Brilliant appointment with the best of Central Asian cinema at the Tashkent International Festival

After its return last year, after a long hiatus, the best of Central Asian cinema returned to the red carpet at the 2022 Tashkent International Film Festival, with some 300 artists and guests from dozens of countries. Uzbekistan may not be the first place you look when it comes to the film industry, but for those in the ‘seventh art’, the country is a hotbed of film talent.

“This is a very famous festival: ‘The Pearl of the Silk Road.’ So, it has a wonderful energy”, declares Gabrielle Kelly, filmmaker who presides over the Jury of this edition of the festival.

One of the most unique issues of the festival is the so-called ‘Grand Prize’. Aimed specifically at new filmmakers, all competing short films are shot in Uzbekistan in just five days. This year’s first prize went to Uzbek director, actor and writer Timur Murodov, whose film ‘Casseta’ revolves around an old man who lives alone and is forced to adapt to modern life.

“The shooting took place in Bukhara. Akrom is the director of the film,” says actor Timur Murodov.

“Shooting a movie in five days is hard, but it was amazing. We enjoyed the work,” says director Akrom Shakhnazarov.

Fostering young creative talent is a recurring theme throughout the festival. With sixty masterclasses spread over several days, including one by the well-known French film director Luc Besson, the aim of the festival is to make the most of the experience and knowledge on offer.

“We create a great platform of educational programs for young people. Our guests come from all over the world. We ask them to teach and give seminars, master classes, training… This is important, since these are the young filmmakers who will produce the films of tomorrow from Uzbekistan,” says Firdavs Abdukhalikov, director of the festival.

Also, at the contest, ‘Hodja’, the latest animation project by the famous Russian-Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov, was presented. Due for release in 2024, it tells the story of a donkey who dreams of a peaceful life, but gets caught up in the adventures of the folk character ‘Hodja Nasreddin’.

“Uzbekistan is historically a crossroads between China, Europe, Iran and Russia. The Uzbek people have a special ability to welcome and welcome others. Cinema has a significant mission to bring people together of bridging cultures. And in today’s world, this is really important,” says director Timur Bekmambetov.

‘Hodja’ is just one of thirty regional co-productions that the festival is helping to make possible, with the aim of boosting the burgeoning film industry in Uzbekistan and throughout the region. An initiative that does not go unnoticed by those most familiar with the brilliance and fascination that Hollywood projects.

“When you see the level of people they’ve invited…they’re very important people. They want to be present in the film industry. And judging by the level of cinematographers who’ve worked here, it’s a pretty weight”, concludes the actor Armand Assante.

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