The Forum "Azerbaijani Cinema 125: Reality, Challenges, and Goals," organized by the Ministry of Culture and Heydar Aliyev Center, takes place in Baku on April 20–21, as part of the "Year of Heydar Aliyev".
On April 20, prior to the forum's commencement, film personalities visited the grave of national leader Heydar Aliyev at the Alley of Honor and placed wreaths and flowers in front of it.
Later, the opening ceremony was conducted at the Heydar Aliyev Center.
Farah Aliyeva, Head of the Department of Humanitarian Policy, Diaspora, Multiculturalism, and Religious Issues of the Administration of the President, officials of the Ministry of Culture, notable film personalities, and media members attended the event.
First, the attendees were shown a photo exhibition showcasing 125 years of Azerbaijan's cinema history.
During his opening speech, the Minister of Culture, Adil Karimli, welcomed the participants of the forum. He highlighted that the forum dedicated to the rich traditions of Azerbaijani cinema is taking place as part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the national leader Heydar Aliyev.
The minister noted that recently, a forum celebrating the 150th anniversary of the national theater was held at this venue 10 daya ago. Over the course of two days, theater figures from Azerbaijan and other countries convened to address current issues and modern challenges and discuss future directions. The Minister said, "We hope that the film forum will be remembered for stimulating interesting discussions and providing insights into the future of Azerbaijani cinema. The main goal of today's gathering is to discuss the challenges and prospects, identify solutions to the issues currently confronting the national film industry, and set new development paths.
It's worth mentioning that we're not just holding theater and film forums, we will also organize forums on other cultural areas as part of "Heydar Aliyev Year." The Ministry of Culture will take into account the recommendations made by experts at these events when developing the strategy for the advancement of Azerbaijani culture until 2040”.
The minister highlighted that the history of Azerbaijani cinema goes back to 1898, which is not far behind world cinema. It has gone through a rich and tumultuous 125-year journey and left an impressive legacy for the people of Azerbaijan. The establishment of the "Azerbaijanfilm" film studio, named after Jafar Jabbarli and celebrating its 100th anniversary, whose foundation was laid in 1923, paved the way for the systematic development of national cinema art. For decades, the movies produced by our cinematographers have contributed to shaping the national worldview by inspiring respect for national and moral values as well as love and dedication to our motherland among our fellow citizens.
Highlighting the significant contributions of Heydar Aliyev to the development of Azerbaijani cinema Adil Karimli said, "National leader Heydar Aliyev has made important contributions to the development of our national cinema, as he did in all fields of art. The national leader once said that "cinema is the annals of our people,” and he paid great attention and care to the field of national cinema both during the Soviet era and during the years of independence when he led Azerbaijan. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan's cinema was stagnant, as were other fields. However, thanks to the national leader's care, Azerbaijan's cinema started to develop again. Azerbaijan's legal framework for cinema activity began to take shape under the guidance of the national leader in 1993. On December 22 of the same year, the State Film Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan was established. The establishment of Azerbaijan Cinema Day marks a historical milestone that was made possible by Heydar Aliyev's invaluable contributions to the field. Azerbaijan used to celebrate Soviet Cinema Day as its national cinema day for a long time, with Azerbaijani cinema being deemed to have begun only in 1916. However, President Heydar Aliyev's order of December 18, 2000, ended this injustice against our cinema history by accepting August 2, 1898, as the beginning of national cinema history. It has been celebrated as the Day of Azerbaijani Cinema for over 20 years as a professional holiday for cinema workers." The minister emphasized that Azerbaijan's film art is essential in promoting national ideology, history, culture, and spiritual values and raising social awareness. Therefore, the state and personally, the Honorable President Ilham Aliyev, are giving it special attention and care, the minister pointed out.
The state's high attention and care for the national art of cinema are clearly evident in the "State Program on Development of Azerbaijani Cinema in 2008–2018" approved by the relevant order of March 1, 2019, by the head of state, and the order "On some measures related to the development of Azerbaijani cinematography."
In recent years, films produced by our country's film industry have been participating in and receiving awards at the world's most prestigious international film festivals. This, along with the increase in investment in film production and the expansion of our audience, suggests that our cinematography has entered a qualitatively new phase.
