A drama by Azerbaijani film director Elchin Musaoglu, Nabat, produced by the Azerbaijanfilm studio, has been awarded at Bogazici International Film Festival, which was held in Istanbul, Turkey.
Nabat has been included in main competition programming. The creative team of the film attended the screening and the awards ceremony.
A rare art film from Azerbaijan, Nabat tells the simple but affecting story of an elderly peasant woman who selflessly cares for her dying husband in wartime while grieving for her lost son. What makes it extraordinary is the presence of major Iranian actress Fatemeh Motamed-Arya in a performance that echoes her heart-breaking turn as a wounded soldier’s mother in Gilane. Though her role here is less articulated and tragic, it’s tinged with stoic poignancy, well reflected in Elchin Musaoglu’s direction of the story like a leisurely told fairy tale tied to the natural world. There are some obvious holes in the story and it’s not the kind of hot topic that will have distribs lined up, though the Venice, Chicago and Tokyo festivals already have it on their dance card. The slow pace and unfamiliar setting will probably limit its appeal outside the Middle East.
Although the war in the Nagorno-Karabakh is never named in the film, the armed conflict in Azerbaijan (which took place from 1988 until the cease-fire in 1994, and is still diplomatically unresolved) is surely the background war. But like the Iran-Iraq war of Gilane, it is the least important thing, and Musaoglu’s screenplay deliberately keeps shots of uniformed soldiers to a bare minimum. The fighting is all off screen and is the excuse to set a static situation in motion, leaving center stage free for personal drama.
Deeply rooted in its setting of mountains and country fields, the film is suffused with nature imagery which includes a friendly she-wolf with cubs who seems to watch over Nabat protectively. The idea is presented so matter-of-factly it works. Visually there are things to look at as D.P. Abdulrahim Besharat pours on the atmosphere with fog, rain and snow, sensitively capturing various times of day as the sky changes to brilliant colors. The cellos and violins of Hamed Sabet’s melancholy score reinforce the mood a little too obviously.
The film was selected as the Azerbaijani entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, but was not nominated.