About faith, love, friendship, fathers and children, life and terrorism

Eights films of Kazan International Muslim Film Festival

About faith, love, friendship, fathers and children, life and terrorism
Photo: scene from ‘Silent Glory’ film

The programme of the 18th Kazan film festival that took place last week included 50 competition and 100 out-of-competition works. Vice editor-in-chief of Realnoe Vremya Radif Kashapov has seen most of them as jury member of NETPAC and tried to understand why some of them attracted the jury.

A story of a woman who stopped believing

I was invited to the NETPAC jury, the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema consisting of 29 countries and was founded in New Delhi in 1990 on UNECSO’s initiative and with its assistance. NETPAC chooses a film by a director who shot the first or second full-length film, so we chose full-length feature films and documentaries from the programme and started to watch them, moreover, not in a cinema hall but a separate room next to the press centre. A part of the main jury was sitting here. I remember that once they didn’t wish to watch the middle a film till the end because everything was clear but fast-forwarded it.

The network’s jury included Ann Demi-Gerow from Australia, a vice president of NETPAC and director of the Asian-Pacific Screen Lab, film director from Tajikistan Sharofat Arabova. Ann was keenly interested in Kazan. Sharofat very clearly expressed her opinion, so in a cafe in the Old Tatar Settlement we calmly chose the film that also won the Grand Prix – Silent Glory. Iranian director Nahid Hassanzadeh became the best actress too. It is her second feature film. She plays a woman named Rohan who marries a former teacher who is now a sick old guardian of Mahi temple. In fact, it is a story about a teacher and a student, moreover, not knowledge but unbelief is passed because Rohan sees a boy living in the temple cannot recover from his disease and dies. Rohan believes if she makes a miracle, God will forgive her but knows she won’t make a miracle.

As one could take note in general, bright films but dedicated to simple everyday problems attracted the main jury. The best short film is Tajik The Little Brother of Angels by Umedsho Mirzoshirinov based on Said Rahimzod Afardi’s story. The main character is a boy named Fayzullo whose all younger sisters die as newborns, the older brother is constantly accused of this. In the end Fayzullo turns mourning into an evening of songs trying to get his mum from endless sadness. In fact, it is a story about sudden adulting.

Scene from ‘The Anger’

The work The Anger by a graduate of Moscow State University working in Lebanon Maria Ivanova Surae seemed to be the most “festive” on the list (the film was made together with Russian and German companies). This film got a prize for the best cameraman of the full-length film and a prize of the Russian Guild of Cinema Experts and Critics. Her short film Sonuncu was shortlisted for the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 and another 87 film events winning nine awards. Like Silent Glory this is a story about a woman: Ida escapes from her mother, meets a European man who turns out to be a manipulator and terrorist. So traditional stereotypes upend in the film.

Christians in Siberia

Again, the festival has raised the issue of definition of the concept of Muslim cinema that seemingly can include any film devoted to reaching the good side. One of the jury members seriously asked if the author must be a Muslim. For instance, the best full-length documentary is Russian-French Ivan’s Ladder. Nikolay Bem, author of SiberiaDOC project, a programme aimed to develop and promote auteur documentaries in Siberia, shot it. In his film, an Old Believer, a father named Sysoy teaches his son Ivan Byzantine church singing in a half-forgotten village.

Scene from ‘Ivan’s Ladder’

Reclusion and conservation is another obviously popular theme. Turkey’s Life by Muhammed Emid Demiral about 83-year-old Cherkessian woman Cihan Günger living in Kayseri village at the heart of Turkey is the best short documentary. Interestingly, she speaks her mother tongue during the whole film, though she could easily talk with the camera in the country’s language.

We will talk about Tatarstan films separately. There were queues for the film Ibn Fadlan for two days in a row, which of course pleased director Aynaz Mukhametzyanov (but it is necessary to clarify that almost all Tatar feature films, especially religious ones, interest a festival spectator, while the film will have to understand the distribution story).

Film for people

One film will certainly be distributed. It is The Adventures of Little Bahi, the most understandable film, a new work of Alexander Galibin who shot the film Little Sister based on Mustay Karim’s book in 2019. The author, who is a former chief director of the Alexandrinsky Theatre and Globus from Novosibirsk shoots Choh village in Dagestan engaging the countrymen into the shooting. A child is in the limelight again — 8-year-old Bakhadir who solves problems of his father, mother, grandma, uncle and his fiancée and doing some agriculture at the same time. The film will be released on 27 October 2022.

However, not all interesting films won an award. Yuda Kurniawan’s The Tone Wheels about ageing street musicians in South Jakarta who all of a sudden decided to record an album with the help of their old friend going through difficulties with their old computer and no education. It is a story about friendship amid rundown walls and piles of waste with the immersion into the unfamiliar music culture.

Scene from ‘The Tone Wheels’

Interestingly, it was claimed at the closing ceremony of the festival why we needed Western cinema if this, what is in the programme, can be shown. However, the poster of the cinema that hosted the festival eloquently demonstrated the absence of such films. It is a big question why the story with the promotion of regional works and films from friendly countries hasn’t started yet. Economists forecast that Russia can turn into a new Iran. Well, we know what a phenomenon Iranian cinema became mainly because it eloquently talked about the life of this country not trying to repeat some other states’ schemes.

Radif Kashapov