The Space of My Dream
(Interview with Bakhtiyar Khudoinazarov)
Bakhtiyar Khudoinazarov has a unique sense of rhythm and ease of flight, which gives his viewers a subconscious feeling of happiness and freedom. His film Kosh Ba Kosh received the Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival, which is probably the most prestigious award of all Central Asian cinema of the last decade.
Bakhtiyar Khudoinazarov was born in Dushanbe. In 1989 after graduating from the VGIK film directors program, he worked in television and radio. Since the beginning of the civil war in Tadzhikistan he has lived and worked in Germany.
Gulnara: Bakhtiyar, when I recall VGIK, its atmosphere of the ‘80s, I think that we all felt some strong connection among our generation. It didn’t matter what republic one came from, what was important was how modern one was thinking. We all lived in great expectation of change, of something better, something new...
Bakhtiyar: At that time everybody was in euphoria. We all hoped for better and for tremendous changes in our lives. It motivated us to do something different, something experimental and new.
It was our wave. We all lived on the same floor – Rashid Nugmanov, Serik Aprimov and Alexander Bashirov. We breathed the same air, and they became like brothers to me because we knew everything about each other. The wave was big, giant, and even though we didn’t intend it, it was a wave of the Soviet cinema.
Gulnara: Are you talking about our spiritual closeness, about our roots?
Bakhtiyar: It is much simpler then that. It all started on the film sets of VGIK; we acted in each other’s shorts. Sergey Soloviyev, who opened his workshop for Kazakh film directors, influenced me more than any other filmmaker. Anatoly Vasiliyev, [prominent theater director] was rehearsing across the street from our school. VGIK was the one and only school for everybody. I cannot tie myself to Tadzhik neo-realism, as somebody said in the press. It is not Tadzhik neo-realism -- it is my neo-realism. The way I comprehend my motherland. I always lived between Moscow and the fairytale of Central Asia, which is still alive in my heart. Even the war was like a fairytale, even though horrific… I came back to Tadzhikistan to shoot my film Kosh Ba Kosh only because I felt that that town would disappear from my life. My father lived all his life in that town and still does. It was my farewell because I knew that I would not come back. I knew that if I ever wanted to feel the aroma of my home I could go to Bukhara, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. I never could separate myself from Central Asia. My last film was my dedication to all of Central Asia. Because it is not going to work out if one starts to separate.
Gulnara: You mentioned now Kosh Ba Kosh. Mirche Eliade wrote an article about how human habitats are divided into two archetypes: nests and ground-holes. In your movie there are both: traditional clay huts where people are hiding from the war like in ground-holes, and funicular cars – mansards -- where young lovers live like in nests. Did you purposely created these two spaces?
Bakhtiyar: I didn’t think about it but probably you can interpret it this way. In hard times it is dangerous everywhere. If you hide in a ground-hole, they can dig you out. If you hide high in a nest, they can knock you down. The only choice is to go to the heart of the danger.
Gulnara: But in your film the heart of the danger is left outside of the frame.
Bakhtiyar: Yes, but the viewer is always aware of it and afraid to go there. A different cinema starts there and a different dimension opens -- the space of hell. I was never interested in it.
Gulnara: I love Kosh Ba Kosh very much. I think it is a luminous picture. It contains the spirit of youth and love. And also, I think, it transmits the Tadzhik essence.
Bakhtiyar: I would say – the Dushanbe essence. The longer I live the more I understand that even thought a very multi-cultured crowd lived there, we all had one nationality – Dushanbe. That was a very special code, an algorithm that has now disappeared, unfortunately.
Gulnara: The three pictures. The three epochs of your life: Bro, Kosh Ba Kosh and Moon Papa. Can you tell which one is your favorite?
Bakhtiyar: It is hard to say because they are all very different. I tried one genre, then another, then moved to something totally different. I meant The Moon Papa to be the most accessible to the viewers.
Gulnara: I think that you did an outstanding job. The picture made your name famous. Plus, Moon Papa is the first project of this scale where Central Asia was demonstrated as a somewhat unified territory. It’s another matter that it’s a very eclectic Asia…
Bakhtiyar: That was the space of my dream. For example, I always dreamed of being born by the seaside. And here we found a lake on the borders of Tadzhikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. It was very symbolic. You probably noticed that my crew and cast were very international. It was my great pleasure to cast a Kazakh actor – Dimash Akhmedov, a Georgian actor – Merab Nenidze, and other Uzbek and Tadzhik actors. I aimed to shoot a film of Asia, communicating its ambiance and its breath.
Gulnara: I think that a common characteristic of Central Asian cinema of the last decade is the attempt to communicate grandiose ideas though simple stories.
Bakhtiyar: I think this is typical of the philosophy of an Asian man in general. His life flows from a moment of danger to a moment of rest and so on. This rest makes him think deeply because another struggle, with mountains, with desert and himself, lies ahead of him.
Gulnara: Speaking of Central Asian unity. In Moon Papa this unity exists. Is it logical reasoning or an artistic tool for you?
Bakhtiyar: It is logical reasoning because it is necessary today. It is my memory because it already happened in the past. And it is my dream because it will happen again one day. I am sure. These are the three turning points that ignite my film.
Gulnara: What, in your opinion, is the future of Tadzhik cinema?
Bakhtiyar: Currently, I don’t see any. The situation is so decayed that without governmental intervention nothing is going to change. For now is the most important task is to stimulate interest s in our region. It is impossible to count on western investment in our cinema – here we can consider only very insignificant sums. My case I do not take in consideration. Film directors are nomads because their homes are where their jobs are.
28 May 2001, Moscow
Gulnara Abikeeva, 2003
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