“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.
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!