Varduhi Balyan is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. She was born in Armenia to a family that had recently migrated from Shamkir, Soviet Azerbaijan. After graduating from the Turkish Studies Department of Yerevan State University, she moved to Istanbul, where she is currently based. She earned her MA at Istanbul Bilgi University with an MA thesis on the role of civil society in the Turkey-Armenia normalization process. Her career in journalism and non-profits has treated topics such as memory, identity, dialogue, minorities, human rights, conflict resolution, and democratization. She currently works for Agos Newspaper, covering human rights issues in Turkey and the nearby region, co-hosts a radio program on Armenian music at Açık Radyo and reports for Public TV of Armenia.
In her first documentary film Dialogue in a Basket, she and her elderly Turkish neighbor Fatma together explore their different backgrounds, bearing torch to their stories while refusing hierarchies and labels. This project was developed in collaboration with the multimedia platform Chai Khana. The film was screened at DOCUMENTARIST and the Directed by Women festivals. The documentary has recently been selected and screened at the University of Pennsylvania as part of the “Infidelities: Armenian Studies Otherwise” conference.
Her new documentary project “Barepat/Bayrabat: In the Absence of 1” is a personal journey to the village of Bayrabat, the village where she would spend her summers with her grandmother. For her, Bayrabat is where the seeds of not accepting dominant historical narratives and of refusing antagonisms were planted. Bayrabat is a village of displaced Armenians who live with memories of coexistence and friendship with Azeri people, but which have recently been mixed with fear and paranoia. This documentary film will trace the notion of belonging, memory, and identity through the individual and at the same time collective story of a shepherd-photographer character from Balyan’s childhood.