Alexander Dalmatov: ‘We need believe in Tatar cinema’

A director from Tatarstan will make a film about the tragedy of a woman in wartime

On the basis of Tatarkino, from February 13 to 15, a casting for the film “In May 1944" (“Kyryk Durtnen May Aenda”) based on the novel of the same name by People's writer of Tatarstan Nurikhan Fattakh will take place. It is a full-length film in the Tatar language, which is expected to premiere in March 2024. The director of the film, Alexander Dalmatov, told Realnoe Vremya what the picture will be and what actors the film crew is looking for.

Actors should be “thin and hungry”

Filming of the film “In May 1944" will start in late February — early March in the Arsky district. There are plans to shoot winter scenes at logging sites. As the director of the film, Alexander Dalmatov, said, it will take a lot of extras. Only women and girls are invited to participate in the filming at this stage, because it was on women's shoulders during the war that the burden of hard work in the rear, including at the sawmill, fell. The main condition is that they are thin.

“We plan to take a very careful approach to the selection of actors, including extras. We will shoot times of war and famine, so all participants must be skinny. We strive to ensure that everything corresponds to that historical period. The widow of the writer, Rufina Fattakhova, will also take part in the selection of actors. The plot of the film received her approval," the director said.

At the casting, an actress will be chosen for the main role. As the director admitted, there are already applicants, but the final decision will be made after the selection:

“We are looking for the main character, two young people 25-26 years old, the mother of the main character is a woman of 50 years old, and most importantly, we are looking for a 12-year-old boy and an eight-month-old child. Our director of photography from Moscow, Maksim Samsonov, who graduated from VGIK two years ago, will take part in the selection of actors. He is a student of Yury Nevsky, who shot the film “Love and Doves” at the time," the interlocutor of the publication noted.

Alexander Dalmatov also graduated from the higher courses of VGIK, studied with director Vladimir Alenikov, who shot such films as “The Adventures of Petrov and Vasechkin”, “The Smile of God”. The young Kazan director made several short films. The picture based on the work of Nurikhan Fattah will be his first feature film.

Tatar-speaking children are worth their weight in gold

“It is always very responsibly to make classics, especially historical films. Falsehood will be visible a mile away. Everything is important, right down to the hair. In a historical film, actors can't have modern hairstyles, and this happens on the screen, and it always looks ridiculous. In our film, young people should be bald. For example, a 12-13-year-old Altaf, of course, should wear a very short haircut. I must admit that now the search for actors for historical films is difficult: many have dyed hair, the girls have extended eyelashes, pouting lips. It's all very noticeable in the frame. Therefore, we must be careful.”

Professional actors from Tatarstan theatres are welcomed for casting. In addition to Kazan, the actors of the Almetyevsk, Atninsky, Nizhnekamsk theatres have already submitted applications for participation. According to the film crew, the search for a suitable actor for the role of Altaf, a 12-year-old boy, is particularly difficult. They plan to look for him in theatre studios.

“Children who speak Tatar well are now worth their weight in gold. In addition, in our case, they should also be cinematic, alive. We hope to find such teenagers in theatre studios, fortunately, there are quite a lot of them. There is a theatre studio Apush at the Kazan City Hall, Nur studio at the Union of Theatre Professionals, where famous actress Nailya Garayeva is the artistic director. The actress of the Tinchurinsky Theatre, Zulfiya Valieva, and the actress of the Kamalovsky Theatre, Milyausha Shaykhutdinova, have their own theater studios in Tatar schools.”

Fasting during filming

The actors of the film during filming will be as close as possible to the military era. As the director of the film said, he plans to limit the actors even in food, so that hunger in the frame looks more plausible.

“An actor who plays a hungry man should be hungry himself. You can't play hunger in your eyes after you eat a piece of greasy sausage for lunch. During the filming, the food will be very scarce. For example, just soup. I think I will suggest that the actors fast during the shooting period or just eat only when they come home.”

Filming is supposed to be conducted in several locations. Logging is planned to be filmed in the Arsky district. The Surnara forestry or forests near the famous village of Kyrlay are being considered. Besides, the film crew is looking for an old wooden house and original Tatar utensils.

