Cinematography of Uzbekistan: tendencies and prospects

Issue #2 • 3449

The government of Uzbekistan pays great attention to development of national cinematography. The Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “About management of cinematography”, March 16, 2004 and the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan “About operation of the National Agency “Uzbekkino”, March 17, 2004 give evidence for state importance of this issue. These documents have caused resonance among Uzbek film people – directors, scenarists, camera operators as well as among art theorists and historians.

On June 4, 2004 was held the scientific conference “Cinematography of Uzbekistan: tendencies and prospects”. Fine Arts Scientific Research Institute and National Agency “Uzbekkino” became its organizers. Experts in cinema and culture and leading film makers took part in the work of the conference. The highlight were the issues interesting both for cinema critics and film people – current condition of national cinematography, searching for ways of its development, deep analysis of feature and animated films, the tendencies in cinema art and edition of the specialized cinematographic journal magazine were discussed.

We would like to offer some speeches of film people and cinema art critics to attention of our readers. We hope that their ideas and concepts will give a new impulse to further development of cinema in Uzbekistan.

Shuhrat Abbasov, national actor, film maker
In common with many other Uzbek cinematographers, I am much obliged to the scientists and management of Fine Arts Scientific Research Institute for organization of the first, in the recent years, Scientific Conference devoted to problems of modern national cinema. The conference has involved leading masters in different fields of film making art. That brightly exposes topicality and importance of this discussion. Recently, we have come back from Moscow, where were held the Days of national cinema of CIS countries. I can say, not without pride, that our works presented there, have found approval. The people quite often stopped me and expressed their admiration for the Uzbek films. At the same time, looking through our film-products, it is early to say that we have already overcome inertia of the last years. The films, lack of expressive conflict of ideas, are still produced. However, just the films deeply reflecting specificity of time, changes in the society and nature of the people, can satisfy spectators, touch their hearts and occupy a worthy place in a history of world cinema. I am pleased to greet my colleagues, famous cinema critics from the institute, aspiring to improve a situation in the Uzbek cinema and bringing serious problems to a light of scientific discussion.

Jura Teshabaev, Merited art figure, Doctor of Arts
Issue of the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers “About operation of National Agency “Uzbekkino”, March 17, 2004 became a matter of great importance. Besides the state promotion in purchase of modern equipment, restoration of cinemas and general system of film exhibition, the decree guarantees annual financing of 15 feature films, 10 animated films and more than 20 documentary and popular scientific films. The tasks, which have been put forward by this decree, require consolidation of all creative and organizational resources, paying especial attention to the problems concerning film dramaturgy, which solution is a matter of primary importance. The problem of a scenario is the most topical for development of national cinema art. The fact is that from the first steps, the Uzbek cinema completely depended on coming dramatists, having experience in making of film scenarios. At screen versions of national writers’ works, the national folklore was not used at all. This situation remains to this day. We give more attention to a form, than to a content. Obviously, recovery of independence of the republic, in many respects, “stirred up” the film-industry in a whole. Film makers turned to the works of national writers, however, it was not sufficient to influence a general course of film making. In addition, it has been found, that film makers are not ready to use properly the literature samples and to interpret creatively the original material from the books and plays of Uzbek writers, such as U. Azim, A. Abidjan and H. Sultan. May be, because of that, the major films – screen versions of the works by domestic authors, for example, “Love”, “Marif Sherif “, “Chimildik”, “Empire of Women” and some others, could not become a significant phenomenon in cinema art of the republic.

Creation of perfect original and pure national films is prevented by inertia of the past, patterns and stereotypes of so-called Soviet socialist literature. The principles of socialist realism are still followed with their class approach to art, with differentiation of characters in positive and negative and fear to touch thorny subjects of the reality. Especially hard situation exists in modern dramaturgy. It is difficult to remember any film, for the last years, which brought to a screen some contemporary personage impressing our spectators.

Yusuf Razikov, scenarist, film maker, the art director of “Uzbekfilm”, merited art figure of Uzbekistan
After the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, I. Karimov “About management of cinematography”, we can note appreciable revival of process in cinema of Uzbekistan. This document touched upon those problems, which have been accumulated in film production for the last years. Well, today we are considered favorites in the region; we have old traditions of cinema and sacred names. Well, we are envied by the neighbours and admired in Russia; we are given prizes, retrospective shows and premieres. The talks about “a new wave of Uzbek cinema” become louder. Surely, all that inspires and pleases not only cinematographers, but all Uzbek intellectuals. At the same time, some problems remain unsolved. First of all, it is out-of-date technical base, both in film production and in a field of film exhibition – now we have 1 (one!) cinema hall equipped by sound equipment “Dolbi”.

The decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan “About operation of the National agency “Uzbekkino”, issued after the Decree of the President, provides full technical re-equipment of cinema. In 2005, we should produce 15 feature films, 10 animated films, and 60 hours of video films. The Uzbek cinematographers did not make such number of films even in the period when “Uzbekfilm” involved 1500 specialists. Today the staff of the studio involves just 400. Technical re-equipment requires solution of personnel problems. It is necessary to return the specialists to the studio, to train new people, establishing short-term courses directly at the studio. New equipment should be operated by high skilled specialists.

Another problem is deficiency of scenarios. I think it would be duly to recover a practice of literary applications. Today we have about fourty film makers experienced in cinema, and, I am sure, that each of them is ready to bring two – three applications for a start. This stock will be sufficient for 2 – 3 years, even providing the most careful selection of scenarios by the art board. Another topical issue, mentioned in these documents, concerns a system of film production financing. Currently, we receive a film in the ratio 1 to 2.5, 1 to 3, including technical wastes. It is about 6 thousand meters. For example, Eizenstein, for his film “Strike” spent 56 thousand meters – it was eighty years ago. In fact, a film is not a paper, if they like to compare us with writers, but a word… Lack of a film, undoubtedly, affects on art advantages of any film. We should clearly understand and consider, what should be a budget of a film – fairy tale, what should be a budget of a modern city film and what is expensive film with modern technical solutions. If we want to compete against the other countries, for example, Russia, it is necessary to spend proper money to film making. Our spectators wait for good Uzbek cinema and we should give them good films at good modern cinemas. Realization of these tasks is our obligation.

Handjara Abul-Kasimova, Fine Arts Scientific Research Institute
I would like to touch upon some problems of feature film production in 1991 – 2003. This period of domestic cinema art is clearly divided in two stages: 1991 – 1997 and 1998 – 2003. The first stage gave rather big number of films, which actually became a page in art biography of their directors. Any national cinematography produces a number of ordinary “mass” films, but not these films characterize usually its development. A character of film making, its orientation is determined by the other films, which contain seeds of the future. In that period, such films were “Abdullajon” of Z. Musakov and “Till the dawn” of Yu. Azimov. Both films became original expression of creative potential of cinema art, which allowed to escape anemia, hiding in “mass film production”.

While “Abdullajon” actually predetermined poetics of following films of Z. Musakov (“Oyijon”, “Heavenly boys”), the film “Till the dawn”, on the one hand, continued new circle of subjects, arising at the second half of 1980s and concerning cinematographic thinking over “socialist” reality (“Siz kimsiz?”, “Stone idol”, “Soldier’s fairy tale”, “Savage amn”) and, on the other hand, marked a turn in exposure of the recent past on a screen. An active civic position of authors producing films within this thematic circle, serious, without any sarcasm and denying, approach to the past were resulted in such significant films, as “Orator” and “Comrade Boikenjaev” by Yu. Razikov. In different genres – psychological drama and political comedy – the director perfectly expressed historical essence of that time.

The second stage is characterized by aspiration of film makers to national stylistics (“Chimildik” by M. Abzalov, “Cahiongul” by S. Nazarmuhamedov, “Pari Momo” by M. Radjabov, “Dilhiroj” by Ya.. Razikov, “Iodgor”, “Tulips in snow”). The desire of cinematographers to fill a film by a national originality is noble and clear. However, it is very important to escape provincialism, seasoned with sentimentality. Such danger is real, as such films put forward ethic problems, close to mentality of Uzbek people. Though a number of films produced for the last years was insignificant, they expose a variety of genres and art approaches. Among them there are such films, as “Div bilan pakana” (2003) by D. Kasimov, “Heavenly boys – 2″ by Z. Musakov, “Pain” by Yu. Razikov. We should note one more issue of modern domestic cinema: production of “difficult” films, which understanding requires experienced spectators. These are “Fellini” of N. Abbasov and “Empire of women” of Yu. Razikov. These films again demonstrated creative potential of our cinema. The basic point testifying to the art level of modern domestic cinema, is participation in international film festivals and awards gained there. For example, “Orator”, “Comrade Boikenjaev”, “Pain”, “Fellini”, “Heavenly boys” and “Iodgor”.

