PAGES FROM THE HISTORY OF TAJIK CINEMATOGRAPHY
It is September 11, 1929. The testing had shown positive results and local inhabitants, in accordance with the new Soviet traditions, have been waiting for the arrival of the very first passenger train that would soon complete its journey from Tirmiz to Dushanbe and thus connecting the capital of Tajiks with the all-union railway network. Among the people at Dushanber ’s newly formed station, mainly government officials who anticipated carrying out an , official meeting, were three European men, wearing attractive leather hats and working on something that was utterly unknown to the crowd. The three men would hurriedly stroll from one part of the-station to another, carrying with them a tripod and occasionally setting it on the ground and placing an unfamiliar apparatus on top of the tripod. Suddenly the sight of the long-anticipated train grabbed people’s attention, whistling and decelerating as it approached the station. The crowd’s cheers, joy and amazement were incredible, as this remote region, not having that many flat roads, had seen the “iron horse” (or as some locals would refer to it as “devil’s carriage”) for the first time. The crowd continued cheering and no one was now paying attention to what the three men were doing. The trio also amazed at the sight of the train and the crowd would continually rotate the corner of their mysterious box.
The train finally reached the crowd and came to a halt, and so did its smoke and vapor.
After three days these people were surprised to see the arrival of the train, themselves and their friends on the movie, and had understood who those three European men were. The film shooters, N, Gizulin, V, Kuzin, and A. Shevich, who had used the very old “Cinema” device to capture the arrival of the first train, remained as the originators of Tajik filmmaking in the history of Tajik cinematography. Vasiliy Vasilevich Kuzin has noted in his memories that on October 15,1929 the day of opening of the Third Emergency Congress of the Councils of Tajikistan Autonomous Republic, when the declaration on the Establishment of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic was announced, the first newsreel “Soviet Tajikistan” was screened to the congress delegates. It consisted of two scenes “International Youth Day” and “The arrival of the very first train to Dushanbe”. Kuzin writes: “After the completion of the official part of the congress, a white shade was drawn closing in the stage. The audiences about 800 people sitting in chairs or standing in the passages were now very quiet and motionless. The sound of film displaying devices went louder and the audience was now looking at the screen with amazement as the recent events that had taken place in the capital were presented to them once again. The film’s tape was only about 300 meters; however, that evening the crowd would watch the same tape over and over, each time with amazement and cheerful applauses”.
It is a similar coincidence that the worldwide and Tajik cinematography have both begun with the arrival of the first train. A train in the history of Tajik post-revolutionary culture was considered the sign of introduction of the new civilization into this remote area.
For Tajikistan the20-30 the cinematography was indeed a new revolutionary sign. At that period, the largest part of Tajikistan’s population, widely referred to as mountainous Bukhoro, were illiterate and superstitious. Therefore, motion pictures would become a guide for entering a new era of the victory of human wisdom, an era of technology, creativity and innovation, development and evolving of ideas. They connected and familiarized the ignorant and oblivious people of the mountains with the rapidly evolving world. This was happening in spite of the role that the Soviets entrusted the cinematography to propagate their ideology, which made the professionals of the sphere to prepare and display their creations with this directive in mind. Nonetheless, it would have a positive impact or people’s intellectual development and the rise of their national identity.
However, it should be noted that despite all these positive impacts, the early years of national film development in Tajikistan passed with difficulties and complications. Tajikistan was a part of the very illiterate and superstitious regime of Emir of Bukhoro in the past, and therefore, had experienced a very slow development and showed little improvement due to a number of reasons, such as its remote geographical location, canonical problems, lack of proficient potential labor force and overall poor conditions of film making environment, constant conflicts and battles with the enemies of new system and so forth. Nonetheless, the open-minded intelligentsia and Communist Party members who arrived to Tajikistan from various Soviet states brought a new beam of hope with them: their benevolent intentions and efforts towards improving Tajiks living standards resulted in development of the very first professional film studio as well as many local specialists in the field of cinematography.
