Azerbaijan International

Winter 2000 (8.4)
Page 18

Film Accolades for Rustam, Again!

Above: Rustam is standing on the right.

Azerbaijan's foremost filmmaker Rustam Ibrahimbeyov is at it again. The Oscar-winning cinematographer just won the top prize at the Third Eurasian Teleforum Film Festival held in Moscow for a new film called "Family". The film was also well received at the 1999 Edinburgh Film Festival and has found an audience at film festivals in Berlin, Montreal and Stockholm.

The 95-minute film was produced jointly by Ibrus Ltd and Mir-Telefilm. It was written and directed by Rustam Ibrahimbeyov, with additional directing assistance by Ramiz Mirzayev.

The Plot
Recent struggles in Azerbaijan's history form the backdrop for "Family", a film that focuses on familial tensions between an Azerbaijani retiree, his Armenian brother-in-law and other members of the family. Events in the film coincide with the dramatic events that took place in Baku in January 1990. The Soviet Union had not yet collapsed. About 300,000 Azerbaijanis had already fled their homes in Armenia. Some people in Azerbaijan were seeking revenge and attacking Armenians. Demonstrators filled the streets. Then Soviet tanks rolled through the streets on the eve of January 20 and massacred several hundred protestors and civilians overnight.

Left: Scene from Rustam Ibrahimbeyov's new prize-winning film "Family".

Ismayil, the protagonist, is a pensioner, who had once been a powerful industrial worker. He has no family and lives with relatives in a flat inherited from his parents. Ismayil tries to create a family from people of different nationalities and ages, in accordance with his own conceptions, sometimes being very tough on his relatives and restricting their freedom. Not everybody likes his rules, especially Garik, his deceased sister's husband, an Armenian. Garik thinks that each member of this artificial family needs a separate place to live. Accordingly, he tries to persuade everyone to exchange the common flat.

Rustam's Career
Rustam has been one of the driving forces in Azerbaijani film since the late 1960s. He currently serves as the President of Azerbaijan's Filmmakers' Union. During the Soviet period, he gained renown for anti-establishment movies like "In a Southern Town" [1969] and "Interrogation" [1979], which raised serious moral issues about the Soviet system.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Rustam became internationally recognized for films such as the Oscar-winning "Burnt by the Sun" [1995]. The film "Close to Eden" was also nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1994. Rustam was screenwriter and deeply involved with the production of both films, which were directed by Nikita Mikhalkov of Russia.

Producing a movie in Azerbaijan these days is quite an achievement in itself because of the limited funding. Azerbaijani cinema has almost died because it has become so difficult to raise sufficient capital. In contrast, during the Soviet period, the government budgeted for films. See the entire issue of Azerbaijan International "Cinema: Can It be Revived", AI 5.3,
Autumn 1997 at

Azerbaijan's film industry is beginning to reemerge, but it is a slow process. Compared to Western standards, Rustam's "Family" was made on an extremely low budget despite the fact that it turned out to be a prize-winning film.

East-West Movie Festival
To generate more interest in Azerbaijan's cinema, Rustam has organized an annual international film festival in Baku. The Fourth Annual East-West Movie Festival will be held December 18-25, 2000. Ten films are scheduled for viewing including recent Azerbaijani, Russian and Georgian films. A retrospective review of the past century will also be featured entitled, "The Beginning of National Cinematography: A View of the 20th Century."

Rustam Ibrahimbeyov has been featured in several issues of Azerbaijan International. See
"Cinema and Censorship" in AI 5.3, Autumn 1997 and "The Scorching Sun and the Nature of Toralitarian Systems" in AI 3.2, Summer 1995.

Azerbaijan International (8.4) Winter 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.

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