/ Presented as part of Filmatique's Foreign Language Oscar Submissions II Series /
Spotlight on Pomegranate Orchard
Ilgar Najaf / 2017, Karlovy Vary, Cairo, Didor, Eurasian International Film Festival, Fajr, Film by the Sea International Film Festival, Kerala, Listapad-Minsk, Malatya, SEEFest Los Angeles, Tallinn Black Nights, / 90'
Shamil lives in rural Azerbaijan, on a tranquil farm surrounded by fields of ancient pomegranate trees. Old age has begun to take its toll and, sadly, his daughter-in-law Sara and her young son are unlikely candidates to continue his legacy. The decision to sell the farm weighs heavily on Shamil until his son Gabil returns home one day, after a twelve year absence. The toll Gabil's sudden disappearance exacted on his loved ones reveals itself incrementally, suspending the family in an uncertain future.
Studied in its approach to emotional wounds long since scarred over, Pomegranate Orchard translates Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard to the vivid landscapes of Azerbaijan, a country on the brink of its own transformation. Ilgar Najaf's second feature premiered at Karlovy Vary, Cairo, Tallinn Black Nights, Fajr; Minsk, where it won Best Screenplay; Malatya, where it won Best Film; and the Eurasian International Film Festival, where it won the Jury Award. Pomegranate Orchard also won the Young Cinema Award at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, and was selected as the seventh Azerbaijani submission in history for the Foreign Language Oscar. It was not nominated.
"As a depiction of a time that has passed amidst the onslaught of modernity, it is often calm and quiet whilst hiding a maelstrom of emotions below the surface… If Chekov's original sentiments were somewhat ambivalent about social upheaval— he was more critical about those who could not accept or adapt to change— Najaf's film finds the modern world a corrupt place, encroaching on the idyll of rural life. Ahan Sylar's cinematography treats the family orchard with reverence, the camera swooping over the land and giving it a bucolic grace and beauty"
- Laurence Boyce, Karlovy Vary Review, Screen Daily