Under the decree of Council of People’s Commissars of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan Photo Cinema Department (APCD) was founded in 1923 shortly after the occupation of Azerbaijan by Russian XI Red Army and establishment of Soviet government. Cinema was also nationalized as all other sectors and private sector was suppressed. APCD began establishing State Cinema factory (future “Azerbaijanfilm” cinema studio) in the building of former “Renaissance” restaurant and Cinema factory was inaugurated on 28 April and the first movie diruced in state cinema factory was “Maiden Tower”. Director Ballyuzek was invited from Moscow to direct the movie. In 1925 APCD was joined with Cinema factory and first renamed “Azerstatefil,”, then “Azerfilm” and Shamil Mahmudbeyov was appointed a head of the renamed establishment. Workshops, shooting pavilions, cinema diruction base with laboratory were created in the cinema factory.
There was a huge need for national personal to provide the newly-founded cinema diruction. This is why, both for improving the quality of movies and for preparing local personal, professionals were invited from Moscow and Leningrad. Outstanding directors V.Pudovkin, N.Shengelaya, I.Savchenko, A.Baynazarov, M.Chiaureli were invited to Baku. Outstanding actors of Azerbaijan A.M.Sharifzadeh, J.Jabbarli. Braginskiy, M.Mikailov, A.Guliyev, Kazim Ziya, Sidgi Ruhulla, Mustafa Mardanov, Ismail Hidayetzadeh, Mohsun Sanani began working in the cinema.
Abbas Mirza Sharifzadeh had a great part both as a director and an actor in the first phases of the development of our national cinema and cinema studio. “Bismillah” movie directed by him was the first movie shot by Azerbaijani director and was the first success. The themes and ideas of movies shot on the eve of silent cinema in te cinema factory “Daughter of Gilan” (dir. Leo Mur), “Haji Gara” (dir. A.M.Sharifzadeh), “Sevil” (dir. A.Baynazarov), “Letif” (prid. M.Mikailov), “Almas” (dir. A.Guliyev, G.Braginskiy) and others were of communistic ideology and served them like in all Soviet space. This period played an important role in the formation of “Azercinema” state cinema factory (workshops, pavilions, laborotories), national cinema diruction process and national personal, creative search and exchange of our actors.
Samad Mardanov, Alisattar Atakishiyev, Rza Tahmasib, Husein Seyidzadeh, Niyazi Badalov, Mukhtar Dadashov, Rasul Rza, Anvar Mammadkhanli, Sabit Rahman were sent to Moscow Cinematography Institute for professional education in the early 30s and they were the bedrock of creative personal of the cinema studio.
Samad Mardanov was the first professional Azerbaijani director who studied in Moscow and directed the first sound cinema “On the shore of Blue sea” with Boris Barnet in 1936. Some outstanding cinema theorists enlisted this movie among the best movies in the world. In 1939 Samad Mardanov began directing “Villagers” movie, but unfortunately he was not destined to participate in the presentation of the movie. His life ended tragically.
In 1936, for the first time, “Chapayev” movie was translated from Russian into Azerbaijani in the cinema studio. (dubbing directors: Sh.Sheykhov, B.Konstantinov)
Following dubbing of “Chapayev” movie into Azerbaijani, other national studios of Soviet Union began dispatching their directors to “Azerfilm” studio to learn dubbing method.
Since then “Azerfilm” studio began translation the best works of soviet cinematography and foreign movies into Azerbaijani. Directors Sh.Sheykhov, H.Ismailov, Z.Kazimova, I.Afandiyev, H.Aliyev, Y.Bagirov, Y.Yulduz were in charge of dubbing works.
The cinema studio was renamed to “Baku cinemastudio” in 1941. The cinema studio starts screening “Arshin mal alan” operetta by Uzeir Hajibeyov and directors Rza Tahmasib and Lev Leshshenko were in charge of this. Despite being criticized, national color, humor and upbeat mood of the movie made it very popular in Azerbaijan and overseas and the movie was awarded USSR State Award, the highest prize of the time.
The number of movies diruced in the USSR fell drastically in the late 40s and cinema studio only managed to shoot “Fatali khan” and The lights of Baku” movies.
In 50s-60s directors Hasan Seyidbeyli, Tofig Tagihizadeh, Ajdar Ibrahimov, Adil İsgandarov, Habib Ismailov, Letif Safarov, Shamil Mahmudbeyov began working in the Baku cinema studio.