Surviving the period of self-preservation and escaping a creative anemia, the cinema of Uzbekistan enters a new phase of development, when the traditions formed for the last years are further developed. Our hopes are strongly supported by the Decree of the President of the Republic “About management of cinematography” and the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic “About operation of National Agency “Uzbekkino”, which gave perfect opportunities to cinema, which should occupy a worthy place in our life.

Sabokhat Kaitmatova, Fine Arts Scientific Research Institute
Interconnection and mutual influence of such kinds of visual arts, as TV and cinema form a new way of world perception and a new type of relations with art culture. Value of cinema in art culture is invaluable. However, with TV coming and its opportunities to popularize different arts, initial relation to TV as mass media is changing. Influence of art TV, which is being formed, and influence of TV in general on cinema obtained total character. Art TV has wide range: from TV views, plays with original basis, stories, concerts and shows up to television film of different genres, kinds and duration, etc.

At the same time, art TV uses “big” films. Currently, Uzbek TV on 4 channels transmits films, which annually take 6,480 hours. TV in general, as well as TV cinema, creates definite psychology of perception and changes a distance between the spectator and art. The spectator becomes a passive consumer of art. Hence comes some prolixity, anergy of dramaturgic material, absence of intensity and dynamism in many TV films. If all that forms features of TV cinema, occurrence of the same features in “big” cinema expose direct influence of TV on cinema art in general. For example, in films “Sor sainida lola”, “Dard” and “Osmondaghi bolalar”, alongside with all creative searches and art solutions, there is a definite smack of “TV product”.

In “Sor sainida lola” (L. Tuichiev, M. Shahobutdinov), dramaturgic composition and division in short stories – “She”, “Farzand”, “Ota” – imply stylistics of television serial. Actor’s work at close-up and low-speed dynamics of action in some episodes remind television film (by the way, the film is made in video.)

Interesting are works of Yusuf Razikov. His last work “Dard”, deep by its idea, extremely sad psychological drama, also bears traces of TV style. By its genre, the film is for TV. It will make a passive spectator to think, to empathize and will cause a wide scale of emotions.. Film “Iodgor” (director H. Nasimov) is a movie version of G. Gulyam’s novel. Interesting is the plot, atypical life situation, laconically interpreted by authors. The film is short in details and development of action. These properties of television serial could be used in cinema (the film is made in video). Meanwhile, the spectator is not interested in some specialization; he needs just interesting fascinating film about him, about his life, about history of his people…

In the film “Div and Pakana”, many modern problems are interpreted in capacious art form. Film maker D. Kasimov, experienced in TV work, managed to create a true film, which, in spite of all minuses and pluses, causes feeling of very dynamic cinema. The modern spectator is not interested in a process and techniques of film making. He wants to see the film – Uzbek film. It does not matter for him, if it is TV, “big” or “commercial” film. Perhaps, it is necessary to consolidate efforts and to refuse ambitions for the sake of this spectator, who has yearned for the Uzbek cinema.

Nigora Karimova, Fine Arts Scientific Research Institute
One of topical problems of feature film making is a problem of a contemporary hero. If to compare films “Siz kimsiz?”, “Till the dawn” and later “Orator”, “Only memory”, “Fellini” and “Dilhiroj”, we can note, first, distinctions in external images of characters, and then the deeper, internal distinctive features. Instead of “energetic” hero of the early 1990s, the time has demanded a new hero having internal integrity. His code was also survived conversion: a hero – sample, a duty figure of the last years has gone away.

In the recent years, our cinema became interested in so-called “small person” – either Zulfikar from film “Giant and Shorty” or Baikenjaev from “Comrade Baikendjaev”, which bear marks of eternal losers. However, a seed of kind and light nature is hidden behind these masks. Following their misadventures, you involuntarily remember C. Chaplin’s personages.

Feature films of the last years reveal a tendency going from social aspects to problems of individual person. More and more films touch upon problems of family relations, relations between different generations etc. For our cinema, the problem of a hero remains extremely important. This search should be carried out in different directions, including thematic and stylistic. S. Abbasov and E. Ishmuhamedov managed to find their characters in Tashkent streets – and phenomena of “Tenderness” and “Mahalla” has been born.

I think our cinema has a difficult problem concerning a character of our contemporary. This is cinema, which do not escape in history, melodrama and entertaining inutility. Though films “Heavenly boys” (Z. Musakov), “Chayangul” (S. Nazarmuhamedov), “Giant and Shorty” (“Div and Pakana”) (Z. Kasimov) are devoted to the present, they are lack of true feeling of reality and experience we live through. Where is a real person? Where is his ethics? His life position?

