The First Tashkent International Film Forum “Golden Guepard” – Concept, Results and Prospects

Issue #1 • 1218

On October 19-25, 2011, on the initiative of the “Forum” Foundation, Tashkent hosted the “Golden Guepard” International Film Festival. Filmmakers from more than 45 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America applied to take part in the contest program. The Selection Committee viewed 139 feature-length, 87 short, and 74 animated films, and chose 43 items, including 12 full-length films, 16 shorts and 15 animated cartoons. The main idea of the Film Forum is expressed in its motto, “Civilizations of the 21st Century: Dialogue of Cultures”, as well as in the slogan “Human Stories: Philosophy of Emotions”. In 2011, the “Golden Guepard” film festival received the grand prix at the MTVA-awards ceremony as the Best Show of the Year, and the prize was given to Akbar Khakimov, Academician of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, and Director General of the Film Forum.

The idea and initiative to hold a cinematographic forum were necessitated by public demand. In 2010, the first question asked at a press conference after the ART WEEK Style.uz 2010 was: “Will there be a film festival?” The answer given by Gulnara Karimova, the mastermind of the project, was positive. Already in December that year information was posted on the Web announcing that the “Forum” Foundation was going to hold an international festival of new cinema. In early January 2011 the first phase of work began – defining the concept and the content of the cinematographic forum. The organizers abandoned the term ‘new cinema’, also known as art cinema or art house film, because Uzbekistan did not have sufficient cinematographic background and experience for such projects.

Cinema-goers still remember the years when Tashkent hosted film festivals of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The first Film Festival of Asia and Africa took place in Tashkent in 1968, and from 1976, when the Latin America representatives joined it for the first time, the event became the festival of three continents. These festivals were rather ceremonious, and had a certain public response. These shows usually had a strong ideological agenda. The Tashkent IFF was given the role of a regulator of a kind in the processes associated with the so-called national liberation movements on these continents. Therefore, when developing the concept, idea and strategy for the present cinematographic forum the focus was primarily on artistic and aesthetic parameters, as well as on the professional standards of the films to be shown on the big Tashkent screen, and of course, on the absence of ideological strings. To make a difference from the geographically restrictive three-continent-only events, right from the start the organizers decided to open the cinematographic forum to filmmakers from all over the world. And another distinction from the previous Tashkent film shows was that the festival was giving prizes.

The concept of the “Golden Guepard” Film Festival corresponded to the ideas of the «Art Week Style.uz» project of the “Forum” Foundation, and the festival was held as part of the Art Week. Cultural Strategy of the “Forum” Foundation aims at integrating our country into the international art context. This objective was one of the key ones in the overall concept of the cinematographic forum organized with the purpose of bringing in remarkable and extraordinary works of cinematic art that develop cinematographic language, reflect global trends and heighten public interest in the art of film-making as means of preserving national cultures and universal human values. Another important objective of the cinematographic forum was to introduce Uzbek audience to the best works of the new world cinema and the development processes taking place in the national film-making industry in recent years.

The cinematographic forum’s motto, “Civilizations of the 21st Century: Dialogue of Cultures”, defined a strategy for all future festivals. Another equally important task was to create a slogan that would expound the objectives and ideas; “Human Stories: Philosophy of Emotions”, just as the motto, was approved by the Organizing Committee. This excluded shocking blockbuster and criminal drama from the program. The criterion helped the previewing panel to decide on the inclusion of a film in the contest program. In May 2011, the cinematographic forum’s idea and concept were tested in Bukhara. Then, as part of the Asrlar Sadosi Traditional Culture Festival, a round table discussion on the subject of film festivals as phenomenon of contemporary global culture became a major preliminary step in the preparation process, guiding future work. The round table was attended by the project mastermind Gulnara Karimova, the management of the cinematographic forum, and forty prominent representatives of the film-making industry from China, France, Russia, Kazakhstan, Spain and Uzbekistan. It is symbolic that this meeting took place in Bukhara, where in 1924-1925 one of the first Uzbek films, “The Minaret of Death” was made and shown on screen; it turned out to be super popular oriental “western”, which was also a success in Europe and America.

