Film about Armenian Istanbul Premieres in Turkey

“I Left My Shoes in Istanbul,” a documentary film by Beirut-based writer and director Nigol Bezjian, was screened at the Istanbul Independent Film Festival in February. The film chronicles the journey of a Lebanese-born Armenian poet through his first visit to the city, and the discovery of his cultural roots. It first premiered at the Golden Apricot Film Festival in Yerevan last summer, and finally made its way to the titular city of Istanbul.

Bezjian during filming
Bezjian during filming

In an interview with the Armenian Weekly, Bezjian talks about the premiere in Istanbul and other projects to come.

Lilly Torosyan—When and where did the film premiere?

Nigol Bezjian—I first showed the film at the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival in July 2012. It was my first time seeing the film on a big screen with an audience. I had to make some changes, adjustments, and corrections. The newly completed version premiered in Istanbul last February during the festival. The screening had a full house with an audience of nearly 650 people in the Cinemaximum 4, the largest movie theatre in Istanbul. There was a gathering of Armenians, Turks, Kurds, Alevis, Islamists, and who knows who else!

LT—How did the audience react to the film?

NB—I heard the audience reacting to the film during the screening, either by humming along with the music, laughing at funny scenes, or at times whispering to each other. And then there was the loud applause of a full house at the end credits. I knew the film had won over the audience.

I had no idea what to expect. In fact, I had no feelings at all, but at the end of the film when I walked in front of the audience for the Q&A, I found myself in a very emotional state—almost speechless. I had never experienced this sort of impassioned moment at any of my previous film showings. They were seconds that seemed to be infinitely expanding along a myriad of thoughts that covered the tense of times. It was an insurmountable instant.

LT—You have another project that revolves around Istanbul. Tell us a little bit about that.

NB—I have completed one other film, “Milk, Carnation, and a Godly Song,” about the literal legacy of Daniel Varoujan. The film is three hours long and covers the development of the Armenian mind from pagan times to Daniel Varoujan, with the film ending in Istanbul on April 24, 2010. I am trying to start showing this film now, along with “I Left My Shoes in Istanbul.”

LT—Any other projects in the works that you would like to share?

NB—At the moment, I am excited to prepare myself for a new film that has to do with the 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi. I had no idea that one day I would be in Istanbul making a film and showing it there, and now this invitation by the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program is giving me the opportunity to go to Konya and Cappadocia. Suddenly, I have a lot to do!

Lilly Torosyan

Lilly Torosyan

Lilly Torosyan is a freelance writer based in Connecticut. Her writing focuses on the confluence of identity, diaspora and language – especially within the global Armenian communities. She has a master’s degree in Human Rights from University College London and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Boston University, where she served on the ASA Executive Board. She is currently working on her inaugural poetry collection.


  1. Great article but I had to correct one thing, as Rumi founder of Sufisim in not Persian but an Ottoman poet that should be corrected for the future reference

    • Orkun, the Ottoman state didn’t exist yet when he died in Konya. He is a brilliant poet though, let’s see what Nigol will do with the material.

  2. This is great news, glad to hear about positive stuff like this.

    @Orkun, But Rumi wasn’t born here, he came from around Tajikistan, he is referenced as either Persian or Tajik in terms of ethnicity.

  3. Okrun,
    Don’t forget during Ottomans time Turkish alphabet were Arabic, and Persian civilization was heavily influenced in ottoman Turkey, especially in Eastern Turkey. Rumi in Persian means a person who belong to Roman Empire, where Rumi died!!

    Sources from Wikipedia,

    Rumi – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد بلخى‎), also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (جلال‌الدین محمد رومی

    Rumi was born to native Persian speaking parents,[17][18][19] probably in the village of Wakhsh,[3] a small town located at the river Wakhsh in Persia (in what is now Tajikistan). Wakhsh belonged to the larger province of Balkh (parts of now modern Afghanistan and Tajikistan), and in the year Rumi was born, his father was an appointed scholar there.[3

    • Yo Sam, he said Ottoman not Turkey or Turkish. Get rid of your near innate offensiveness toward the topic. Armenians learn to relax a little when the word Turkey is in play. Uff

  4. Good news, the Anatolian big family coming together again i hope. Turks, Armenians, Kurds, Greeks, Jews……Let’s always remember past, look to future TOGETHER.

