The Precinct - a film for 'people who ask questions

News.Az interviews Azerbaijani film-maker Ilgar Safat.

The Precinct is showing at the Mugam Centre in Baku on 29 November. Could you describe the film and its target audience?

This is a film for adults who ask themselves questions. Some people do not do this even by the time they reach 40 while others start to ask questions when they are 16 or younger. Therefore, I think the film may be enjoyed by people of different age groups and social status, from young people to the older generations, but overall I think the story will be closer to the over-30s. The film itself features our recent Soviet past without any resentment. The hero is a famous photographer of the "new" genre, who has a car accident after a quarrel with his fiancee. After that they find themselves in The Precinct. I think any further description of the plot will spoil the story, so I'll stop at this. The film is very complicated, people can see in it what they wanted to forget, to delete from their memories, their past or present.

As I understand it, the film does not show clearly that the events occur in Baku?

The whole film was made in Baku and its suburbs. The reality is recognizable in the film but for me it is more important to build the “internal space” of our hero. The main hero of the film is introverted and I wanted to show the city in a rather abstract way, as it is seen by the hero. I think this makes the story universal as it could have happened anywhere to anyone.

You said that the film deals with our common, recent Soviet past. What do you think is the reason for the current trend in cinema to return to the Soviet period of the USSR, often giving what seems to me an excessively optimistic, idealized image of the era?

It is human nature to recall only the good things with the passing of time and to forget or try to forget the bad, which, unfortunately, is common at any time and in any country. I agree that there were problems in the USSR, but at the same time it had much that was positive, in other words, things that people feel nostalgic for. These are primarily relations between people. At that time, they were warmer, friendlier, more open, without the current pragmatism and mercantilism. Probably, this is what prompts nostalgia in those who return to the USSR in their creative work.

Can a film featuring the Soviet past of its protagonists interest a western audience?

I want to believe that our film is about general issues, whether the audience is from the west, north or south. I think the story is archetypal and can interest different people. The film does not feature the Soviet past, but human relations and problems in moral choices. No one can avoid these issues.

Is this film a box office hit?

To answer the question properly, we have to restore the network of cinemas in Azerbaijan and resume distribution as it was done in the Soviet Union. At that time, every region had a cinema, even in remote mountain villages people could enjoy the magic of the cinema. A weekly showing of The Precinct was organized at the Azerbaijan Cinema and allows me to give quite an optimistic answer to your question.

What can be done to help your film's chances of an Oscar nomination?

If we are lucky and The Precinct gets to the short list, then we'll be able to talk about influence for an Oscar. But now it is too early to talk about it. But let’s not be obsessed with the box office. The very fact of our participation in this most prestigious film award is a very responsible and honourable thing. We are realistic about our chances but hope for the best, of course.

Akper Hasanov. 2010-11-29