It is important to know cinema techniques, but knowledge of inner life of a person, belief in him is equally important. Important is everything: what to make, how to make and for whom to make. Our society is interested not only in global political matters, but in problems of a daily life of “new” generation. Probably, this is time to cinema of Uzbekistan to turn to more complex and problematic films. Cinema should give its own comments to the life of our contemporaries.

Dinara Arifova, Fine Arts Scientific Research Institute
Analyzing a modern condition of the Uzbek cinema, we could define three major tendencies:

  • movement to contact with national literary classics and with works of modern writers;
  • approach to historical themes touching a modern spectator and having received new interpretation in works of the Uzbek writers;
  • development of ethic themes in the context of modern national ideology.These tendencies are growing, being enriched by new colours. We mean such works of “Uzbekfilm”, as “Love” (scenarist U. Azim, film director I. Ergashev), “Elfiz iodgorim”, “Chayangul” (scenarist H. Sultan, film director S. Muhamedov), “Chimildik” (a play of E. Hushvahtov, film director M. Abzalov), “Tulip in snow” (adaptation of Chulpan’s work, film director Ajub Shahobiddinov).

    It is worthy to be noted the film of the young film director – “Iodgor”. The plot is developing around the life of the young man – Jura. Actor A. Khamraev managed to expose rich and difficult inner life of his personage and motives of his behaviour, frankness and honesty. I think that the films like “Iodgor” represent a reference point for our film makers in their creative challenges. The national literature is a treasury, which for a long time can inspire cinematographers, able to appreciate a true art.

    Mahsura Mirzamuhamedova, Fine Arts Scientific Research Institute
    Problems of animated films are topical: despite economic and financial difficulties, the Uzbek animated cinema lives and produces four films annually: 2 drawn and 2 re-laying. A core of the Uzbek animated cinema consists of talented, creative artists fanatically devoted to their art. Therefore, even in the most inconsistent period – the early 1990s, when state financing was interrupted, they continued to work.

    Now, the small team, headed by art director Nazimom Tulakhodjaev, creates animated films of a high, European level. In 1984, the Uzbek animation, represented by drawn animated cartoon of universal sounding “Soft rain is going” (director N. Tulakhodjaev, artist S. Alibekov, adaptation of cognominal story of American fantasist Ray Bredberry), captivated the world. At the International festival in Leipzig, it was awarded “Grand prix” – “Gold Dove”.

    From time to time, the names of such cartoon directors as Nazim Tulakhodjaev, Mavzur Mahmudov and Dmitry Vlasov sound abroad. For example, in 1993, at the International festival in Ankara, doll cartoon “History of billiards” of M. Mahmudov (artists M. Mahmudov, R. Kamaletdinov) was recognized among the best. This pamphlet against brutal dictation over a person, and over a nation in general, without any words and translation, was clear to spectators all over the world.

    In 1999, at the Moscow International festival of animated films, his animated cartoon “Nightingale” (adaptation of cognominal Andersen’s fairy tale) was awarded the first prize – “Gold fish”. After Independence, art of animated films turned to national and historical themes, the classical literature. The films were produced in the Uzbek language. The animated films on Alisher Navoi’s poem “Seven planets”, “Bahrom and Dilorom” (scenario and direction by M. Mahmudov), “Black palace ” (scenario by M. Mahmudov, director V. Nikitin), on a historical theme – “Djaloliddin Manguberdi” (director M. Mahmudov), “Tomaris” (director S. Muratkhodjaeva), serials – “History of Islam”, “Alpomysh” (scenario and direction of N. Tulakhodjaev) became fruits born by independence.

    This year, the director and artist D. Vlasov has finished antiwar drawn film “Potter” (“Qulol”). Ancient folk craft is very touchingly connected with the present. The potter by easy movements of his hands and fingers transforms the clay into beautiful jugs and lyagans. However, the war deprived him of favourite occupation… He had lost both hands… Only hope – his little son sitting at a potter’s wheel. The life, as a vessel on a potter’s wheel, always moves and changes…

    This year, “Potter” has been presented to the competition which was held in Riga, for participation in the International festivals (Zagreb, June and Rio de Janeiro, August). According to the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, from 2005 animated film studio should produce ten films annually. Is the studio ready? Can it be real, while from the unique team, which has been formed for years, just a few persons remain? Realization of such huge program demands a complex approach – from preparation of creative and skilled team up to restoration of doll cinematography.

 

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