Director Seda Muradyan spoke on the film history and shooting back in 2008.
The documentary tells the story of Azerbaijanis and Armenians caught up in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict that started in 1989. The inhabitants of two villages in Armenia and Azerbaijan decided to exchange their villages and countries before the actual war began, promising one another to look after the village graves.
Locals in Armenian Dzyunashogh and Azerbaijani Kerkenj villages still keep the promise to take care of the cemeteries in both villages.
Seda Muradyan says prior to the film shooting she wrote an article for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), and later started studying the case to make a film.
“The Armenians and Azerbaijanis have exchanged the two villages voluntarily. They are a true civil society because the locals themselves initiated and not NGOs, international organizations or the government,” Muradyan says.
Without any contact between Armenia and Azerbaijan, it is impossible to make shots in the Azerbaijani village, Seda Muradyan says, and the partners in Azerbaijan helped the crew. Through the film the locals in both villages saw the villages across the borders and graves of their relatives and became sure that they are maintained and taken care of up to date.
Consulting historian Arsen Hakobyan notes Dzyunashogh village is at the Georgia-Armenia border and at the moment of the exchange the Armenian village had a population of 500 or more, with the Azerbaijani one having 800 villagers.
As for the Armenian authorities’ reaction to the film, Seda Muradyan says there were no obstacles; moreover the film was once screened on the Public Television.
“The film is very important as Armenia and Azerbaijan do not have relations and people cannot communicate. So, it is a wonderful chance for a dialogue through a film. Peace in the region must be maintained but in this conflict there is no personal communication or any sphere which could have united these nations. I hope the dialogue will continue,” a Tartu lecturer said.
During the discussion following the screening the Estonian students asked questions and shared insights on the film.
“We’ve been in Armenia for a week and have heard about the conflict, tension and problems. We have seen people having a dialogue for the first time; they are talking and trying to find solutions. It is only one example but the film shows the dialogue is possible. Dialogue is vital for peace,” one of the guest students said.
The students added they have not been to Azerbaijan but they plan to visit Nagorno Karabakh.
Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator
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