Issue 42 (2013)

Ayub Shakhobiddinov: Heaven—My Abode (Parizod, 2012)

reviewed by Olga Klimova © 2013

parizodUzbek cinema had its creative peak during the 1960s and the 1970s, represented in the works by Il’er Ishmukhamedov, Shukhrat Abbasov, Ali Khamraev, and Ravil’ Batyrov, and later, during the perestroika years, exemplified in the films by Dzhjakhongir Faiziev, Nazym Abbasov, and Dzhakhongir Kasymov. The collapse of the Soviet Union has brought crisis to Uzbek cinema, which has gradually begun to recover since the first half of the 2000s. The year 2012 became especially productive for the Uzbek film industry, with 65 new films being produced (Anon. 2013). Among these films is Parizod or Heaven—My Abode by the well-known Uzbek director Ayub Shakhobiddinov, who is famed for his previous art-house films: Truth (Kurgilik, 2005)and The Yurt (O’ctov, 2007), and the melodrama The Other (Telba, 2008). Together with other filmmakers such as Mansur Adbukhalikov and Yolkin Tuychiev, Shakhobiddinov belongs to the generation of filmmakers in their thirties and forties, who is not afraid of making non-commercial, art-house films in the era of digital filmmaking and of Uzbek audience’s predilection for Bollywood films and the Uzbek national “khon-takhta” (Abikeyeva 2010: 221).

These filmmakers find new themes and new directions in their work, among them a turn to parables. The film critic Nigora Karimova explains the overall tendencies in contemporary Uzbek cinema as a turn “to parabolic form of narration.” According to Seth Graham, a “psychological parable” stands at the center of Shakhobiddinov’s The Yurt. As in his earlier film, Shakhobiddinov continues experimenting with parables in Heaven—My Abode, this time with a philosophical, moral parable. Relatively uncomplicated cinematography and sound effects in Shakhobiddinov’s film become secondary to the plot—devised by the well-known journalist and writer Erkin Agzam—and assist in building a bridge between the parable and the audience.

parizodAt the center of this parable lies rather a simple story of a mysterious visitor who arrives at a semi-modernized Uzbek kishlak (with motorcycles, television sets, boom boxes, and jeans instead of traditional clothes) as a test of the residents’ moral principles and their ability to express compassion for the one in need. The film focuses on the story of a young local doctor who, one day while riding his motorcycle in the mountains, discovers a beautiful girl on the edge of a cliff. He takes her to different houses in his kishlak, trying to find an abode and a husband for her. The appearance of the girl in the mountains is represented as a mysterious and unexplainable event. From the opening scene, Shakhobiddinov creates a puzzle around the female protagonist. The encounter between the doctor and the girl (whom his mother calls a peri, a magical fairy from Uzbek folk tales) happens after the doctor’s motorcycle dies in the middle of the remote mountain road. Her sudden appearance in white fog follows a dream sequence, in which the doctor visualizes his fiancée-librarian. The juxtaposition of these two scenes allows viewers to question whether the girl is a figment of the main character’s imagination or a continuation of his dream.

parizodThe peri is represented as the Other and is set apart from the villagers. She is distinguished not only through her almost divine beauty, but also through her silence. Throughout the film, the peri does not say a word, while the kishlak inhabitants constantly talk, argue, and gossip.  The aural layer of the film replicates the peri’s silence, and, besides a few scenes in which the female character travels from one place to another, there is no music. The girl’s silence poses mysterious danger to the villagers for they cannot understand her beauty, her purity and innocence, and her sincere admiration with nature and beauty. Throughout the film, she is depicted in a harmonious relationship with nature: she stops her work to save a baby bird that has fallen out of the nest, to untie a sheep, or to enjoy the smell of roses in a garden. She is mesmerized by the moves of a ballet dancer at the performance of Petr Chaikovskii’s The Swan Lake on TV, and later attempts to recreate the plasticity and beauty of dance at the house of one of her potential grooms. However, her sadness and tragic past (she lost her husband during the wedding night) make the kishlak residents perceive her as a physical embodiment of evil in its abstract form. Their fear of the peri arrives at the point when they recognize that either, in comparison to her, they are corrupt and imperfect, or they are not able to resist their judgmental relatives or neighbors. If she is an angel sent from heaven, as it is implied in the title of the film, instead of bringing out the good in people, her presence causes human vices to come to the surface. Shakhobiddinov reveals that, with the peri in the house, the villagers feel weak, envious, jealous, aggressive, frightened, or insecure.