On May 18, 1930, the film production trust of “Tajikfilm”, otherwise known as national film studio, was launched. At that time the trust did not have necessary equipment and technology yet, so its initiators would look for creative and innovative ways and experiment them to turn photography equipment into film shooting tools and invent necessary devices that they lacked at those times (it should be mentioned that using creative ideas to innovate and invent became a custom in this film studio; even in the peak of the studio’s development there were people who would continually innovate and develop film technology add receive prizes for their inventions). In order to reach their film shooting destinations, filmmakers would use whatever means of transportation were available sometimes they would ride horses, camels and donkeys; other times they would travel long distances on foot; occasionally they would be lucky enough to get a ride from random drivers on their ways. Eventually, through hard work and sacrifice, these people would capture historical moments of the fortune of our nation.
In addition to numerous propaganda documentaries, the studio was also producing a lot of feature films those days. Of course at that time the film making technology was plain and underdeveloped: films were produced soundless and in black-and-white form. Among the earliest soundless feature films were “Right of Dignity” (1932), “Far from the Border” (1932), “When Emirs Die” (1932), “The Living God” (1935), to mention a few.
The history of Tajik cinematography has a lot to do with Komil Yormatov’s work and contributions. Yormatov is the first Tajik film producer. The “Right of Dignity” was his very first film in “Tajikkino” (1932). The “Immigrant” (1934), another work of Komil Yormatov, shoot in 1934, is considered as the best Tajik soundless feature film. Yormatov himself plays the role of Komil, the main character in the movie, while the film main female character is played by his wife Sofiya Tuyboeva, the first actress in Tajik film industry. The plot of the movie is based on a story of a young man who seeks fortune and joy outside of his country. Sadly, he does not find bliss in foreign lands and so he returns to his country, learning the true value of his motherland. In spite of the propagandistic nature of the movie, it was able to illustrate for the first time the real side of the national life via cinematography and in some way has succeeded. The main theme of the film, developing its lifelike and touching scenes, and most importantly, placing a great emphasis on authenticity of the story, made the movie ever more valuable.
Regardless of its successes and failures, the “Immigrant” proved that a movie can have a national feature and that it has to illustrate the undisclosed reserves of the feature movies in this sphere. Therefore, the real start of the Tajik professional filmmaking should be counted from those days, courtesy to a number of important figures in the national cinematography, including Komil Yormatov (producer, script writer, and actor), Soliya Tuyboyeya (actress), F. Bahor (producer of documentaries and a conductor), actors R. Qurbonov, R. Pirmuhammadov, and D. Saidov, Q, Olimi (the founder of Tajik dubbing in industry), M. Rahimi (script writer), who greatly contributed toward introducing their nation’s culture through film industry. Surely it does not imply that contributions by Russian and other nations’ cinematographers on origination of Tajik cinematography are not acknowledged. These people had a great impact on Tajik film making industry. However, it comes as natural to consider the very citizens of the nation as “architects” of this national culture.
This issue became the very reason that productions of feature films were temporarily paused in Tajikistan after K. Yormatov left the film studio and Tajikistan in 1940. In summer 1941 the war with the fascistic Germany began, so the majority of Soviet film studios were transferred to Central Asia.
That was when “Soyuzdetfilm” (nowadays referred to as Maksim Gorkiy film studio) began collaborating with “Tojikfilm”. Incidentally, at those times local potential workforces would study under experienced workers of “Soyuzdetfilm” and greatly apply their attained knowledge in practice. As a result of joint experience-sharing and learning, great films such as “The Son of Tajikistan” (1942) and “Tajik Musical Film” (the year of production is unknown) were produced. Both films were “propaganda-free” and attempted to illustrate the notable national characteristics of Tajik people.
