Azerbaijan marks 120th anniversary of national cinema

2 August 2018 10:00 (UTC+04:00)

By Laman Ismayilova

Films transfer you to a world away from reality, a place where you feel excited, scared and happy during those two and a half hours.

Azerbaijan has a rich history and has significantly contributed to the international film industry. National cinematography is well known worldwide. Countless national full-length and short films are now shown at various international film festivals. 

Shortly after the Lumiere brothers from France invented cinematographe, a new apparatus for making motion pictures, in 1895, Russian photographer and cameraman Alexandre Michon, began shooting motion pictures that depicted everyday life in Baku. 

The first short, silent film of Azerbaijani cinematography "You are caught" was shown in Baku on August 2, 1898. He made films about the life of native Baku, including "Fire at Bibi Eybat", "Oil fountain on Balakhany-Sabunchu field", "Caucasian Dance" and others.

To honor this historical day, August 2 was declared as professional holiday of all cinema workers: honor directors, actors, script writers, lighting technicians, etc. It is a nationwide event that highlights the role of national cinematography.

In the further, Azerbaijani film industry continued its development. In 1915 the Pirone brothers of Belgium set up a film production laboratory in Baku. At their invitation the director Boris Svetlov came to Baku and shot the films "The Woman", "An Hour before His Death" and "An Old Story in a New Manner". He also directed the film "In the Kingdom of Oil and Millions". Legendary Azerbaijani actor Huseyn Arablinski played Lutfali, the main role in this film.

Azerbaijan's film industry enjoyed further tremendous growth. 

In 1916, Boris Svetlov shot the musical comedy "The cloth peddler" (Arshin Mal Alan), originally a silent movie with the musical parts performed in a studio and female roles played by male actors. The role of Gulchohra was played by Ahmad Aghdamski and Aunt Jahan was played by Y. Narimanov.

This comic and romantic operetta is about pure love, women's rights, and fight against outdated traditions. 

With the establishment of Soviet power, a new era in the art of cinema began in the country. One of the first steps was the nationalization of films. Thus, all spheres of cinematography were in the state jurisdiction.

In the same period, national cinema formed its image.

In 1922, the leadership of the Azerbaijani SSR decided to create the first film factory in the country, which became the predecessor of today's film studio Azerbaijanfilm. In the following year, the Azerbaijan Photo Film Institution (APFI) was established by special decree of the Council of People's Commissars. , carrying out measures to nationalize and unite photo-cinemas and rental offices of individual entrepreneurs.

APFI shot its first film The Maiden Tower Legend in 1924. It was the first Azerbaijani Soviet and was based on the legend about the Maiden Tower.

In the 1930s, Russian director Boris Barnet filmed By the Bluest of Seas in Azerbaijan. The film, which is set on one of the country's islands in the Caspian Sea, has received a high evaluation from film critics.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Baku film studio mainly directed artistic-documentaries. During this period "Fatali Khan" (1947, film director V.I.Dzigan) and "The Baku Lights" (1950, film directors I.V.Xeyfits, A.G.Zarkhi and R.Tahmasib) were shot.

In the middle of the 1950s, new stage of national films began. Film subjects included mainly labor and life of workers. The films "Under The Broiling Sun" (1957, film director L.Safarov), "Black Stones" (1958, film director A.Quliyev), "The Shades Are A Creeping" (1958, film directors I.Afandiyev and Sh.Sheykhov), "His Large Heart" (1959, film director A.Ibrahimov), "A True Friend" (1959, T.Tagizade), "Could He Be Forgiven" (1960, film director Tahmasib), "Our Street" (1961, film director A.Atakishiyev), "A Large Pier" (1962, film director H.Ismayilov), "A Telephone Girl", "There Is Such An Island As Well" 1962,1963, film director H.Seyidbayli), "Stepmother" (1959, film director H.Ismayilov) are brilliant examples of national films  that shot during these years.

After Azerbaijan gained its independence from the Soviet Union Azerbaijani film industry entered a new era. The change is being observed in the ideas and themes of films. Moreover, the first Baku International Film Festival East-West was held in country.

As a model of caring for the movie industry, August 2 was announced as a professional film festival of employees.

This year Azerbaijan's cinema celebrates its 120th anniversary.

In conjunction with the anniversary President Ilham Aliyev has signed an order on marking the 120th anniversary of Azerbaijani cinema.

Nowadays Azerbaijan's film industry enjoys huge recognition at international film festivals.

The national film industry develops in many ways.

A number of national films like "Pomegranate Orchard", "The Steppe Man", "Man of the third day" have been highly appreciated by film critics.  Many Azerbaijani film makers and actors are awarded with prestigious awards.


Laman Ismayilova  is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova

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