    • Nice comments Istanbul,

      Of course, when Turkey recognize Armenian Genocide, life will be changed to better way in Western Armenia!!

    • @istanbul
      Their ultimate goal is “great armenia utopia over Turkey” which ignoring muslims just as their ancestors did….They live in the past WW1 because that’s where their thoughts are…The best way to help them is just to let them alone.

  5. I am sure the goverment will recognise the genocide, and apoligise officially, more important than that, Turkish people’s mind will change because they have been learning the unofficial history, it is not history from to far, ,it is memories from our grandparents. Please beilive the Turkish people’s tears, they didn’t know.
    Best wishes from the motherland.

  6. Dear Berj, I am talking about Anatolia and here is motherlnad of Turks,Albanians,Arabs,Armenians,Assyrians,Azeris,Bulgarians,Circassians,Dagestani peoples,Crimean Tatars,Georgians,Greeks,Jews,Karachay,Kazakhs,Kurds,Kyrgyzs,Laz,
    Ossetians,Polish,Romans, Abhazs, Checens, Cherkezs…
    Who feels belong here, or who feels his roots from here, their motherland is here, i think.

    • Istanbul bey, don’t waste your time with these Armenian radicals, extremeists, racists and bigots. Their goal is only to “seek revenge” against Turkey and “punish” Turkey. No matter what good faith effort there is, they will not be happy and they will not rest until Turkey is wiped off the map. They can lie, deceive and dupe the world and try to lie about how Turkey persecutes it’s Religious Minorities (there are Christians and Jews in Turkey but NO Muslims in Armenia), but I at least know their deep dark agenda against all things Turkish. No need to negotiate with them but to fight all their demands and fight all their claims until they surrender from their racist warmongering demands. Do not believe Armenian radicals, racists and liars. Period. I talked in a good faith manner a few weeks back and now I regret it. Enough with “peacemaking” ploys and let’s be strong and not cave in like cowards like the AKP, Turgut Ozal, and Communists like Akcam, Zarakolu, Gocek, Ungor, etc.

  7. istanbul—

    “Anantolia” is a geographic toponym that the Byzantine Greeks used at the times when there were no Turks or Turkic peoples (Azeris, Circassians, Crimean Tatars, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs, etc.) in sight. Beyond the name that the Greeks used, the region was known as “Asia Minor” in general or “Eastern Asia Minor” for its easternmost part. Eastern Asia Minor was populated primarily by the Armenians before the 11th century when the terrorizing Seljuk Turk nomads have invaded the area from their native lands—the steppes of Central Asia/Mongolia and the areas adjacent to the Altay Mountains. And here you are telling us, the inhabitants of those lands for several millennia until the genocide of 1915, that “Anatolia is motherland of Turks”? Are you being honest? Or you just don’t know that Turks and Turkic peoples’ roots never belonged to the region until their invasion? Does the invasion into the lands of other people makes Turks “native inhabitants” of those lands? Answer for yourself.


    Do grow a bit in this age of sophisticated technology and the Internet to understand that demanding justice for mass murdered and forcibly deported people is not radicalism, extremism, racism and bigotry. Just try to mature a bit to understand that the few Christians in Turkey are the remnants of indigenous peoples whom you, Turks, have exterminated en masse and uprooted from their native lands. Grow up to understand that while Western Armenia (now Eastern Turkey) was the ancestral motherland of the Armenians, the Republic of Armenia, in which no or a few Muslims reside, was never the ancestral motherland of Muslims. Armenians did not mass murder native Muslims living in Armenia, but Turks did this to the native Armenians in our motherland. You’re parroting cheap denialist clichés not even attempting to educate yourself on the subject, read non-Armenian and non-Turkish history books, research the archives, learn about Armenia as it was depicted in the chronicles of many ancient historians, philosophers, geographers, travelers, and politicians. It is easier to deny, right? It is easier to call people radicals, extremists, racists and bigots instead of trying to understand where their grievances are coming from, right?

  8. Rıfat is right. Ermenians are radical, extremest, racist, ultra-nationalist, tashnacs . I was a humanist before i started reading AW, now thanks to avery, silvia the so-called poet and some other ermeni in AW.

