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FILMS / REVIEWS France / Azerbaijan

Review: Bilesuvar

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- Elvin Adigozel creates an atmospheric and existentialist film, painting through five stories the elliptical portrait of everyday life and of evanescent horizons in the heart of Azerbaijan

Review: Bilesuvar

"What has he done? What is he doing? What will he do?" Unveiled recently in Busan (in the New Currents section) and in competition this week at the 42nd Nantes Festival des 3 Continents (an edition exceptionally held online), Elvin Adigozel’s Bilesuvar [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
explores in small, suggestive touches the reality and uncertainty of life in a small town in the south of Azerbaijan, a humble urban island lost in the middle of a region where “all there is is sheep breeding.” A casually strange territory, as if suspended in time, stuck between fatalism, resourcefulness, and vague dreams of a more abundant elsewhere (relayed by the radio, which proudly announces that the Formula 1 Grand Prix will continue to take place in Azerbaijan until 2023) which the filmmaker (noticed with Chameleon [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
et Reporting from Darkness [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) radiographs to create snapshots of humanity within an almost documentary-life fiction and through five stories only barely connected to one another. A deliberately subtle approach with echoes with the muted images of landscapes that open the film, like an invitation for viewers to create their own sounds and to then fill in the narrative blanks as they please.

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In the first chapter, entitled “Don’t mess with me”, the young Niyameddin kills time while waiting to go away for his military service. He walks around in the mud of the countryside and the darkness of the city, plays cards in an empty shed where his friends comment on his situation (“try to become a non-commissioned officer. If you come back, you’ll be a shepherd like me — go make yourself some money”) and where he breaks up with his girlfriend on the phone (“you’ll never see me again, you’ll never hear my voice, I’ll never call you again.”). His path crosses that of Tofig, a married schoolteacher whose job is a real vocation (“he said he would stop sending his son to school, that he had to stay to take care of the herd. I tried to explain, but he wouldn’t change his mind”), which reminds him of an old friend (“helping villagers is pointless… How much money do you make as a schoolteacher? Come to where I live, in Russia, I’ll find you a job. You have sacrificed your life to teaching here.”) The film then moves on to the episode called “You mean nothing to me,” centred on theatre director and actor Ilgar, who sets out to break up his actors, the couple formed by the beautiful Gunel and Cahangir (who is married to another woman), and to steal the young woman. Another artist is at the heart of the next tale (“Don’t worry”), another Gunel, a singer appreciated for her work at weddings and who plans to record a video shot by Kamran, a penniless filmmaker from Baku whose (very funny) misadventures constitute the final part of the film (“Sometimes he disappears”).

Exploring various genres (from dry drama to comedy, and even vaudeville) within a grey sociological realism (marked by loneliness, lack of money and of opportunities for the future), Bilesuvar unfolds in the register “we eat, we drink, we talk, we tell each other stories”, capturing without strain the spirit of many places (a parc, a cafe-restaurant, a very artisanal fish farm, etc.). A suggestive journey on the edge of austerity which says a lot about Azerbaijan without seeming to even touch on the subject, and about a filmmaker who knows how to observe and pierce the darkness without ever imposing anything on the viewers, who remain free to take hold of whatever they like.

The film is produced by French company Caractères Production (which also handled international sales) with Azerbaijan (Adari Films and Memuar Films).

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(Translated from French)

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