Thought-provoking Azerbaijani films screened to Parisian cinephiles

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Four short films representing many facets of Azerbaijani life have been screened in Paris as part of the 'Europe by Europe' Film Festival on 8 April. Several of the directors were present, and the event was organised by The European Azerbaijan Society.

Irena Bilic, Director, Europe by Europe Film Festival (left) and Marie-Laetitia Gourdin, Director, TEAS France

This collaboration gave us opportunity to discover a country – Azerbaijan – through its cinema.

The French office of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) organised a special event dedicated to Azerbaijani cinema on 8 April at L’Entrepôt Cinema in Paris as part of the 10th annual Europe by Europe Film Festival. The cinephiles enjoyed four short films – 'Offside' directed by Thomas Goltz, 'Yara: The Wound' by Teymur Hajiyev, 'The Last One' by Sergey Pikalov and 'Torn' by Elmar Imanov and Engin Kundag. Around 40 Parisian movie aficionados attended the screening, as well as film directors from Hungary and Spain, whose short films were also selected for the Festival.

The evening started with the opening words of Irena Bilic, Director of the Festival and Marie-Laetitia Gourdin, Head, TEAS France. Mrs Bilic expressed her delight at having the opportunity to present Azerbaijani films for the fourth consecutive year. She commented: “First of all, this collaboration gave us opportunity to discover a country – Azerbaijan – through its cinema. During four years of collaboration, we presented eight films, four of which you will discover tonight. These four years of collaboration also allowed me to witness the ongoing revival of the Azerbaijani film industry, exemplifying the work of an emerging generation of artists.”

Mrs Gourdin said: “We are screening four films tonight at the festival – the largest number of titles to be presented as part of our collaboration, to date. Two films – 'Torn' and 'The Last One' – were respectively part of the official selection for Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in the Short Films category last year.”

The chosen films this year presented many diverse facets of Azerbaijani society – 'Offside' showcased the Qarabagh Agdam football team, which is obliged to play outside of its city following the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh; 'Yara – The Wound' provided an illustration of the gap between the old generation of Azerbaijanis who lived under Soviet rule and the younger generation, who have completed the transition to capitalism and the western way of life; 'The Last One' covered the topic of the generation gap in a more metaphysical and pictorial way; and lastly 'Torn' gave a vivid picture of a family in Baku, where a father and son try to overcome the death of their wife and mother – a societal subject ably interpreted by Mir-Movsum Mirzazade, a young talented actor whose career is currently in its ascendance in Azerbaijan.

The screening was followed by a debate between the audience and directors – Elmar Imanov, Teymur Hajiyev and Engin Kundag. They responded to questions about the making of their films, the choice of location and actors, the current situation of the film industry in Azerbaijan and their forthcoming projects.

The reception after the screening provided further opportunities for informal discussions on the films presented.

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