    I want to thank to them for helping me see the truth. No more humanism…!

    • Necati,
      Brainwashed Turk like yourself think they were first humans lived on a planet called turkey…look on the mirror…do you look like an Central Asian Mongol turk?? This is why “ermanians” and dashnaks are mad at Turks!!You should be proud of your half Greek and half Armenian race!! Find out, that why more than half of your intellectuals and journalists visiting jail houses before going back to work after “turkish style” breakfast meetings!!

    • Necati@

      I am referring to Armenian extremeists. Not all Armenians. There are moderates like Ara Baliozian, Edward Tashji, Artin Penik, Hovhannes Katchaznouni, a guy I know in college named Berj Minassian, my old landlord who rented out an apartment near the Miami area to me named Hratch Tahmasian, and many more. Don’t lump all people in one boat.


      Saying everyone in Turkey is Greek or Armenian is just bologne. There are 2 million Hemsins and they are the most nationalist people about Turkey-related issues. Heck there was Edward Tashji, a pro Turkey Armenian/Assyrian even. Also, I have no Greek and/or Armenian in me. Maybe some Pomak descent, but no Greek or Armenian.

    • @Necati
      They are suffering from burnout syndrome.Armenia is increasingly diplomatically isolated.The most damaging activities of Armenian diaspora is the decline of Armenia population….1.5 million people of the Armenian population lives in rural areas in poor condition..GB is just one of them..Maybe he is a street son of illegal armenian worker in Turkey..

  9. Rifat
    You regret to have talked in good faith a few weeks before? Too bad for yourself. You could’ve just kept your mouth shut. We don’t need pseudo “good faith” talkers like you.

    A “humanist” before starting to read AW or a maniac carrying out a failed mission here?

    • Rifat,
      You just dream like your Ataturk, that Hamshens are not forcefully Islamized Armenians!!The truth will never die and people like you will never be able brain wash Turkish population anymore.Your journalists and intellectual people know in their heart that Turks are phony created nation.

    • First of all, there are many Hemsins that support their country Turkey, and are not brainwashed by fanatical Armenian racists and extremeists. Turkey has all kinds of ethnicities and they will fight for their territorial integrity no matter what. If you Armenian radicals try to pull off the same shenanigans you did in WW1, you will loose once again in the 2020’s. I can guarantee it. During the early 1900’s, the Ottoman Sultans were subservient to International Bankers and other powers, and you had a revolutionary patriot named Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who won victoriously against all imperialist forces. The so-called journalists and intellectuals are cowards who want to sell their nation to the racist, evil, bloodthristy Eurocrats who view Muslims and especially Turks the same way a Nazi views a Jew. They are just people full of ignorance and self-loathing complex. They have no patriotism and are full of insecurities.

  10. Necati and other nationalist turks..
    Understand one thing, as a Muslim Hamshetsi I consider myself 100% Ermeni and very proud at that.
    Mek che moleytsa mek vovink
    ” we have not forgotton who we are”
    The Hemsinli in Turkey most know 100% they are Armenian just like me
    and it is people like me you should be concerned about, because my Ermeni blood is more important to me than turkish facist racist nationlists and you people still call us Ermeni. I was interviewd on entrance to Turkey by Turkish sercret service. They asked me if I was a Hamshesti, I said yes. They then said ” So you are Ermeni”
    And yes IAM

    • Dear Mustafa, thanks for telling us the truth. I am glad that you kept your ancestral blood line…you are more Armenian than some of us, who kept our Christianity!! One day will come where we will be together again and we will make a new Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, your Prince Hamam dream!!

    • “you people still call us Ermeni..”
      What’s the problem? Did you not just say that your were 100% Ermeni and proud of it?

    • If you feel more loyal to Armenia then Turkey, why don’t you move there then? Oh that’s right, Armenia is full of poverty, corruption and the notorious oligarchs. That is why there are 100k Non-Hemsin Armenian illegal immigrants in Istanbul.

    • Rifat:
      {“If you feel more loyal to Armenia then Turkey, why don’t you move there then”}.

      Hemshin Armenians are on their own ancestral land.
      They do not need to move: people like you need to vacate our lands in Western Armenia. You are an illegal trespassing nomad.
      They do not need to be loyal to foreign Genocidal invaders who came from East and Central Asia, occupied their own country, and forcibly converted them to Islam.