Starting from the late l950s, as the idea of individualism was beginning to fade away, Tajik cinematography moved to the next level. The idea of limiting a film to only illustrating the external elements of people and the country was no longer supported. In accordance with the new realities, national cinematography had to move to illustration of the deeper and more complicated aspects of the lives of Tajiks and Tajikistan. Therefore, bearing this responsibility in mind, the “Tojikfilm” studio was already working a plan to create a colorful film with sound. During 1950s though 1970s film producer, Boris Kimyogarov was considered to be one of the most successful figures in Tajik cinematography. He had fallen in love with the Tajik culture and was fortunate to bring together ideas on vital themes of Tajik national identity and mold them into great movies. Restoring the image of Great Rudaki in nation’s memory “The Fate of Poet” (winner of the first prize at the Cairo Imitational Film Festival, 1959); or the moral power of Abulqosim Firdavsi’s poems “Kova The Smith” (1961), “The Legend of Rustam” (1970), ‘Rustam & Suhrob” (1971), “The Legend of Siyavush”, (1976), or screening the modern Tajik classical literature “Dokhunda” (1956), “Hasan the Alba Carrier” (1965), “A Man Changes His Skin” (1977-1978) these movies were the illustration of the achievements of Tajik cinematography in production of feature films. Creating of films such as “Tajikistan” (1945, Partnering with L. Stepanova, the film was awarded a bronze medal as well as Excellence Certificate of Venice International Film Festival in 1946), “In Pamir Mountains” (1946). “Valley of Millionaires” (1974), “Great Force” (1948), “In Pamir” (1952), “Vakhsh Valley” (1954), “The Land of Youth” (1950)’ “Soviet Tajikistan” (1951, the first color film, was given a USSR I national Award in 1952), “Tajik National Festival” (1955), “The People of Sunlit Nation” (1957), “Greetings Tajikistan” (1960), “Four Songs about Tajikistan” (1964), “Sadriddin Aini” (1949), “Singer of the Nation (1968), “Sadriddin Aini” (1978), which indeed led Tajik cinematography toward great achievements and receiving of leading international prizes (especially films about great Tajik writer de him alive for the new generations) originated and developed another sphere of Tajik cinematography the documentary. Through these films Boris Kimyogarov raised the notable national culture of Tajiks, the successors of the richest Iranian culture, to another level and thus guided them to look at the values and spiritual sources of their successors from a new and wider angle.
Boris Kimyogarov was the very first man to show a great deal of interest in the rich heritage of lranian nations and in the new period of history transmitted it into the values of world civilization in the form of films.
Alongside with Boris Kimyogarov there were other well-known producers such as Davlat Khudonazarov, Valeniy Ahadov, Tohir Sobirov, Marat Orifor, Anvar Turayev, Marvorid Qosimova, Abdusalom Rahimov, Suhbat Homidova, Muqaddas Mahmudov, Mayram Yusufova, Yelizaveta Kimyogarova and others, whose work resulted in splendid and memorable movies of all time. Grand movies by these producers are recognized as the finest movies of Soviet period in the history of Tajik cinematography, particularly “The Boy Should Marry” (1959), “The Death of Money Lender” (1966), the series of “Shaharzad Stories” (1966, 1984, 1987), “A Woman from a Long Way” (1978), and “Meeting in the Valley of Death” (1980) by Tohir Sobirov; “Zumrad” (1962),”A Star in the Dark Night” (1972) by Abdusalom Rahimov ,”The Third Daughter” (1970), “The First Loye of Nasriddin” (1977), “The Pain of Love” (1989) by Anvar Turayev; “The Summer of 1943” (1968), “Jura Sarkor” (1979), “Today and Every Day” (1979) by Marvorid Qosimova, “The Story of Paviak Prison” (1970) by Suhbat Homidova; “Encirclement” (1977), “My Heart In the Mountains” (1966) by Murat Orifov; “Short Stories About the Boys Who…” (1962), “The White Piano” (1969) by Muqaddas Mahmudova; “The First Morning of Youth” (1979), “The Man of Road”(1982) by Davlat Khudonazarov; “The Limp Dervish” (1986, “Family Secret” (1983) by Valeriy Ahadov; “Stories of Little Muk’’ (1983) by Yelizaveta Kimyogarova, and many more. It should be noted at this juncture that Yevgeniy Motile, who is famous for his “The White Sun of the Desert”, has begun pursuing his career in “Tojikfilm”. His film “Children of Pamir’’ (1963) opened a new era both in the “language” and the aesthetic of Tajik cinematography.
