The concept of Karakalpak film documentary is relatively new, and the number of films produced over the short period is few. However, if one tried to identify what is consistent and strong in these several dozen documentaries produced by local cinematographers, the answer is clear: it is the love for their land, an avid interest in people, and the desire to understand every new character they meet along the way.
Documentary cinematography in Karakalpakstan began to develop in the late 1950s. Before then and in the years that followed, some films were made here by visiting filmmakers, mostly from Tashkent.
A great contribution to the establishment of the national cinematography and film journalism was made by a prominent Uzbek filmmaker Malik Kayumov. With his support, the city of Nukus becomes the place that produces the first Karakalpak documentary and non-fiction films – most of them were shot by the students of the cinematography master. One of them was the cameraman Nagmet Davkaraev who set the foundations of the national film documentary genre. His works opened the score in the national film industry.
Professional development of local film journalists was a challenging process made complicated by limited supply of film-making equipment and the lack of modern devices. On the 19th of February 1970, following the decision of the Uzbekistan Government, a Nukus branch of documentary and popular science film studio under the republican chronicle studio was opened. However, this did not solve the pressing issue of its technical facilitation. The situation began to change in 1990 when the autonomous republic opened an independent studio that started to receive direct orders for film production from Moscow.
Gradually the branch was gaining momentum, and historical events and contemporary life of the people were portrayed in a number of films created by the republican and local cinematographers. These include several documentary newsreels “Soviet Karakalpakia”, as well as the number of films about Karakalpakstan quite interesting in terms of content and the author’s interpretation, which were created by the Tashkent colleagues Davron Salimov, Bakhodir Muzaffarov and Shukhrat Maksudov together with Moscow filmmakers. Film director and cameraman, a graduate of the Pan-Union Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) Valery Allamyarov is among those industry experts who grew up in the autonomous republic. Presently, he is working at the republican popular science film studio in Tashkent.
The art of V. Allamyarov is characterized by the spirit of exploration, the rejection of superficial, information-only documental presentation, and the focus on the subject matter that he relates to and understands well as a representative of his country. He is very familiar with the problem of the dying Aral Sea, which is reflected in his works “The Tragedy of the Aral”, “The Way the Aral Used to Be”, and “The Aral Sea Melodies” that received strong public feedback.
Strong capability of Allamyarov as a cameraman was demonstrated in “Goom-Goom” (authors M. Tuychiev, O. Abdirahmanov; director J. Davletov) released in 1992 to become a worthy representation of Karakalpakstan at the film festival in San Francisco (USA major role in promoting the national art of cinematography belongs to the eminent Karakalpak film director Toreniyaz Kalymbetov who headed the studio in early 1970s. He authored a number of successful pictures that evidenced daring stylistic experiments in the domain of film documentaries. Kalymbetov’s works in the documentary genre are distinctive and original. His works “Otbegi”, “The Well”, “The Hunter”, and “Stradivarius of the Steppe” stand out in their unexpected angle of vision and are convincing as works of art. His films that are quite simple in terms of solutions reflect the national spirit and thought. Created in the reporting and observation style, they are strikingly beautiful and harmonious, showing the author’s unusual manner to cherish and lovingly celebrate traditional lifestyle and customs, to admire things he saw, and to extract the essence from a frame.
The art of T. Kalymbetov was highly appreciated both in Uzbekistan and beyond. The film “Otbegi” (photography by Mamedov) was awarded a prize at the international film festival in Innsbruck (Austria, 2003); “The Well” (photography by R. Galiev) earned the “Silver Crescent” at the Bilbao festival (Spain, 2005). In 2007 Kalymbetov’s documentary “Possessed” was warmly received at the festival in Rome (Italy).
The national film industry of Karakalpakstan owes its development to the selfless efforts of local cinematography enthusiasts who lead the studio branch in different times. They are writers Zholmirza Aymurzaev, Orazbai Abdirahmanov, director Satbay Allanazarov, manager and producer Parakhat Saburov… In different years the studio was managed by Genzhemurat Izembetov, Kamal Mambetov, Nagmet Davkaraev, Konys Zhandullaev. Since 2003 the studio has been headed by Muratbay Nyzamov. The finest specimens of documentary films drove the emergence of feature films, animation, and the arrival of gifted cinema artists into the industry. “Karakalpakfilm” studio has begun to release feature films.
The art of imagery journalism, as television documentaries are appropriately referred to, does require from the artist to possess the same degree of professional knowledge and skills as any truly talented author of the so-called “large format” cinematography. This is also remembered by younger people working in Karakalpak television film industry, the experts in television journalism that historically is still quite young in the republic.
At the end of 1998, the National Television and Radio Company of Uzbekistan initiated the establishment of the “Nature and Spirituality” art unit under the Uzbektelefilm studio. It was headed by the famous novelist and screenwriter from Karakalpakstan O. Abdirahmanov. The main functions of the art unit have included nature photography and chronicle filming of events happening in Karakalpakstan, which subsequently could be used in documentaries.
In 1999, in addition to special programs on “Uzbekistan” TV channel and serial stories in the Akhborot news program, the National Television and Radio Company showed two documentaries telling about nature: “Shundai maskan bor” (“There is a Land”) and “Kuyi Amudaryo Tabiat” (“Nature of the Amu-Darya River”), written by O. Abdirahmanov, directed by I. Mirzaev, filmed by A. Askarov, and produced by R. Shakirov.
Between 1999 and 2001, the Karakalpak branch organized field trips for the purpose of introducing the TV audience in Uzbekistan to the wonders of wildlife, vegetation and fauna of the native land.
Over the short time the Uzbektelefilm studio branch operated in Karakalpakstan – from 1998 to 2007, it produced about 50 films and stories for Akhborot news program. These include “There is a Land” (“Shundai maskan bor”, 1999) and “The Nature of the Amu-Darya River” (“Kuyi Amudaryo Tabiat”, 1999) authored by O. Abdirahmanov, directed by I. Mirzaev, photography by H. Askarov; “Khiva” (1999) authored by O. Abdirahmanov, directed by E. Davidov, photography by H. Askarov; “Bringing Back to Life” (“Kaita hayot bagishlab”, 1999), a dedication to a sculptor D. Tureniyazov, authored by O. Abdirahmanov, direction and photography by N. Gerasimov; and “Art that has won the world over” (“Jahon zabt etgan San’ati”, 1999) about the N. Savitsky Museum in Nukus, authored by R. Egamberdyeva, direction and photography by N. Gerasimov.
Over the period between 2001 and 2007, despite modest resources available to them, the creative team of the Karakalpakstan branch produced about 40 documentary television films, including “Khiva” from the “Pearls of Uzbekistan” cycle; “Mizdaqhan” and “Ayaz-kala” telling about the cites of ancient settlements; “The Golden Ring of Khorezm” that was created jointly with the UNESCO office in Uzbekistan, and many other films, which have made a valuable contribution to the promotion of the region
The finest of works of the Karakalpak cinematographers and producers of television documentaries stand out in their rich content, energy, vivid perception of the world, uncompromising stance and the talent of their makers. The most remarkable pieces reveal the author’s personality; time, events and people captured in the frames make one think about the special value of a documentary in the modern world that changes so fast, bringing new challenges every time.