      Why don’t you, Rifat, take your denialist, fascist, racist, progeny of nomadic invaders and move to your ancestral homelands near Uyguristan.
      And there are no 100K Armenian illegal immigrants in Istanbul: the number is about 15K (check survey by TodaysZaman).
      And how many _Millions_ of illegal Turks are there in Europe ?
      Did they escape the wealth and prosperity of magnificent Turkey ?
      Here is some more good news for you:
      [Turkey ranks last in OECD’s ‘Better Life’ list] (28 May 2013, TodaysZaman).

    • Rifat– I don’t know about “100K Armenian illegal immigrants” in Constantinople, but I do know about 5 mln Turkish immigrants in Germany who went there from a “wonderland” called Turkey.

    • You are a joke and not a person from Hemsin because I would recognise you otherwise

    • Berj@ The Gasterbeiters are actually moving back to Turkey now the economy has been built up: NOTE.

    • Contrary to the Turcophile myths proffered by people suffering from Denialitis, Turks are not moving back to Turkey from Germany or Europe in any great numbers.

      Here is the Turkish source:
      [Four myths about German-Turkish migration]

      One more:

      [193,000 Turks come back from Germany in 4 years]

      Out of 3 million Turks in Germany, a grand total of 193,000 have moved back permanently: not even 1%.
      oh, btw: if any large numbers of Turks _were_ to return from miserable, poor Europe back to glorious Turkiye, this is the Turkish paradise they would be returning to:

      [Mother of impoverished family commits suicide in Adana]

      {The mother of two children Emine Akçay hanged herself after she was unable to pay for food to feed her children or for coal to keep them warm in the southern province of Adana, the Vatan daily reported on Friday.}

    • Rifat– Using the fingers on your both hands, tell us how many Turks have returned from Germany to “sugarland” Turkey?

  11. Rifat,
    You should be proud of Armenians, who give your brain dead people Western style civilization, sciences, commerce, Engineering, economy, architect and even alphabets, otherwise you would have been same Central Asian typical Mongolian Turks, riding camels and pony horses with too many harems…have you ever read or seen your ancestral lifestyle?? Regarding Armenia, we are fully aware of that…70 years of Soviet occupation, 1915 Genocide, 1988 earthquake and finally 1994 war with Tatar Axeri Turks took a lot from Armenians, but we will survive and we will become powerful again, but this will take time and hard work.

    Remember your primitive fake nation progress took 100 years with the help of European and American Christians, yet you are far behind from real European style civilization, because you don’t have anything to offer to world except Byzantine, and Armenian civilization of Roman Empire, where proudly calling today “turkish”!!

    Hamshen Armenians home town is in today’s Turkey, before Mongolian and Seljuk Turks invasion, they had vibrant Christian civilization and their own Kingdom, check internet and you will get some history education who those Hamshens are, and how your uncivilized Turkic tribes forcefully changed their religion and way of life and label them as “turk”!

    Hemshin peoples – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    • yes, there are only too many Greek, Armenian, Assyrian, and Balkan Christian girls forcibly abducted by Turks to their filthy harems…

  12. {“If you Armenian radicals try to pull off the same shenanigans you did in WW1, you will loose once again in the 2020′s. I can guarantee it.”}, boasts Denialist Rifat.

    If you fascist, genocidal, radical, racist denialist Turks try to pull off the same ‘shenanigans’ you did in 1915, you will be cut to pieces: I guarantee it.
    In early 1990s, your fascist, genocidal, radical, racist AxeriTatarTurk cousins tried to pull off the same ‘shenanigans’ you genocidal Turks pulled in 1915: the invading fascist, genocidal nomadic askyars were cut to pieces; about 30,000 of them.
    The ones that were smart and ran, ran screaming like little girls back to their daddy Sultan Aliyev Sr. in Baku, before Artsakh’s Armenian mountain warriors could grab them and cut them to pieces too.
    Now as to RoA and Turkey: Armenia cannot take on Turkey at this time by itself for sure: isn’t trying and doesn’t need to.
    But let Turkey try to invade RoA; see what happens.
    Time will come when the equation of forces will be more balanced: Turkey will make the same mistake as Azerbaijan; then we’ll see.

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