In the late 80 early 90 of the twentieth century the Tajik cinematography faced both the quantitative and qualitative changes. Although the Soviet filmmaking industry of that time was mostly propaganda-oriented, there were many who would attempt to find new approaches and themes both in the documentary and feature movies. The new idea of realism in portraying and reporting was implemented in movies by a group of new filmmakers such as Mayram Yusufova, Pulod Ahmadov, Safar Haqdodov, Gulbahor Mirzoeva, Tolib Homidov, Saif Rahimzodi Afardi, Bahtiyor Khudonazarov, Jamshed Usmonov, Safarbeki Soleh and others. Amongst the works of high artistic merit of time were “ The Time of Yellow Grass” (1991), “Passenger” (1989), “Brother” (1991), “Stars Above the Clay Stove” (1991), short documentaries like “The Grid” (989), ‘’The Well” (1991), “Daydream’’(1990), etc. that are notable for their deep glance at inner life of characters. The general peculiarity of these films is exhibited in the use of the new language and esthetics of cinematography.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the gaining of Tajikistan’s independence (1991) the national cinematography faced the hardest financial and economic crisis the five years of civil war. The majority of the Tajik filmmaker had to migrate to other countries, searching for sponsors to implement projects.
As a result, the main feature of the Tajik cinematography in the early years after the independence is that it continued existing in two ways within the country and abroad. The films of high artistic merits produced abroad by Tajik filmmakers include “Eyebrow to Eyebrow” (1993) and “Lunar Father” (1999) by Bakhtiyor Khudonazarov “Journey of a Bee” (1998 in cooperation with Min Byong Xan) and “Right Hand Angel” (2002) by Jamshed Usmonov, and many more.
Initiated by the local TV companies, the in-country cinematography was mainly producing the digital and video movies due to the financial and technological crisis. That is the reason TV serials were so popular at that time. However, numerous digital films were also produced that met the requirements of esthetics of feature movies. Almost the large number of films with a Bollywood-oriented culture were movies produced with the new approach in digital filmmaking, including “And I will Go Towards My Fortune” (M.Oripov, 1998, the first professional Tajik video film), “Statue of Love” (U. Mirzoshirinov, 2003), “Vagrant” ( G. Muhabbatova and D. Rahmatov, 2006), “Calendar of Waiting” (S. Soleh, 2005), and short documentaries such as “Happiness” (2006) and “Moving Cinema” (2007). It was around that time when several filmmaking studios such as “Cinema”, “Kino service” were formed to make Tajik cinematography ever more fruitful.
For the first time since the independence of Tajikistan, a professional movie named “The True Noon” (2009) was produced by Nosir Saidov on a 35 mm tape. Ever since then the movie has won prizes in nine international film festivals. Nowadays Tajik cinematographers actively collaborate with their foreign counterparts and jointly produce new films.
Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, hosts the international Film Festival “Didor” once every two years. Tajik cinematographers also take part in different International film festivals and win honorable prizes.
Tajik cinematography, a phenomenon of the national culture, has in many ways fulfilled its duty towards the population of the country. It has always known the better and the worse, ups and downs, achievements and failures of the country and like a mirror reflected the face of the nation to itself and the international public. Surely this mission shall remain unchanged for the future of the all-seeing lens of the Tajik cinematography…