Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Death of Uzbek Film Maker Shukhrat Abbasov

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Scene from The Whole Mahalla Is Talking about It
One of the greats of Uzbek cinema, Shukhrat Abbasov, died recently in Tashkent, aged 87.

Born in 1931, in the city of Kokand, in the Ferghana Vlley, Shukhrat Abbasov  graduated from the Tashkent Medical College in 1949.

Then in 1954 he studied in the Department of Directing at the Tashkent State Institute of Theatrical Arts. In 1958 he undertook further directorial studies in Moscow's famed "Mosfilm".

From 1958 he held senior positions at Uzbekfilm studio until 1991, after which he became the Secretary of the Board of the Union of Cinematographers of the Republic and later the Deputy Chairman. He also taught drama and cinema courses at the State Institute of Arts and Culture of Uzbekistan

As a theater director he staged successful productions of Heart Secrets by B. Rakhmanov, Nurkhon by K. Yashen, Meysar's Tricks by Hamza, Sick Teeth by A. Kakhhara and others.

Huge numbers of students flocked to this lectures at art institutes and he mentored many Uzbek directors. People who knew him said that Shukhrat Abbasov possessed an unusually productive memory and erudition: he was able to enchantingly read the verses of Uzbek, Russian and French poets and he knew how to enjoy life, its beauties and intellectual wealth.

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Shukhrat Abbasov in 2015
But it is as a film maker of remarkable films in the 1960s that his reputation was cemented. The film You are Not an Orphan (1962) is based on the true story of blacksmith Shaakhmed Shamakhmudov and his wife Bahri Akramova, who adopted 15 children of various nationalities during  WWII.

Tashkent City of Bread, beautifully shot in black and white, and scripted by Tarkovsky’s collaborator Andrei Konchalovsky, this powerful melodrama tells the story of a young boy who undertakes the perilous journey to Tashkent, to earn some money for his hungry family.

Filming in the periphery of the Soviet Union, in a time of relative political relaxation, Shukhrat Abbasov actually dared to depict the poverty and famine that resulted from the Bolshevik Revolution.

In tribute to this much-loved and multi-awarded film maker, there are now retrospectives of his films in Tashkent.

Recently, Human House, screened The Whole Mahalla Is Talking about It. Mahalla is a form of traditional Uzbek community that celebrates together weddings and funerals and everything in between. In the USSR, the mahalla was considered a relic of the past.

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Original poster from Tashkent City of Bread
In the center of the film are several mahalla families living on the border with *new Tashkent*. Parents still do not know what an elevator is and how the word ar-chi-tect is pronounced. Their children are building those elevators and mastering advanced occupations.

Mothers are eager for traditional daughters-in-law,  but the children growing up in the USSR are resisting traditional marriage. A number of funny misunderstandings and expectations, hopes and disappointments make up a beautiful patchwork that will please all fans of Soviet comedies.

The old and the new Tashkent are divided intentionally and strikingly, emphasizing the inevitability of change.  One of the most interesting aspects of this film is seeing what the city looked like then, prior to the 1966 earthquake that devastated much of the old city.

The Whole Mahalla Is Talking about It is one of those wonderful propaganda films fueled by Soviet mythology about communism, friendship of peoples, industrial progress and emancipation.

Many of Shukhrat Abbasov's films can be found on YouTube. And this week at Human House, which regularly hosts film evenings, there will be screenings of more of his films.

Related posts:
Uzbekistan as Film Location
Tashkent's Soviet Buildings
The Blacksmith and his Family Return 
Tashkent: A City of Refuge