A Prince Among Queens

Filmmaker Armen Piri Masihi on his cinematic masterpiece The Crowned

Iranian-Armenian film producer, director and screenwriter Armen Piri Masihi decided to relocate to Armenia from Iran as a young undergrad. In 2011, he received a degree from Yerevan State University in Theatre and Cinematography and began his career in filmmaking. Since then, he has directed numerous TV episodes on Armenology for the H1 channel in Armenia and is the visionary behind the 10-episode docuseries The Crowned (Tagakirner). The limited series delves into the stories of medieval Armenian queens and nobility, painting an intimate portrait of each and revealing her dominant talents and strengths against the unique dynamics of the times.

“To have such inspirational female leaders in our history and instead only convey an image of a slave-turned victimized Armenian woman in society is at the very least a sacrilege and unfortunately perpetuates negative stereotypes that lead to the abuse and victimization of women in modern society,” stated Piri Masihi.

When asked about his motivation for the docuseries, Piri Masihi explained: “First, as a native of Tehran, it is important for me to know who I am as an Armenian. I have always been told that you should be proud that you were born Armenian. Of course, I was proud without yet realizing why, until the moment came when I began to study our history. I became acquainted with our national mentality and values, and so, day by day, I began to appreciate even more that which is ours. As a young director, when I see the culture of different nations, songs, dances, colors, costumes, I become inspired and understand how special all national cultures are in their beauty and diversity. Armenia is a small country, but, with its powerful history and cultural values, it competes with the oldest countries in the world. And so, I wanted to share the beauty of our heritage with others.

I was always impressed and inspired by their strength, but, after many years of research, I came to fully appreciate all the problems that they battled and endured in different periods of our dynamic history. One day, I went to the movies to see Mary Queen of Scots, but I left the theater thinking of our own Armenian queens and how we too had many powerful female figures in our history yet never did them justice in our national narratives. I feel obliged to show who the Armenians are as an ancient people through the amazing women that contributed to the development of our national identity and influence in ancient civilization.”

Piri Masihi collaborated and worked with historians, archaeologists, art critics and ethnographers working day and night to gather as much information as possible on each queen—a daunting challenge with so many valuable materials lost to wars and migrations. Piri Masihi notes, “Though it was very complicated obtaining clear information about those historical periods, I was determined to base the series on historical facts, using authentic assets and details that would bring the particular period to life. For example, I used replicas of the royal jewelry that I commissioned from the Lusik Aguletsi collection. The real pieces are on display in the Armenian National Gallery.”

The filming took place in breathtaking locations like Ijevan, Garni, Parz Lich, the Black Castle in Gyumri, Vayots Dzor and the Cave of Ashot. Since it was produced in 2019, The Crowned docuseries has been screened in schools across Armenia and neighboring countries. 

AGBU supported The Crowned docuseries with a Young Visionaries Mini Grant and has since produced an English version of a select episode. Watch an introduction to the royal world of Armenian queens in all its splendor, intrigue and female power.

Originally published in the September 2022 ​issue of AGBU Magazine. end character

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AGBU Magazine is one of the most widely circulated English language Armenian magazines in the world, available in print and digital format. Each issue delivers insights and perspective on subjects and themes relating to the Armenian world, accompanied by original photography, exclusive high-profile interviews, fun facts and more.