After the show in Minsk “Pomegranate Garden” from the main competition of the Listapad’s feature films program took one of the leading positions in the viewer rating. Having watched the premiere, the audience not only actively voted, but also participated in the discussion of the film with producer Ali Isa Jabbarov, they asked questions and joked. As it turned out, the similarity with Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard” is not the only highlight of the film.
A shot from the film “Pomegranate garden”
We can not understand a lot from the description of Ilgar Najaf’s picture: it echoes by its name and plot with the famous work of Russian classics, but this is just a canvas, interweaved with bright visual symbols and unique Azerbaijanian meanings.
“At first Ilgar Najaf wrote a 5-page synopsis. When he began working on the script, he saw the Chekhov’s trace in the film becoming more and more vivid. This film is not an adaptation of the “Cherry Orchard”, it’s the work inspired by the “Cherry Orchard”, – describes the details of the creative process Ali Isa Jabbarov.
A bright detailed picture, warm colours and a wide frame with several focuses – that’s what immediately catches the eye of an attentive viewer. The mind and senses respond to the deep private and social drama, unfolding in these scenes.
Shamil is an old owner of the garden, similar to Chekhov’s landlord, who lives and blossoms together with the sprigs of his trees. These trees symbolize his family and his roots. One of his sons was killed, the second one disappeared 12 years ago, having left his wife Sarah with a small baby named Jalal. Neighbors are jealous of Shamil and dream of buying his garden to destroy it and build plants in its place. Sarah brings up her son alone and suddenly finds out that he does not distinguish the red colour: he sees the fruits of pomegranate jet black, while they are the pride of their family and their nation. Time goes by, the 12-year-old Jalal is getting smart beyond his years. Their life goes on as usual, until one day everything in this small family changes, because the person, who is not bemoaned any more, suddenly resurrects – Jamal’s father Gabil returns after having worked abroad.
Everybody is confused, while Gabil tries to carry himself free and easy. “Where is the old road to the garden?” – “Much has changed,” the father answers him grimly. “All that I have are these trees,” – says Shamil to his son. It hurts Gabil, because after the death of his brother the father teared him away, and that changed him a lot. “There has never been a place for me in this house,” Gabil drops. “We all are one family,“ says Shamil. He is angry with Gabil, but he is ready to forgive him. The problem is that Gabil is not a person he claims to be.
Foto by Natalya Kirilko
Some people will see the film conflict in a family misunderstanding, others will see it in the complexities of labor migration, and another group of people – in the eternal opposition of capitalism to traditional values.
Igor Sukmanov, feature film program director, notes: “This is not only poetic, but also very social cinema. The image of a breadwinner in the Transcaucasian culture is firm and worthful. The father is like a stone wall, behind which every member of a family can hide. But in this film everything is vice versa.”
Despite the desire of the co-producers to show the realities of their culture embellished, the authors of the picture went their own way: “Ilgar Najaf is a realist, therefore he would not make a fully poetic film. That is clear from his directing style,” said Ali Issa Jabbarov.
However, the creators of the film still tried to show the traditions of their culture in the film.
Ali Isa Jabbarov shared: “The main theme of most Azerbaijani films is family. The peculiarity of our society lies in family values. There are also negative aspects in it: clan and tribal thinking, but when people are close to each other, it helps to fight against dictate of capitalism and financial dependence.” In the film, family members’ values were different – that is the base of drama in the “Pomegranate Garden”.
Igor Sukmanov mentions that Chekhov often referred to the theme of the influence of capitalism on human souls. This is another elegant Chekhovian parallel in the picture.
The viewers are also interested in more earth-bound questions: how big is the garden shown in the film, are such gardens profound in Azerbaijan? Ali Isa Jabbarov answers: “Pomegranate economy dictates the lifestyle of those who live there and are engaged in it. In addition to the fact that pomegranate is delicious and healthy, it also has a mystical feature, his own aura: however, in this film pomegranate acts not so much as a symbol – it is more interesting as a visual object.”
Foto by Natalya Kirilko
In the final scene, pomegranate trees bloom again outside the window, but Jamal sees them black. “Does it mean there is no hope?” – people ask Ali Isa from the hall.
“You see, the task of such a movie is to create a feeling of reality with help of shock. There is no hope, but you see that there are no good or bad characters,” Jabbarov explains.
Igor Sukmanov adds: “It seems to me that black petals are seen not only by a child, who does not distinguish red and black colours, but we ourselves begin to see this wormhole in beauty. And this situation appeals to us: what can we do to return the world its natural colours? In my opinion this picture was created to make this world better.”
At the end of the presentation Ali Isa Jabbarov presented Igor Sukmanov a pomegranate – one of those grown at the sunny plantations of Azerbaijani province. And it’s not just a gift, it’s also a symbol: the cinema, including Azerbaijani cinema, lives and sparkles with different colours – you just have to learn how to see them.
Text by Alina Buraya