Lights. Camera. Action: Azerbaijan Film Reality Presents

By Narmin Noqte

The problems of film industry in Azerbaijan are so different and mixed that I don`t know where to start or how to end. As Jean- Luc Gadar said, “A story (film) should have a beginning, a middle, and an end… but not necessarily in that order”. I think I must use it in my interview with one of the famous film critics in Azerbaijan- Aygun Aslanova. And so I begin…

N: Why do our film directors are no so visible nowadays?

A: I think those who have a film and resources are working on their projects. Those who don’t (film and money) are searching. In any case, they are busy, and that is why we can`t see them. So their “social scene” absence doesn’t mean that local film directors disappeared or don`t exist.

N: What can we catch and what can we edit from the Soviet period films?

A: What can we catch? Well, it depends on the film. One thing is certain, though film industry technology is developing vastly these days, most of what we have today doesn’t give the same sound quality and the sincerity we all gotten used to in the soviet period films. For example, take one of the short films by Azerbaijani director Teymur Bekirzade– “The rivals” produced during the Soviet time. I think modern Azerbaijan actors can and must extract important moments and details from this film – not only for their work but also for themselves.

N: How can we recognize a good film director and his film?

A: It all depends on the film itself, the history and the story these films tell their viewers.

N: What do you think- does a country like Azerbaijan needs its own film industry or is it something like football- it doesn’t’ really matter whether we have it or not?

A: Today the crisis of Azerbaijani film industry is so bad that whether we there are any films isn’t really important. Only if we could use the talents and promote ourselves well, we would need new films.

N: Could students of Azerbaijan State University of Culture and Art save the importance of films in Azerbaijan?

A: If it`s their aim, desire or wish then they could. In fact, why not?! Talent however isn’t the only important factor in this case. You must be brave, selfless and a true fan of films- especially in a country where even production of a film depends on the government. Film industry is a very expensive profession. And in Azerbaijan there is only one financial source- government. It means that government has special authority on the cinema. You and I know well that it isn’t a just rule by any means. And in this case most of our “film directors” ought to stoop in front of the government. Directors who protest lose their jobs or leave completely their careers.

N: What about young film directors? What is your take on their films and can they succeed in improving Azerbaijani cinema?

A: They can. There are many talented young directors, like Asif Rustamov, Ali Isa Jabbarov, Elvin Adigozalov, Hayyam Abdullayev, and Elmeddin Aliyev. They are trying to work independently and I find their shorts interesting. Unfortunately, there aren’t many directors like them in Azerbaijan today.

N: What can surprise you in a film?

A: Generally it is very easy to surprise me- actor’s performance, director’s findings, and topic of films. It all depends on a film.

N: Cinema culture in Azerbaijan – how can you analyze it?

A: I think our cinema culture is better than it was few years ago. If you want to see the movie or theatre culture in the people, you must show films and performances on on-going bases. Let me explain what I am trying to say here. An audience must get information about films and plays and become accustomed to the overal culture of such things. They must regularly visit movie theatres. They must also learn to switch off their phones without someone telling this to them during the show or performance. Only once these steps are taken you can see some progress in the cinema culture of Azerbaijani audience.

N: If a film had an impact on the audience, do you think it is the sign of director’s professionalism or merely a psychological weakness of the audience?

A: Cinema, literature, music, picture, performance must influence its audience, readers and listeners. If no one reacts, it means all the things you`ve done as a director are simple idle.

N: Which films you think, Azerbaijani audience is not ready for yet?

A: There are a myriad of films being made all the time. If you don’t have a chance to see the movie in the theatre one can easily find films these days online. And there is no limit on what one can see- from pornography to wonderful work of art. Of course, each of these films have their own audience. I think art must impact the audience, not the other way around.

N: Most of our young film directors received awards. How is that people know very little about this success?

A: Its because these directors don’t have enough promotion. Media provides little information, that`s all. I think this is problem however exists around the world today. Reading something about some festival held in some country doesn’t give us anything. What we should hear about instead are the actual movies competing, names of their directors, performers and their topics.

N: What can you tell to the young directors?

A: If you don’t have a camera, then use your phone- don`t worry about the quality, just work, shoot and show your film. Send them to festivals. If you have a good film, no one is going to pay attention to the technical quality of your film.

N: What must change in the film industry?

A: The system. Only then, a real change/ reform is possible.

N: Do you have any information about Armenian films? And how closely do you follow their cinematography?

A: I can`t say that I specifically follow it. First, I read reviews on different online forums; then I try to find and watch those films. It’s the same for any other foreign film, not just Armenian. If you are asking for a specific example from Armenian movie industry then, I could tell you that I have seen the film by Atom Egoyan called “Ararat”.

N: What would be your advice to the directors who are interested in making films about wars [referring to Karabakh]? What is the technique and how would you do it yourself?

A: First, I`m not a director and so, I don’t plan on making films. That`s why I actually never thought about this. I could say however that Azerbaijani film- makers wont be sincere on this matter. As a film critique I always see flash pathos. That`s why there are only two or three films that I think capture war the best- Jeyhun Mirzayev’s “Groan”, Vaqif Mustafayev’s “Everything to the benefit” and Elkhan Jafarov’s “Azerbaijan is Karabakh”. These films surely stay out of pathos.

N: Do you have preference for film endings?

A: It doesn’t matter if it’s a happy or sad ending. What matters more is that the ending must be smashing. If I can’t move or do anything hours after seeing the film, to me it means a wonderful job.

I don`t know whether I managed to reflect on some of the problems and reality of Azerbaijani film industry. But I do hope, young and talented cinema critic Aygun Aslanova`s answers will change something in this sphere. And I would like to conclude my interview with the famous quote from the film “Kidnapping of groom” (by Jeyhun Mirzayev): “The film we have is very tumid. Tumid and important!”

So… Lights. Camera. Action!

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