“We are looking for locations all over the republic and even beyond its borders, for example, in Mari El in the Paranginsky district. We need a village where wooden houses with wooden gates and wooden fences are preserved. The house itself should have unpainted floors, ceilings and walls. You might think that all this is easy to find in a museum, but it will be very noticeable on the screen. We have to create the interior of a Tatar village ourselves. As for clothes, we sew some of the costumes to order, we take the other part from theatres. For example, we need 40 old sweatshirts to shoot in the forest at deforestation. Now we are negotiating with Moscow studios about this, there is an option to buy new ones and age them. And the third is to look in theatres.”

A Tatar woman is stronger than a man

The film is dedicated to a Soviet woman in the difficult war years: her difficult fate, strength, endurance, self-sacrifice. The painting is dedicated to the 95th anniversary of Nurikhan Fattah's birth and the 79th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

“The story of the People's writer of Tatarstan, Nurikhan Fattakh, known more as the author of historical works, has not left me for seven years. I fell in love with this piece. I think that the story “In May 1944" is his most talented work. He was able to very subtly show all the difficulties of wartime, all the burden that fell on the shoulders of women during the war. The fate of children, the relationships of people in this difficult time. Their bitterness and despair, and at the same time, their ability to remain human," says Dalmatov.

The writer had to change the ending of his story. In the 1960s, in order for censorship to miss the work and it could be printed, Nurikhan Fattah had to change the originally conceived climax, where the main character dies — the author left her alive. Gumar Bashirov advised him to do this. “Write an optimistic ending," he told him. “Let the book not end in death or tragedy.” As a result, the magazine “Kazan Utlary” published Fattah's story with a happy ending. The writer published the original version only in the 1990s, Dalmatov said.

“Actually, the story is very simple. Village girl Khamdia is going to get married, but the war begins. The groom goes to the front and dies. Another young man who returned from the war with wounds, Salim, taking advantage of her difficult situation and the fact that there were very few men at that time, deceives the girl. When he finds out that she is pregnant, he promises to get married but does not do it, being afraid of his mother, who eventually forces him to marry another girl. Here it is shown how much a Tatar man is weaker than a woman. It is not difficult to imagine how the villagers perceive this news. The girl has to leave for logging, being pregnant. Khamdia has been doing grueling work for more than 2 years. There she gives birth to a child and, in order not to give him to an orphanage, in order to save his life, she decides to run away to her native village. The young woman is full of hope that hard work on the collective farm can wash away her shame and that people will accept her. But in the village, hunger awaits her, universal condemnation and misunderstanding. She has to hide from the eyes of her fellow villagers. Subsequently, many will find out about this and will begin to help her. In this film, I want to show not only the feat of people in the rear, but also that even in such difficult conditions, people extended a helping hand to each other. At the climax, the fear of persecution overcomes Khamdia, she runs away and dies. But our film ends on an optimistic note, because there is hope — the child is alive.”

We need to get rid of the “theatricality”

According to Dalmatov, there is too much theatricality in Tatar cinema now and we need to get rid of it.

“We need to move away from pretense and pathos. We are already moving towards this. There are very good examples of Tatar films, for example, “Mullah” and “Kire”, where everything is very natural. Tatar cinema should form its own Tatar film language and Tatar game style. If we show the lives of ordinary people in the cinema, then film monologues and dialogues should be simple and understandable to people. The words should be the ones we use in everyday life. But this does not mean that Tatar speech should be mixed with Russian. I am against this. I don't accept this either in the theatre or in the cinema. We wrote the script together with Shamil Fakhrutdinov, a famous playwright, Honoured Artist of the Republic of Tatarstan, who works at the theatre named after K. Tinchurin, and tried to comply with all the principles of the film language.”

The film will be shot at the expense of a grant from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Tatarstan under the auspices of the Arsk community. The producer of the film is the director of the Tinchurinsky Theatre, head of the Arsky community Fanis Musagitov. The director of the project is an actor of the Karima Tinchurin theatre, Irek Khafizov.

“In total, according to our calculations, about 6 million rubles are needed. The ministry has allocated us 2 million rubles so that we can start working. And then we will have to rely on our own strength and on the help of patrons. I believe that there are many people in our republic who are not indifferent to art and that we will be able to bring our project to completion. We have very high hopes for the Arsky district and for the businessmen who came out of this area," says the director.

Alexander Dalmatov admitted that he would like the film to reach a wide audience. Tatarstan produces a lot of films, “but the people don't know them, they don't see them," he worries.

“At most, you can watch Tatar films at film festivals. It would be good if they were shown in districts, schools, higher educational institutions and, most importantly, on television," Dalmatov concluded.

Milyausha Kashafutdinova