Popping the “Armenian bubble” and Michael Goorjian’s “Amerikatsi”

Thoughts on Armenian representation in the digital and conventional space

I’ve just started classes as a junior transfer at the University of California, Berkeley, where discussions about diversity are raised constantly in and out of the classroom. The Armenian experience does not come up in these discussions from the school’s end, but these instances have given me the opportunity to think about what representation means to Armenian students and me – and young adults as a whole. 

I’m sure that this won’t be a point many disagree with, but lately I have been feeling that the Armenian Cause has been gaining more traction than usual. It could be the expertly-organized protests on freeways in Los Angeles or the work the Armenian Youth Federation puts in day in and day out. Either way, the word “Armenian” seems to have become slightly more popular. Going from this heightened attention and momentum while living in the Armenian capital of the world, Glendale, to departing for the city of Berkeley, where I assumed there would be more coffee shops than Armenian students, was a big change for me.

I was incredibly worried about losing a part of me – the Armenian part of me – that I hold so dear to my heart. Yet after the first Armenian Students’ Association meeting, all my worries flew out the window. I know I’m going to be fine here. 

There’s a sense of calm that washes over you when you meet another Armenian. Not to sound dramatic, but it feels like home. I had conversations with various Berkeley students from every grade level. It was fun to finally slip back into my native tongue after not speaking it for over a week. The Armenian language is not just a means of communication. It’s a piece of my own identity, a reminder of where I come from and where I will ultimately return. 

Despite the incredible sense of community at ASA, conversations about diversity, inclusion, representation and all that good stuff have still remained at the forefront of my mind. Seeing Armenian films, plays and any other kind of art is amazing, but there is something revolutionary about the act of creating a film that is so obnoxiously Armenian, and I love it. When I have the opportunity to see an Armenian film, especially in the cinema, my soul is set on fire and I savor every second of it. 

The latest Armenian film I can’t wait to see is Michael Goorjian’s Amerikatsi, set to be released on September 8, 2023. The story follows Charlie Bakhchinyan (Michael Goorjian), a man who repatriates to Armenia from the U.S. in 1947 when a program promises ethnic Armenians a new, good life. When Charlie repatriated alongside 90,000 other Armenians, they were met with the conditions of post-World War II Armenia under Soviet rule. With a whimsical kind of humor at the forefront of the plot, Charlie gets arrested and, in his solitary confinement, learns about Armenia and his “Armenianness,” through watching his neighbors in an apartment building closeby and self-reflection. 

Still from “Amerikatsi” by Michael Goorjian

I love the idea that Charlie connects with his homeland and culture while being in solitary confinement. I’m looking forward to seeing where Goorjian, the cast and crew take the plot. Not many filmmakers can say that they wrote, directed and starred in a film. Goorjian can. Are we surprised? I wasn’t. Like, of course. Leave it up to the Armenian to want to do everything on his own.

I’m sure that anyone who watches a film where the main character is of their ethnicity or race feels an invisible thread form between them and the character. It feels like a warm hug. Even the mere mention of Armenia — whatever the context may be — is validating. 

I have experienced the phenomenon various times, whether it be at the theater or the cinema. There is something so special about seeing an Armenian character in a television show or film with an “–ian” or “–yan” surname. A few months ago I watched John Patton Ford’s film Emily the Criminal, and the owners of a car dealership in the film were Armenian and spoke the language on the silver screen. Yes, I replayed it and was over the moon. 

Beside these miniscule mentions of Armenians in Hollywood, we need more filmmakers like Goorjian to tell our narratives. This goes back to the time-tested idea that if there is no space for you, you must make the space. 

The importance of Armenian representation in film cannot be overstated. It’s not just about seeing an Armenian person on screen. It’s about a group of people whose stories are not just untold, but suppressed, finally being set free. 

The importance of Armenian representation in film cannot be overstated. It’s not just about seeing an Armenian person on screen. It’s about a group of people whose stories are not just untold, but suppressed, finally being set free. 

Armenian film is a means of conserving and communicating Armenian culture to both Armenians and the rest of the world. Films preserve traditions, language, music and rituals that might otherwise vanish with the passage of time. Through these portrayals, individuals can identify with their heritage, fostering a sense of belonging and pride. Representation also promotes cross-cultural understanding by allowing non-Armenians to learn about Armenian history, struggles and contributions to society, increasing empathy and decreasing ignorance.

These are my thoughts on representation, but I am curious to see if Weekly readers agree. Here’s some questions to consider: Do you think film is a powerful tool for promoting cultural understanding? Does seeing our culture represented in movies affect your sense of identity and belonging? Does it make you feel pride, or are you indifferent? Are there any Armenian films or characters that have left a lasting impact on you? What steps can the film industry take to ensure more authentic representations of Armenian culture and other underrepresented communities?

I would love to hear your ideas. If you are reading online, please leave a comment, and let’s discuss.

Melody Seraydarian

Melody Seraydarian

Melody Seraydarian is a journalist and undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, pursuing a degree in Media Studies with a concentration in media, law and policy. Her column, "Hye Key," covers politics, culture and everything in between from a Gen-Z perspective. She is from Los Angeles, California and is an active member of her local Armenian community.


  1. Great! What a wonderful job. Yes, let’s insult Russians and make fun of them every chance we get. This is exactly what we needed today, with 2000 Russian soldiers standing between the Azeri army and another genocide. Wonderful job people. Keep it up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.