The opening scene already hints at the mystical ability of the peri to uncover human vices. The film opens with a scene, in which a woman (presumably, the main female character) runs away from a man in the dark night. The aural layer of the scene includes the young woman’s breathing and the attacker’s loud, almost animal like screams. The peri barely escapes the attacks, leaving the man outside the house roaring like a wounded animal. The scene presupposes the mysterious, beautiful girl’s tragic destiny. Despite her angelic beauty, quietness, modesty and industrious nature, the villagers, one after another, chase her away from their kishlak.

parizodThe moral dilemma of the story arises at the point when the kishlak residents have to make a decision whether to keep the peri with a tragic past in their house or to send her off to other households, because her mystery disturbs their everyday life. More deep and complex issues are also at stake here. The young, angel-like young woman represents the connection with old cultural traditions and customs. She arrives on foot with a small bundle of personal items, not yet corrupted by new technology and modernized life style. She functions as a reminder of the significance of old traditions and connections to primordial culture, when people were not alienated from one another because of television sets and stereo systems. The film historian and critic Gulnara Abikeyeva suggests that, through his film, Shakhobiddinov “tells us a secret of the cultures, the secret of being” (quoted in Kjuka and Babajanov 2013). Through the story of the enigmatic beauty, the director attempts to share with his audiences his reflections on the state of culture, on changes in the value system and in human relationships in contemporary Uzbekistan. Thus, the cinematic parable transforms into social allegory. The narrative, as well as the visual and aural simplicity allow Shakhobiddinov to focus on complex philosophical and moral issues—the combination of which has resulted in Shakhobiddinov’s award for the best directing at the New York Eurasian Film Festival and the Grand Prix at Kinoshok in Anapa in 2012.

Olga Klimova
University of Pittsburgh

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Works Cited

Abikeyeva, Gul’nara, “Uzbekistan: ‘Chopping Board’ or serious cinema?, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, 4.2 (2010): 221-226.

Anon. (2013), “V Uzbekistane v 2012 godu bylo sniato 65 kinofil’¢mov,” Radio STV, 21 January,

Karimova, Nigora (n.d.), “The Cinematography in Uzbekistan: Another Cinema,” San'at (Art).

Kjuka, Deana and Shukhrat Babajanov (2013), “Uzbek Film Industry Blossoms, But Quality Takes A Hit,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 15 September.

Heaven—My Abode, 2012
Color, 81 minutes
Director: Aiub Shakhabiddinov
Screenplay: Erkin Agzam
Cinematographer: Azizbek Arzikulov
Production designer: Akmal Saidov
Production manager: Salim Solikhov
Art Director: Akmal Saidov
Editing: Temur Suslin
Music: Ubaidullo Karimov
Producer: Agzam Iskhakov
Production: Uzbekfilm
Cast: Zarina Nizomiddinova, Samiddin Lutfulaev, Bakhtier Kasymov, Dilorom Karimova, Lola Eltoeva, Bekhzod Mukhammadkarimov, Tohir Saidov, Rustam Akhmedov, Shakhlo Timirova, Tolib Muminov, Vazira Iunusova, Nasrullo Nurov.

Ayub Shakhobiddinov: Heaven—My Abode (Parizod, 2012)

reviewed by Olga Klimova © 2013