Azerbaijan’s submission to the 83rd Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film Award is THE PRECINCT. An odd and enchanting film, THE PRECINCT is extremely well made from top to bottom. And that could translate into an Oscar nomination.
An edgy story set in Baku, Azerbaijan, THE PRECINCT follows Garib, a successful photographer with a troubling past. His latest photography assignment postpones his marriage to Sabina who is growing tired of constant delays. In order to break the news of yet another postponement, Garib takes Sabina to the breathtaking cliffs of Gobustan. But after an argument, the couple have a single car accident on their way back to the city. As their car burns in the darkness, two police officers happen upon them. But who are these mysterious saviors? And why do they take the injured couple to the precinct instead of the hospital?
The oddly structured THE PRECINCT contains two stories–one told in flashback. The flashback story is far better than the one that opens the film and conducts the narrative. Garib is a man harboring dark secrets that unfold in a wonderful flashback sequence that alone could have supported an entire movie. That story involves Garib’s participation in a pornography ring. Today this secret, especially in the Western world, seems tame or even nothing to be concerned about. However, to Garib and the conservative society in which he lives, it is a dark and even criminal past. The modern day Garib may be a legitimate photographer whose chief product is artful photos of beautiful nude women, but his talent was crafted in a distasteful and personally embarrassing way.
An intricately written and skillfully captured film, THE PRECINCT caught me with its strange even supernatural styling. It plays somewhat like a feature length TWILIGHT ZONE episode but less exploitive and more dramatic in the ultimate objective. As the initial story unfolds, viewers might think they are in for some kind of horror film. But there is a purpose to the creepy approach taken by writer/director Ilgar Safat. And you have to give it to Safat, THE PRECINCT held my attention as the action moved from the creepy present, where supernatural forces seem to be lurking, to a flashback story that has serious weight and meaning.
I can’t remember seeing many films from Azerbaijan. And if THE PRECINCT is an example of that country’s filmmaking, we should be very excited about future offerings.
By Jonathan W. Hickman 2010-11-10