KinoKultura: Issue 23 (2009)

Dushanbe Flights to Googoosh's Songs: Didor 2008

By Gulbara Tolomushova (Bishkek)

Sadullo Rakhimov, the artistic director of the Third IFF Didor in Dushanbe, managed to create some magnificent programs at the festival. Above all, there was a strong international competition of features and short films. The invited filmmakers represented the second wave of regional cinema of last two decades.

The best-known figure at this edition of Didor was the leader of modern Afghan cinema, Siddiq Barmak, producer of the competition film The Apple from Paradise (Iabloko iz raia) by the VGIK (Film School) graduate Muruvat Humoyun, who now lives in Sweden. The Apple from Paradise received one of two Swiss Grand Prix of the festival. The remarkable Tajik actor Radjab Huseinov received a Special Mention of the Jury “for the best male role” in Humoyun's film. Khuseinov played the role of the unfortunate father, who arrives in Kabul from his village to visit his son, a student at the Madrasah. It turns out that the young man has disappeared. The elderly man gets lost in the criminal back streets of the Afghan capital, and eventually loses his mind. In the end, the old man, circles the Kabul streets like a feather. He has failed to give his son the gift he brought—the apples of paradise—since he dropped the fruit during a gangster attack. The salvation of his body in the mystical space of Kabul in the form of a mysterious dance-flight strengthens the sensation that he is hovering around the imperishable image of his beloved son.

The father in the Uzbek film The Yurt by Ayub Shakhobiddinov manages to save his son from the misfortunes of a hostile world and return him to the bosom of the eternal patriarchal values of the Uzbek family. The Yurt (previously shown at Eurasia 2007) received the Special Prize of the Jury.

After the Didor festival Siddiq Barmak traveled to Rome for the world premiere of his new film Opium War: it reflects many aspects of life of the Afghani people during the history of this country. The film's finale (a story about an American white-skinned officer and a dark-skinned soldier) is a symbol for man's return to his roots at a certain time and in a certain space.

The charming Mongol Badma (Gurrakchaa Badamragchaa) presented his tenth film, We Serve Communist Mongolia, which stunned by its high artistic level rendering a story about mass reprisals in the country of Chingiz Khan during the 1930s. Kazakhstan was represented by Talgat Bektursunov, whose short film 113th garnered him the Grand Prix of the Fifth Eurasia IFF, which in turn gave him an opportunity to participate in the final section of INPUT, the World Conference on “TV in the Interest of Society”, which took place in the South Africa this year. In Dushanbe Bektursunov received the “Hope” Prize of Tadjik film critics.

The artistic director of IFF Eurasia, Gulnara Abikeeva, presented in Dushanbe her collection of the best documentary films of Central Asia, which has been produced with support from Didor's general sponsor , the Institute “Open Society”. Abikeeva talked about the project and presented some rare documentary films, such as Castles in the Sand (Zamki na peske), Adonis IVX and others. Abikeeva also outlined several tasks she had tried to address in the edition: the restoration and preservation of rare documentary films; the world distribution of the best chronicles from the region; the historical element of documentary annals of Central Asia in the 20 th century; the concept of the film collection; and the anticipation by regional documentary filmmakers of events of the 21st century.

The Georgian filmmaker Soso Dzhachvliani, who made—with his younger brother Badri—the film The Svans (Svany), based on the real story of bloody revenge, said that the message of their film protests against bloodshed on their patrimonial soil and any slaughter in general. A few days before coming to Dushanbe, Dzhachvliani recorded on his mobile phone a meeting with the outstanding Georgian actor Otar Koberidze, who is 87 years old; he brought this recording to Tajikistan, where Koberidze superbly played Tsar Kavus in Tale about Rustam (Skazanie o Rustame, 1971), directed by Boris Kimiagarov almost forty years ago.

The young Iranian director Shahrom Mukri amazed audiences with the unusual short film “Closed Circle”, shot in one take. Mukri shared the Swiss Grand Prix “For the best short film” with Azerbaijani Ali Isa Djabbarov for the film The Knot (Uzel). The film of another Azerbaijani, Murad Ibragimbekov's Three Girls (Tri devushki) won two special mentions from the jury, for best female acting ensemble and for best music. The jury also remarked on the music written for The Svans.

