The Cinematography in Uzbekistan: Another Cinema

Issue #3 • 1926

The 90s of the XX c. marked a confine and fixed a precise distinction line in the cinema of Uzbekistan between “new” and “old” cinema. Philosophy and structure of the feature film has changed. New anti-totalitarian cinema has superseded the Soviet classic cinema strictly following canons of socialist realism and telling about city and country workers and about the best among them. New cinema has not had a hero – a sample for emulation and idea of glorifying the state system, any political program but it has taken as a basis a real human life, not “a person on screen”.

Independence of Uzbekistan much promoted the formation of new cinema. In the years 1992 – 1996 were issued some the most important governmental decrees on the development of national cinema art in a whole. The state has become a sponsor (from 1996 the state budget annually financed 6 feature films etc.), what has positively influenced a social and public role of the cinema. At the end of the XX c. (1990s) clever works of film producers of several generations presented the cinema process in Uzbekistan. Such films, as “Valley of My Fathers” of Sh. Abbasov, “Stone Idol”, “Iron Lady”, “Sharif and Marif” and “Sevghi” of I. Ergashev, “In my dreams I am bitterly tearing” and “The Only Memory” of S. Nazarmukhamedov, “The Soldier Tale”, “Abdullajon”, “The Bomb” and “The Little Tabib” of Z. Musakov, “Siz kimsiz?” and “Kammi” of D. Fayziev, “Great Amir Temur” of I. Ergashev and B. Sadikov, “Till Sunrise” of Yu. Azimov, present different styles and experience of famous cinematographic schools and art directions.

The bare and seamy realty in the film of Yu. Azimov, “Till Sunrise” and the heavy life of the people in “blossoming Soviet kishlak” have been reproduced with minimum film media. Another life is as if absent behind a screen. The screen is telling about life and fortunes of the people, prostrated and aggrieved by totalitarian system. The best thing done that the author has been able to catch features of national character: not to nurse rancour, not to lament their fortune, to continue living and to love in any extreme situations.

Uzbek feature cinema of the last decade has survived definite changes in its development. From the early 90s this was a cinema with ideologic and art program and philosophy of Soviet myths debunking: “Stone Idol” of I.Ergashev, “Till Sunrise” of Yu. Azimov, “Siz kimsiz?” of D. Fayziev, “Judgement Day” and “A Step to Right, a Step to Left” of Yu. Sabitov. A refusal from the tradition and striving to propose another style basing on direct saying have led to fixation of sharp life contradictions as they are and to accent on “insulting” layer of realty. Later, this initial, sharp social and critical impulse was gradually fading away. From the middle of the 90s in the cinema were activated the art searches for creation of intellectual, “pure cinema” – “In My Dreams I’m Bitterly Tearing” and “The Only Memory” of S. Nazarmukhamedov, “Kingdom of Ladies”, “Orator” and “Dipkhirozh” of Yu. Razikov, “I Wish.” and “Mummy” of Z. Musakov, “Fellini” of N.Abbasov, “Imam al-Bukhari” of B. Sadikov and “Pari Momo” of M. Radjabov.

Besides that, some films, more and more, are turning to parabolic form of narration. The experience of this ancient genre allowed the screen to be more compacted and capacious and gave the possibility of impressive switches from the occasional, at the first look, things to general concepts where apologue allies the present with eternity. Insistent wish to confirm universal and poetically high model of life allies works of this direction, differed by their level and quality. By the end of the 90s, within the cinematographic process a final division into “traditional” and “art” cinema, into the cinema for public and the cinema for festivals has been clearly seen.

The film “The Only Memory” of S.Nazarmukhamedov has reflected the archetypal national world visions of the Uzbeks. Love, faithfulness and breadth of heart – these panhuman ideals formed spiritual perspectives of the character – alone old man, Adash-bobo. In this circus of films the film of Yu.Razikov “Kingdom of Ladies”, simple at the first look, occupies rather detached place. In the film it seems nothing is happening, no event and no story have not completed and have not reach any logical final but the film holds intensive attention of spectators. The film is transmitting no concrete information. The personage, looking for mythological root – “mehrigie” that gives eternal love and force, is passing all levels of his memory, newly revisiting his love for the woman.

