80 min

In production

Long Gardens. We Have Parted Without War

Directing: Nika ShekSarik HovsepyanEldar Ismayilov


The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is over a hundred years old. And like any other war, it has displaced the civilian population, killed countless of innocent people and instilled hatred that would be passed on from generation to generation – until today. It is far from over.

In May 1994, an armistice was concluded between the parties. The agreement is valid to this day but the borders are still closed and the balance of powers remains fragile. The film Long Gardens. We Have Parted Without War tells the story of the inhabitants of two villages, who chose not to surrender to the insanity of war. In 1988, Kerkenj (Armenian) and the Kizil-Shafag (Azerbaijani) were faced with forced migration or worse and so they opted for a peaceful exchange of their villages instead.

The distance between the two villages was 640 km. The heads of the communities were the first to travel to the opposite village to understand the location and to negotiate terms and conditions. They took stock of the houses, inventoried the number of the rooms, trees in the yards, furniture and livestock. Everything was prepared for a new beginning and in 1989, after a long and dangerous journey across the mountains, the people of Kerkenj and Kizil-Shafag moved into their new homes, without loosing a single life to the conflict.

The most difficult aspect of leaving their home was to desert the graves of their ancestors. They concluded an agreement to take care of those graves and as a proof of the fact they exchanged videotapes, which had to be smuggled through Georgia. This civil contract is still valid until today and the archive of video footage is a moving testimony to the commitment both parties have to preserve and respect each other. We will use those videos repeatedly in the movie, to travel back and forth in time.
The film tells its story through the memories of those, who lived through the entire process and document life in the villages today. We will zoom into one family’s life, where emotions and secrets from the past still prevent a mother and her son to come to terms with the present. Arpi (44), a single mother who, in 1989, moved from Azerbaijan to Armenia, where she lived since and raised her son Gegham (25). The boy was born in Armenia. Like most young men his age, he grew up hating the Azeri people. When his mother finally confesses the true identity of his father as an Azeri, the boy is thrown into a deep emotional conflict. Torn between loyalty to his mother and outrage over the betrayal she committed in his eyes, he is yet one more victim of the conflict.

We decided to shoot the whole process of filming – it will be about the present, about us – four filmmakers from Armenia and Azerbaijan, about tentative sympathy arising between us – the voluntary decision to ignore the political narrative of today and jointly create a film about past, present and future of our two nations.
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