Didor's general director, Safar Hakdodov, assembled a unique jury headed by the well-known Tajik composer Tolib Shohidi, who was joined by other Persian-speaking members including the Iranian film critic Hushang Gulmakoni and the Afghani director Roja Sadat. Western Europe was represented by Phillip Jalladeau, artistic director of the Festival of Three Continents in Nantes (France) and Franz Frey, Swiss expert on the cinema of Central Asia and Persian-speaking countries. It is noteworthy that, although the jury has no member form Kyrgyzstan, one of two Swiss Grand Prix went to my compatriot Temir Birnazarov for his film The Unknown Route (aka The Route of Hope). After the film's competition screening Mr Shohidi said in private conversation that the uncertainty in society today have enabled Birnazarov to make and release the film not only in his homeland, but also abroad. In a year or two he might not be able to make such a courageous film, and if he were to get such a chance, then the film might be shelved. My Tajik friends thought that The Route of Hope reflects just as much the situation in Tajikistan: “we are as if in a fog, and we don't know what will happen tomorrow.”

In September Birnazarov's film had received the Special Jury Prize at the Fifth IFF Eurasia, and again, without a Kyrgyz jury member responsible for that decision. But Eurasia's spectators were also struck by the filmmaker's idea to render, through a single journey, all the perturbations of the Kyrgyz homo sovieticus— from the moment of the disintegration of the USSR until today. The Route of Hope shows a recognizable image of Kyrgyzstan, whose citizens cannot find a compromise; so the country slides into the abyss—a country run by inutile helmsmen and with deranged citizens reduced to elementary laws of coexistence. The Route of Hope is, above all, a civil act on the part of the director, because many negative phenomena of our life are clearly and lucidly shown on the screen.

In parallel sections, the festival offered a competition of Tajik films, in which Sadullo Rakhimov decided to include all the new films. He felt it was important that the Tajik audiences, cinematographers, and foreign experts could delve into the modern Tajik film-process and rate it accordingly. Rakhimov understands that it is still a long way before a genuine revival of cinema can take place in Tajikistan, but he reminded us that four years ago, when the first Didor was held, there was only one Tajik film in competition, The Statue of Love by Umed Mirzoshirinov. Nowadays Tajiks can already brag about a good amount of films made on video (about twenty), although on the artistic level these films make no worthy competition films for neighboring countries.

Alisher Khushvahtov's Happiness

The prize of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Tajikistan (“For the best Tajik film”) went to Alisher Khushvahtov's Happiness (Schast'e), a film about the fate of an elderly man who has given everything for the glory of his fatherland and who is now forgotten by everybody. Despite this, he devotes his remaining energy and human warmth to his helpless old wife.

This film is a hymn to the human virtues of love, dignity, honor, resistance, and patience. The slow, quiet pace of the old Tajik man carrying two five-liter buckets of waters. The boy, running like mad towards him, knocking one of the buckets from the old man's hands so the water is spilled. As if nothing had happened, the old man lifts the plastic container and returns to the water pump. When he returns home, we understand that he needs the water to wash his helpless and immobile beloved wife. Then the white-bearded man (aqsaqal) quietly and confidently goes to the village shop to buy some foodstuff for the next glorious day: a loaf of bread, two eggs, a little bit of butter. The money suffices only for the bread. With dignity t he old man takes both eggs and the butter from his bag and leaves them on the counter; silently, but proudly, he leaves the shop. For two or three seconds the saleswoman ponders, then she takes the eggs, the butter—and adds something else (she remembered a pile of sweets)—and runs after the old man. He silently accepts the goods and continues his way home. That's the whole history. Each time you go through in your mind, you understand once more the jury decision to award one of three main festival prizes to this modest film. The jury noticed the old man's dignity: he did not scold the boy who knocked over the bucket with water; he did not beg the saleswoman to give him these two eggs. Because this wise old man knows: the most important thing in the difficult present times is to save the most valuable thing he owns: his amazing vital energy which he needs to support his sick wife.

On the whole young Tajik directors finely, tactfully and wisely introduce some eternal moral values into the consciousness of spectators; these should become a guiding star of a new generation. Thus, for the short films “Flower” and “Harom and Halol” Zulfia Sodykova and Iskander Usmonov received the Prize of the Iranian Center of documentary and experimental cinema, in the form of grants for the realization of new projects.

Zulfia Sodykova is a talented actress, a filmmaker and presenter of Didor's opening and closing ceremonies: the hospitable mistress of Didor always ready to suggest having a coffee or a bowl of some fragrant green tea, had within seconds laid the table and turned into a kind interpreter in the dialogue with colleagues from Iran and Afghanistan.

Didor's comfortable hall was enveloped in the sensual music of the East: the proud voice of the outstanding Iranian singer Googoosh, full of longing, languor, tenderness and inflexibility: “When she appeared on stage, the ovations lasted for one and a half hour!”, commented a Tajik colleague who had attended one of the singer's concerts in Dubai.

Translated by Birgit Beumers

Gulbara Tolomushova

Gulbara Tolomushova © 2009

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Updated: 07 Jan 09