Any film festival should have a symbol, and suggestions were very different. The choice had to be justified historically, semantically and emotionally. As it turned out, the coat of arms of the ruling house of Chach (Tashkent’s ancient name) featured a hunting leopard (cheetah or guepard), so the image had a strong connection to the history of Tashkent. Guepard is a fast, beautiful and graceful animal. Choosing its image for the symbol highlights determination and rapidity of Uzbekistan’s film-making industry integrating into international context.

The working group tasked to prepare the “Golden Guepard” cinematographic forum comprised professional critics, film directors and actors. Expert functions were given to the renowned Russian film critic Andrei Plakhov. The work progressed in close cooperation with “Uzbekkino” Agency. In the summer of 2011 films began to arrive, and the selection committee immediately got down to work: it was to select 12 feature-length films, 15 shorts and 15 animated films for the contest show.

A panel selecting full-length films, led by film director Kamara Kamalova, previewed 139 submitted pictures and chose twelve of them. Of short and animated films about 80 in each category were viewed, and finally, the contest program included 16 short length and 15 animated films.

The selection panel for the shorts was led by the young but already well-known director Ayub Shahobiddinov; for the animated films – Nazim Tulyahojaev. Overall, many good films were received, and already at the preparatory stage once could tell that the cinematographic forum was to become not just an ordinary event, but a meaningful project. The selection process revealed that both the preview panel and the organization committee members had their favourites. This in no way influenced jury’s decision, although in the end the opinion of the organizers and the jury coincided, for the most part.

The preparatory stage turned into an independent project of a kind: between March and October 2011 several round tables discussions, “Origin” – domestic mini-festival for young short film directors, a number of press conferences and other events took place. Interest in the Tashkent Film Festival in the world turned out to be quite significant – perhaps, due to the fact that Uzbekistan today is a reputable player in the global cultural scene. The authors of many films presented at the most prestigious festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Venice decided to send their works to the Tashkent Film Festival.

The international jury for the three categories comprised some of the most prominent figures of contemporary cinema world. The Jury panel for the full-length films chaired by Swiss film director Moritz de Hadeln who ran Berlin and Venice festivals for many years, also included Peggy Chiao, a renowned producer from China; Shunya Ito, iconic Japanese film director; Yegor Konchalovsky, Russian film director and producer; and Ingeborga Dapkunaite, a famous Lithuanian actress. The jury panel for short films was led by a film critic from Germany Hans-Joachim Schlegel and film expert from France Ian Raymond; for animated films the panel consisted of animator and scriptwriter from Russia Andrei Khrjanovsky and filmmaker from France Regis Ghezelbash. In all three categories the jury panels included representatives of Uzbekistan: in full-length films – Ayub Shahobiddinov; in shorts – film director Yolkin Tuychiev; and in animated films – Nazim Tulyahojaev.

Screening of the films selected for the contest, as well as master classes by leading overseas film directors took place in the Grand Hall of the Palace of Young People’s Art. The forum’s opening ceremony at the Palace of Young People’s Art was marked by showing a feature called “Under the Hawthorn Tree” by the world-renowned Chinese director Zhang Yimou. In the feature film contest our country was represented by “P.S” (dir. Y. Tuychiev, 2010) and “Lead” (dir. Z. Musakov, 2011).

Awards of the “Golden Guepard” Tashkent International Film Festival were presented on October 25 during the closing ceremony in the Grand Hall of the Palace of Young People’s Art in the following categories: Best Film, Best Short Film, Best Animated Film, Best Film Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress.

The first prize went to the Best Animated Film. According to the jury, the unquestionable winner in this category was “Mobile” by Verena Fels (Germany). A Special Diploma for the original style was given to Moana Vonstadl (Germany) for her “Shadows Inside”. Another special prize for remarkable visual solution was given to Dmitriy Vlasov (Uzbekistan) for his film “The White Hen”.

In the Best Short Film category the award went to the “Raw, Cooked, Burned” by Shahram Mokri (Iran). Special Jury Recognition Diplomas were awarded to another two short films: “The Look” by a young Uzbek film director Umid Khamdamov, and “Sing me to sleep” (Norway).

The main prize in the Best Actor category the jury awarded to the Uzbek actor Nazim Tulyakhojaev for his role in the “P.S.”. Also, the Special Jury Recognition Diplomas were received by two more actors: Doru Ana for the role in “Medal of Honor” (Germany-Romania), and Andras Hatazi for his appearance in “Morgen” (France-Romania).

