From Aitmatov to Afghanistan: how Muslim Film Festival will please spectators

Kazan International Muslim Festival will gather regional artists and Moscow cinema circuits

The film market convening representatives of federal networks, online cinema, regional directors and producers will become the main novelty of the 16th Kazan International Muslim Festival. The goal is to make sure local films can be watched in the cinema too. While Turkish series star Selim Bayraktar will make ordinary spectators happy. Executive Director of the festival, Director of Tatarkino Milyausha Aytuganova told journalists about this at a press conference.

Film market in Kazan

“The fate of the festival is different, dynamic,” noted Vice Minister of Culture of Tatarstan Damir Natfullin. “We are pleased to say the festival develops. It develops because over 550 applications from 45 countries have been received. It has very authoritative judges, and despite the pandemic, most of them will participate offline.”

However, the film market is the main novelty of the festival, which will be from 5 to 10 September. As Aytuganova said, since regional films rarely get to large cinema circuits, it was decided to hold a meeting of authors and buyers. Producers and directors from Moscow, Bashkortostan, Yakutia, Buryatia, the Chechen Republic, Rostov Oblast and Saint Petersburg will come to Kazan. All is done to make sure representatives of TV channels and online cinemas see their works.

“Our overarching task is to create a catalogue of regional films so that any cinema with its own programme can have films for rollout,” Aytuganova indicated.

Also, the festival will include an international film project pitch organised by the Tatarstan Ministry of Culture and Tatarkino.

Besides the defence, there will be training with masterclasses from an expert council. A full-length feature film made with Tatarstan will be the result.

“We have already held a similar event in 2019. One product has already reached spectators, it is Sumbul co-production of Tatarstan and Uzbekistan. The second film Tarlan is in the pipeline,” Aytuganova said and indicated that 24 applications from Italy, France, the USA, China, Azerbaijan, Russia were submitted for the pitch.

The echo of Issyk-Kul and Selim Bayraktar

The festival itself will for the first time open with a documentary, it is Grigory Nakhapetov’s The Days and Centuries of Chingiz Aitmatov. The Tatarstan Muslim Religious Directorate also approved the choice of the film. The organisers explained that its theme was outlined by the writer at Issyk-Kul Forum Aitmatov created in October 1986: “About the responsibility of leading figures of politics, science and culture for life-changing processes occurring in the world, about dialogue between the East and West.”

As for star guests, their number is traditionally small. For instance, Tatiana Abramova will become the host of the ceremony in the Kazan City Hall, Alexander Nosik will arrive at the opening ceremony, and Olga Kabo and Yevgenia Rozanova are expected at the closing ceremony at Pyramid. This is why Selim Bayraktar who performed as Sümbül Ağa in The Magnificent Century series will probably become the main star.

What do Tatars and Kazakhs have in common?

50 films selected from 584 applications are participating in the competition programme, ten films in five main nominations — Best Film and Short Feature Film, Full and Short Documentary as well as National Competition. They will be shown in Rodina and Mir cinemas.

14 films of them are made in Tatarstan. Chairwoman of the selection committee Gulnara Abikeyeva noted the film of producer Ildar Yagafarov How do you do? by Mansur Gilyazov’s script (its theatre version is staged in Kamal Theatre).

“If such a film appeared in Kazakhstan, I would be happy,” said Abikeyeva. “It shows the history, clan life characteristic of Kazakhs and Tatars.”

She also mentioned Sergey Batayev’s short The Fighting Fish — a story about adults, children and a fish aquarium. The list of full-length documentaries includes Almaz Nurgaliyev’s film Among the Seven Islands about the only resident of Semiostrovo village, Aktanysh District, Tatarstan. Alone by Bulat Minkin about a person who spent 18 years in a single prison cell is participating in the short documentary nomination.

While the special nomination National Competition will have 10 Tatarstan films. It is Mahom by Leyla Salakhatdinova, Cool Eyes by Aynur Zinnatova, Airat Means Amazing by Galiyabanu Bakhtiyarova, Be Happy! by Natalya Topal, Last in the Village by Amir Galiaskarov, Shaman by Sergey Kiyatrov, I’m Expected At Home by Alexander Dalmatov, Aspen in the Forest by Yelena Yermolina and Yevgeny Tishkin, Yooha by Tania Chernoguzova, The 2000s by Oxana Sinchugova.

The films will be evaluated by judges from 10 countries of the world. It is chaired by co-founder of the Society for Support of the Development of Documentary Films and Authorial Programs Elçin Musaoğlu who directed The 40th Door and Nabat. The jury also includes the Casablanca Film Festival director, film critic Jérôme Ammadi (Morocco), director of the Göteborg Arab Film Festival Fajr Yacoub (Sweden), film director, technical director of the Mediterranean Documentary Cinema Festival in Tunisia Almohannad Kalthom (Syria), poet, translator, film director, scriptwriter, honoured artist of Kazakhstan Bakhyt Kairbekov (Kazakhstan), film critic, scriptwriter, executive director of GN Interpartners Valeria Baykeyeva (Russia), film and TV director, scriptwriter Kama Swaroop (India), operator, director, cinematography, film history, aesthetics and editing teacher Sayed Nejati (Iran), poet, writer, journalist Ashraf Dali (Egypt) and above-mentioned actor Selim Bayraktar (Turkey).

“You have unlikely heard of them”

Also, the festival will traditionally have a non-competition and parallel programme with films from Russia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Uzbekistan. One can learn about the programme on the website of the festival. Aytuganova found out that Mir cinema will show another 11 Tatarstan films in the programme Kazan Premieres and added: “You have unlikely heard of them.”

Among them, she singled out works of Assel Bagautdinova Cranberry Summer and Onalcha, Soldier’s Hat by Pavel Moskvin, Kazan Cat cartoon by Daniil Fayzrakhmanov and Cachexia by Alina Galimullina. One can also see the first materials from the shooting of Yulia Zakharova’s Tarlan and the film We Were Born in 1941 Amir Galiaskarov is now making.

Changes are made to the programme. In particular, due to the current events in Afghanistan, it has been decided to unite all films from this country in a separate programme.

“But it is impossible to invite a person from there,” Aytuganova concluded. While Natfullin reminded the journalists that the film Mullah’s Wife by Gayaz Iskhaki’s composition was recognised as the best Muslim film from Russia at the Lajward National Film Festival.”

The Festival Echo will take place after the film festival — some films will be shown in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey. As for the rollout in districts of the republic, Natfullin said that the job to show the films needs to be done more actively:

“The cinema in many districts are not worse than in Kazan. I have been in Nurlat, the local cinema does not give way to that of KazanMall.”

Meanwhile, Aytuganova added that the organisers had been showing festival films in the districts for three years, bought the rights to them, but this year, the budget doesn’t have such costs.

Radif Kashapov