Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev in the ceremonial ‎evening dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the cinematography of the country and opening ‎of "the festival of the festivals" - May 2, 1998‎

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Distinguished guests of the festival, dear friends! Rustam said that I have to say something. But you said so many things today that it is too hard to add anything. Today, we discovered for Rustam Ibrahimbeyov, and his colleagues as well, that the Azerbaijani cinema begins from 1898 and it is 100 years old. This is first. It is bad that you don't know it. We also considered 1916 as the beginning. (R.Ibrahimbeyov from his seat: "if you issue a decree, then everybody will know it"). But you have already stated it. If it is necessary to make it official with any document, then it is naturally possible to issue a decree for it. But it is not so simple thing to prolong the experience of the Azerbaijani cinema, if it is possible to say so, ten or some other years.

It means that Azerbaijan is a civilized country and a cinema appeared in Azerbaijan as soon as it was invented. There are few countries where a cinema existed immediately after its invention by the founders.

That is why the festival is worthy, for example, for me for this discovery along with all happy events, with its being made evident and demonstrated.

Secondly, today, it is indeed such a time that it is hard to gather too much people in one place. Nevertheless, you came together. I remember "the festival of the festivals" held two years ago. But there were few guests then, and it was a small meeting if it is possible to say so. Today, it is a great meeting. I hope it will be greater next time.

There is an order of things here, because a tendency of moving away from each other after the collapse of the Soviet Union was very strong. That is quite natural. But after staying away from each other, feeling ourselves, gaining freedom and achieving independence, we started to miss each other and decided that it is necessary somehow come closer to each other. I approximately understand it this way. That is why there are more people in Baku than two years ago. It means, that is quite order of things. I approve this tendency and wish that cinema figures get closer to each other, become stronger and produce movies which correspond to the spirit of the modern period and taste of the modern people.

Of course, it is clear to all us that television has driven cinema into corner. I remember, today Rustam reminded me here, we were celebrating here, in this hall the 70th anniversary of the cinema of Azerbaijan. It was in 1976. I was also participating in that event, and I suppose I even made a speech there. I remember, I talked then not only about the cinema but other issues as well. But I was in touch with the cinematography later and I was saying that cinema, theater will not lose their importance despite television gains greater opportunities. I feel it once again now. Such a natural thing happens, television pushes cinema into corner in some degree. But the people, how to say is fed up with the television and feel a desire to come back to a cinema, a greater screen. I think that it will happen.

I am happy that the Azerbaijani cinema developed much during its existence. Today, when you showed some fragments from the Azerbaijani cinema chronicle, if to say openly, I became more and more happy, although I have seen all this and I know them. It comes a time that you get in touch with the history again. I don't know what about others, but it is a great feeling of happiness and pride for me.

It is not that I am happy only because the Azerbaijani cinema is one hundred today, but because many movies have been created. I remember, we were going in cinema when we were children, and there were no movie with sound, they were soundless, and I remember well Azerbaijani, Moscow even foreign films. We have first seen Charley Chaplin in a soundless movie. There was a film, "Miss Mend", do you remember? It was a very interesting film, and we, young people were watching it with such an interest although it was soundless. I mean that I remember well those distant years. I was ten then. Today I can see that how high cinema has grown up. There were good films before the war, I mean the Second World War, and they were created during and after the war too.

But today, Rasim Balayev, is he here? Why are you sitting so far? No seat? You have given everything to the guests. You did right, Azerbaijani people give their best to the guests. You know, I remembered such an Azerbaijani tradition now. Those who live in Baku, do not know, but those from provinces do, in the rural places if Azerbaijanis have one, two rooms, they keep one of them only for the guests. We were sleeping on the floor when there were no beds. Good blankets and mattresses were only for guests. We were somehow managing without it.

I remember well, when I was a child I had went to a village, to our relatives. They met and fed us at the entrance of the house, but did not allow us to enter the room. And for whom it was? For guests. There was a bed, a blanket covered with fine silk and pillows. They had no carpets to cover the floor for them. I though that a guest comes once, twice or three times a year, but the room is not used. A man lives in such a condition all the year. You see, what psychology it is. It is probably connected with the character of our people. Everything good is for guests. Sometimes it is said that the Azerbaijanis feed and water the guests well. It is true. They feed them very much, one, two, three… kinds of meals. A guest thinks that these people always eat so. But they don't.

May be he can't eat once a month as he feed a guest and get satisfied with a little meal. But a guest is given everything. I don't denounce our national customs and character. I remembered all this, because Rasim Balayev has taken a seat aside. I had sat in such a way too, and had not been allowed to the guest-room.