The author of the film “Fellini”, N.Abbasov, from a title of this work, is preparing spectators for associative perception. The film, like the other works of young producers, is open to cinematographic influence of the West and East. It is a result of mixture of different cinema styles, both acting and producing. Spiritual space of the film is penetrated with emotional moods of world and Uzbek cinema of the 60s – 70s. Through everyday life of small village on the Aral coast created by the artist’s imagination, the author is projecting some model of world dividing: on the coast of the dried dead sea there is an isolate club where are no visitors but the film, formed of the best fragments of cinema classic of the XX century, is being demonstrated.. Its author is a cinema mechanic whose nickname is Fellini, he is faithful to his Aral and Great Cinema…

The films above said, by their main art and aesthetic parameters and ideology of screen texts, reflect striving of modern cinematography to approach new conceptual layers and another level of vision. That is – to move from a circle of everyday problems and events to a circle of so-called eternal panhuman problems. Authors of these films choose folklore and ethnographic material as their foundation. Choice of main characters is also illustrative. However, this trend has revealed its shadow – accented and hypertrophied conditional style of this cinema in many ways expresses obvious abstract and mental approaches to interpretation of “eternal themes” (“Kingdom of Ladies”, “Pari Momo”).

Extremely curious metamorphoses are seen in the cinematographic reflection of the private life of modern people and the world of their feelings. This sphere has obviously separated. In the films “Gates of Fortune” of L. Fayziev and “Snow has covered everything around…” of K.Kamalova, emotional and psychological condition of the character is exposed within limited space, social features are mixed and retreat before the panhuman.

A line of art and philosophical aspects can be defined in the cinema process running in Uzbekistan of the late XX century. Realistic understanding of realty, searching for the changes connected with developing concepts on the key categories of being – Time, Space and Person have found reflection in the “new cinema” of Uzbekistan. Film producers and scenarists, reflecting concrete phenomena, tried not to separate and to withdraw them out of the context but to observe them in holistic space of verticals, from everyday life to entity, and horizontals, from the past to the future. Visible is trend to absorb the full meaning of inseparable links between the general and the particular.

Now in the feature cinema of Uzbekistan there are several directions. They are: cinema for national spectators and wide viewership – “Iron Lady” and “Sharif and Marif” of I. Ergashev, “Abdullajon”, “Little tabib”, “The Bomb” and “Mummy” of Z.Musakov, “Departed Days” and “Chimildik” of M. Abzalov; cinema for intellectual spectators with accented combination of sense and visual associations – “Orator” and “Dilkhirozh” of Yu. Razikov and “Fellini” of N.Abbasov. And finally, films without definite public and genre orientation, which obviously gravitate to art cinema – “The Only Memory” of S.Nazarmukhamedov and “Kingdom of Ladies” of Yu. Razikov.

Some film producers work within “narrating” model with obviously dominating nostalgic understanding of national theme (“The Valley of My Fathers” of Sh.Abbasov, “Departed Days” and “Chimildik” of M. Abzalov, “Chaengul” of S. Nazarmukhamedov); the other ones prefer more abstract forms. Thus in works of many young film producers are seen trends of indirect and conditional forms of expression: the screen, willingly and freely, turns to extraordinary and eccentric things. This drawing to “the strange” and the things out of ordinary reveals itself at all levels – from poetry of titles and extraordinary subject collisions up to unusual personages. The arsenal of irony and eccentric means plays a key role in the style score and such bitter and dramatic films as “Orator”, “Little tabib”, “Fellini” and “Comrade Baikendjaev”. Colours of irony, comic features, eccentric and grotesque pervade the films of Z.Musakov and Yu. Razikov.

Understanding of the national context is a primer important issue for modern cinematography. So-called “small” national cinematography can become “large” thanks to actualization of real originality and culture of a man living at the concrete historical time on his land. It is worthy to mention that the films of producers of new generation, along with national spiritual concepts, reflect spiritual and aesthetic space of world cinema. There is a specific Uzbek vision of ethic and philosophical problems, which are a subject of cinematography of the other countries. Of course, “new cinema” of Uzbekistan has some problems and tasks of financial, economic and managerial character (formation of producing cinema, re-organization of films demonstration system, training of specialists etc.), which are also connected with changed style and audio-visual stereotypes. Will it be able to be transformed into “new wave” and deriving untouchable layers from mythology, to create the Uzbek picture of the world in a genre of historical or modern film? – is a question of the future.

Author: Nigora Karimova

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