Moreover, the Action Plan of the "Socio-Economic Development Strategy of the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2022-2026," approved by the order of President Ilham Aliyev dated July 22, 2022, includes the concept for the development of cinema art. These steps taken by Azerbaijan's leadership will improve the implementation of state policy in the field of cinematography and modernize local production and broadcasting infrastructure. This is also crucial in terms of guaranteeing international competitiveness, taking part in numerous international collaborative projects and film productions, joining global platforms to achieve international acknowledgment of the expertise of Azerbaijani cinematography, and driving new economic activity and stimulation in this domain”.
The Minister highlighted that Azerbaijan's cinema art was promoted at several festivals, including the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, thanks to the dedication and support of Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Vice-President of Azerbaijan and President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, who has played an invaluable role in the advancement of our culture.
The establishment of the Cinema Agency with transparent management mechanisms was emphasized as a new stage in the development of Azerbaijani cinema art. The Ministry of Culture has accomplished all the necessary steps in collaboration with the relevant institutions for the launch of the agency.
The establishment of this agency will unlock opportunities for the Azerbaijani film industry to participate in various international projects, such as joint film production on prestigious platforms like Eurimages. This move will bring fresh experiences to local cinematography and boost economic activity in the audiovisual sector. The minister noted, "The current period can be described as a renaissance for Azerbaijani film in terms of creativity. This is anticipated to enhance the appeal of our films to both domestic and global viewers, leading to further advancements in national cinematography. On the other hand, it is important to highlight that while there have been notable advancements, the Azerbaijani film industry is confronted with a number of challenges. The forum aims to safeguard the rich heritage of our cinema industry, identify the current issues facing cinema art in Azerbaijan, as the custodians of this legacy, deliberate on measures to drive its growth and competitiveness in the coming years and create development strategies and state programs accordingly. We are confident that the esteemed members of the audiovisual community present here will lend their support to our efforts in researching and improving all aspects of this field, starting with personnel training."
The minister highlighted the pressing need for novel relationships, fresh challenges, encouraging private sector participation, reducing reliance on the state, and introducing radical changes to match the evolving trends in the global film industry. Karimli said, "We are certain that you are already a part of these changes and challenges, having successfully established your presence in the industry. All that is required now is for us to unite as a single team to expedite and enhance this process. In this regard, the film forum serves as an excellent starting point and the main public dialogue format for achieving the mentioned objectives.
It's certainly impossible to address all the problems that exist within our cinema and cinematography over the course of two days, and that's not our goal. However, the primary objective is to continue these dialogues and discussions on a larger scale and convert this process into a functional mechanism. We anticipate receiving more systematic and constructive ideas and proposals from you regarding the existing issues and the mechanisms to resolve them."
In conclusion, the minister wished the forum success and expressed his appreciation for all the participants and individuals who put in their best efforts to organize the event.
The Chairman of the Union of Cinematographers of the Republic of Azerbaijan and People's Artist, Shafiga Mammadova, delivered a speech on "Heydar Aliyev and Azerbaijani cinema." Noting the importance of 2023 for our cinema, she expressed her satisfaction that the forum was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the national leader. The People’s artist said, "Heydar Aliyev's contribution to the growth of cinema in Azerbaijan is exceptional. The name of Heydar Aliyev is closely associated with successful projects in our cinema history. His contribution to the arts is immeasurable, as our films received the USSR State Prize during his leadership in Azerbaijan and Moscow. Upon his return to the leadership of independent Azerbaijan, our national cinema witnessed a serious turnaround. Today, President Ilham Aliyev is continuing this tradition. The cinema community expresses its appreciation to the leader of our country for his continued attention and care”.
People's Artist Rasim Balayev, Chairman of the Azerbaijan Union of Filmmakers, emphasized the significance of training specialists in the field of cinema, educating a new generation of directors and screenwriters, and focusing on creating films that address universal issues.
People's artist and director Ogtay Mirgasimov stressed the importance of preserving universal and timeless values in cinema. He highlighted the mismatch between the films screened in cinemas and the national characteristics, and expressed serious concern about the showing of films that do not reflect national values.
Following the speeches, the event continued with a screening of a video that portrayed the history of Azerbaijani cinema.
Later on, the forum proceeded with panel sessions.