A cinema has played a great role in the life of a number of generations. For example, it had a very great role in the life of my generation. Prewar films with military-patriotic characteristics, revolutionary, as Rasim Balayev said today, and others were very interesting and worthy from an artistic point of view and they were a work of art as well. But they helped the people along with it. They and those which were made after helped much.

That is why we always respect cinematography, cinema figures and artists. Today, you saw how each of you were met and how much applauds, joy and satisfaction were there when you were being invited to the scene. With your coming, your intercourse, with this night, you gifted great feelings of honor not only to those who are in the hall, but those who were not, because everything was broadcast live. That is why the people will be very thankful to you for all this. I was paying great attention to the development of the cinema when I was the head of the country. Rustam and others remember it well. Today a fragment was shown, Rustam is very young there. You even can not recognize whether it is he or not. I remember Rasim Balayev's first appearance in a film too. The late Hasan Seydbayli was shooting a movie, "Nasimi". We were celebrating the 600th anniversary of our great poet Nasimi and we had decided to make a film about him. It was a good tradition. We were celebrating the jubilees of the prominent peoples, books, novels, historical essays were being written and films made about them. We built a magnificent monument of Nasimi in Baku first time then, we have a district named after him, and we made a film dedicated to him. Hasan Seyidbayli undertook to make this film. I remember, the scenario was very complicated. Because a history had to be analyzed in order to decide what to be shown or what not. It was because, I am once more citing Rasim Balayev, he said that an ideology was playing a role. It was true. That is why something had to be adapted to the ideology. The film was made well in general.

I think that this was the first fundamental historic film of the Azerbaijani cinematography. I remember, then I met and talked with Hasan Seyidbayli and asked who would perform Nasimi. He said, you know, I have found a good promising young man. I asked where he was. He said that he studied in the theater institute. I have tried him and you come and see if I am right.

He performed Nasimi well, very fine. Now you see, he grew a bit older and large. He was a very handsome and tall guy. Of course, he is handsome now too.

Why do I remember all this? Because al this is the past and I was busy with it and focused on. A film on Babek is the same. Eldar Guliyev made an excellent film. Today we remembered with Rustam some moments of intervention of our different figures into the activity of producers. It also happened. We were protecting, watching and assisting other films. I am happy that the cinematography of Azerbaijan has developed much.

May be someone remembers here, I was supervising the Committee of Cinematography when I was the first Deputy Chairman of the Soviet of Ministers in Moscow. Yermash was often visiting me and we were solving a number of issues. A decision was taken to assist substantially the development of the soviet cinematography. I had been charged with this issue, because I was leading this field in the Politburo and Soviet of Ministers.

I am a very curious man and it is necessary to get into essence to do any work, so besides my knowledge of the cinematography, I had to study its condition, opportunities etc. I held numerous meetings with the greatest figures of the cinematography and we prepared everything, document and draft of resolution. I said to Yermash that call the most prominent people of our cinematography and I will also come. It was in 1984. We had a conversation for some hours. Some of the participants there have already passed away. But some of them are here, Rustam and Shengelia were there. I have to say that we prepared a very considerable document of that period, the program of development of the Cinematography of the Soviet Union.

After adoption of this document, we held a big, union wide meeting of the activists of the cinematographers in October hall in Moscow, and I made a report there. First, we talked about the development of the cinematography. You probably remember. Where is our guest from Turkmenistan? I remember, you made a speech there. We discussed these issues all the day, the greatest figures of the cinematography made speeches, talked about their proposals and thoughts. You see, I am directly connected with the cinematography. That is why, I know you not only from screen as a simple spectator, but from your practical activity and I respect you very much. I know that cinematography is very hard and difficult. In general, a work of artist is very hard.

I have said not once and today want to say again that a spectator watches the scene, an artist performs its role, he is well-known man and everybody applauds him etc. But not everybody knows how a man be nervous until his getting to the scene and what happens behind the scenes. But I know it. That is why I highly appreciate the work of the theater workers, artists, actors and producers and I came to this meeting with the same feelings.

Today, I listened speeches about you, watched you and it gives me great pleasure that you keep your form and you are famous now as you were in the past. I want to stress once again that I am very pleased that you have gathered in Baku again and I wish you successes in the development of the cinematography. Long live and develop the friendship of all cinematographers of all the nations.

Translated from "Azerbaijan" newspaper, May 5, 1998