of telling the story of an
historical event is audience edification. In this case, it took a

– It was your first feature film since 1980’s “Raging Bull”. More than
30 years! What did you feel about it? What was the most difficult

– I had become a full time professor at the University of Southern
California. I enjoyed teaching immensely. It did not have the
heartbreaks of writing a script, giving birth to it, and then several
years later, having it die because the studios didn’t spend the
requisite money.

– Will you work on other scripts after The Cut that may be filmed in
near future?

– Very unlikely. I intend to retire peacefully with a part-time
professorship at USC. Life is passing me by as I get older.

Artavazd Eghiazaryan talked to Mardik Martin