In the same nomination, Paulina Kutepova was named the Best Actress for her role in “The House of Wind” (Russia).

In the Best Director nomination the prize went to Chang Tso Chi for his film “When Love Comes” (Chinese Taipei).

The Grand Prix of the Tashkent Film Forum – the Best Film prize – the jury unanimously awarded to “The Lead” by the Uzbek director Zulfiqar Musakov. One’s first impression might be that the theme of Stalin’s repressions in this historical film would not be particularly interesting to anyone. Yet, this profoundly psychological story is anything but archaic. Psychological insights and deep human intonations created in the film were mentioned by the jury chairman Moritz de Hadeln.

The cinematographic forum also awarded special diplomas. Thus, a diploma in the Dialogue of Cultures in Art nomination went to a German director Leo Hasin for the film “Kaddish for a Friend” with its keynote theme of cultural symbiosis and confrontation, and religious tolerance. Culture brings people together, but it can also trigger conflicts – this is the philosophical message of the film that stands out in its humanism and relevance of the issues it raises. The Best Auteur Film was recognized to be the “Mother Gogo” by an Icelandic director Fridrik Thor Fridriksson; the audience was impressed by its subtle psychological cinematic language and brilliant performance of the lead actors.

In terms of conformity to the ideas of the cinematographic forum, a specific mention is owed to a short film “A Day” (South Korea). Deeply shaken audience gave a standing ovation to this cinematographic masterpiece with its subtle and intelligent metaphor.

As part of the cinematographic forum, the screening of contemporary Uzbek films took place at the NavoiArtsPalace, with a full house on all three first night gala shows: “Coming Bride-2″, “Visol”, and “The Guest from Andijan”. The Tashkent audience and guests of the cinematographic forum also had a chance to view Uzbek auteur films, such as “Road under the Skies” (dir. K. Kamalova), “On the Other Shore” (dir. S. Nazarmuhamedov), “Yurt” (dir. A. Shahobiddinov), etc. Major and minor events created a unique landscape during the forum, turning it into a phenomenon of scale. Even their short list gives an idea of the forum’s scope and span. First, the events took place in a number of different venues: the Palace of Young People’s Art, the Institute of Arts, the NavoiArtsPalace, and the Cinema House. Secondly, there was an out-of-contest program showing not only domestic feature films but also documentaries, as well as French animation films. And thirdly, the series of master classes delivered by almost all prominent guests of the forum – Sergei Solovyov (Russia), Regis Ghezelbash (France), Gérard Krawczyk (France), Shunya Ito (Japan), and Mathias Hughes (USA). Communication with these outstanding masters of the world cinematography places the students in the context of not only local, but also universal and global film-making process, which is important not so much for their career choice, as it is for their professional self-awareness.

Quite interesting event was a round table discussion at the Cinema House, addressing the current issues in global cinematography and the development of the national film-making industry in Uzbekistan. Naturally, the development prospects of the Uzbek national cinema were at the centre of discourse that engaged filmmakers from many countries. The participants talked about issues facing profit and non-profit cinematography and about the audience for whom the films are made. In this regard, the forum consultant film critic Andrei Plakhov noted that only Uzbekistan managed to retain domestic film audience. The round table participants identified key areas that require solutions and appropriate reforms to develop national cinematography in Uzbekistan. The first area is education and training. Although the country has strong facilities, a major resource, such as authoritative film-makers, remains underutilized. Therefore, maximizing the use of the available creative potential to educate and train a new galaxy of professional cinematographers is one of the most important tasks. In this regard, it was suggested that the country should create a special higher education facility – the Cinematography and Television Institute. The second area is to organize, based on the other countries’ model, a non-governmental foundation to support national cinematography. Overseas countries have a good practice of developing national film-making; in Russia, for instance, operates a special cinema promotion and sponsoring fund, in addition to budget resources. And the third area is to create the national film academy to facilitate further development of cinematography in Uzbekistan. The country has masters who earned international awards and recognition, yet the industry has no appropriate social status. However, Uzbekistan does have some positive experience: one example is the creation and activity of the Academy of Arts. All in all, the cinematographic forum prompted consideration of a number of important current issues arising in the practice of contemporary Uzbek cinematographic process.

 

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