The number of movies diruced rose and it helped diversify the themes of the movies: “Bakhtiyar” – dir. Letif Safarov (1956), “İf not that one, this one” (1956) and “Unconquerable batalian” (1966) –dir. Husein Seyidzadeh; “Two boys of the same block” – dir. I.Gurin and Ajdar Ibrahimov (1957), “On the distant shores” – dir. Tofig Taghizadeh (1958); “Stepmother” – dir. Habib Ismailov (1958); “Telefonist girl”
“If not that one, this one” – 1956, dir. H.Seyidzadeh (1962) and “Why are you silent?” (1967) – dir. Hasan Seyidbeyli, “The secret of one castle” (1959) and “Magic gown” (1964) dir.Alisattar Atakishiyev. New names appeared in “Azerbaijanfilm” in the second half of 60s and early 70s: Eldar Guliyev, Rasim Ojagov, Arif Babayev, Oktay Mirgasimov, Yalchin Afandiyev, Kamil Rustambeyov, Tofig Ismailov, Gulbeniz Azimzadeh, Teymur Bakirzadeh, Fikret Aliyev, Abdul Mahmudov, Anvar Abluj, Yuli Gusman, Zaur Maharramov, Rasim Ismailov, Valeri Kerimov, Sherif Sherifov, Anar, Alla Akhundova, Rustam and Maksud Ibrahimbeyovs, Isa Huseinov, Yusif Samadoghlu, Ramiz Fataliyev, Mais Aghabeyov, Nadir Zeynalov, Rafig Gambarov, Kenan Mammadov and others.
The main theme of the movies diruced during this period was the reflection of individuality of a person and problems arising before an individual and demanding literary searches. “In one southern city” (1969) by director Eldar Guliyev marked the beginning of new phase in Azerbaijani cinema with the new problems it aroused and description of some national peculiarities. It was not received unequivocally. The state even put a ban on this movie for a while.
During these years, directors were trying to shoot movies deciphering social strata of the society and their differences. However moral problems were not left aside: “The last day of childhood” (1970) and “The day passed” (1971) by director Arif Babayev, “Our teacher Jebish” (1969) and “Happiness cares” (1971) by director Hasan Seyidbeyli, “Birthday” and “Investigation” (1979) by director Rasim Ojagov, “Shared bread” (1970) by director Shamil Mahmudbeyov and others
During this period the most successful movies dedicated to the history of our nation were diruced. In 1974 director Hasan Seyidbeyli directed “Nasimi” movie dedicated to life, creativity and tragic death of the outstanding Azerbaijani poet and philosopher of XIV century Nasimi. Director Tofig Tofigzadeh directed “Dada Gorgud” movie on the basis of the same name epos. Director Eldar Guliyev directed “Babek” movie dedicated to the legendary hero of IX century liberation movement.
Despite communists’ censorship in Baku and Moscow, authors of movies of historical-revolutionary genre like “Outrageous Kur” by director Husein Seyidzadeh (1969), “I want seven boys” by director Tofig Tofigzadeh (1970), “The last pass” by director Kamil Rustembeyov (1972) display their sympathy for “negative heroes” of the revolutionary period.
“Azerbaijanfilm” cinema studio diruced a great deal of movies in the 80s. There were movies covering all the genres of cinematography. Their themes were different as well. Movies for children: “You cannot take with you only the island” (1980) – director Gulbeniz Azimzadeh, “Ache of milk tooth” (1981) – director Husein Mehdiyev, “Asif, Vasif, Aghasif” (1981) – director Rasim Ismailov, “Music teacher” (1983) – director Tofig Ismailov; Comedies: “Road adventure” (1981) – director Teymur Bakirzadeh, “I want to marry” (1983) – director Jahangir Mehdiyev, “Kidnapping of bridegroom” (1985) – director Jeyhun Mirzayev and Vagif Mustafayev; Musicals: “Don’t be afraid I am with you” (1981) – director Yuli Gusman, “Seven Beauties” (1982) – director F.Slidovker;
Historical movies: “Nizami” (1982) – director Eldar Guliyev, “Uzeir Hajibeyov” (1981) – director Anar, “Bloody field” (Outlaw Nabi, 1983) – director Abdul Mahmudov, Hasanagha Turabov; Psychological drama: “Park” (1983) and “Another life” (1987) – director Rasim Ojagov, “Tedious story” (1988) – director Jamil Guliyev; Social drama: “Behind closed door” (1981) – director Rasim Ojagov, “Long night” (1989) – director Shahmar Alakbarov, “Scoundrel” (1988) – director Vagif Mustafayev, “Joke” (1989) – director Yefim Abramov and Nizami Musayev; Detective: “At midnight the day after tomorrow” (1981) – director Arif Babayev, “Additional trace” (1981) – director Teymur Bakirzadeh, “In the open” (1986) – director Farhad Yusifov, “Evil is evident” (1987) – director Ogtay Mirgasimov; Portrait movies: “Window of sorrow” (1986) – director Anar, “I loved you very much” (1985) – director Rasim Ismailov, “Wait for a sign from the sea” (1986) – director Jeyhun Mirzayev;
Directors Zaur Maharramov, Yalchin Afandiyev, Khamis Muradov, Teymur and Nijat Bakirzadehs, Davud Imanov, Ruslan Shahmaliyev, Jahangir Zeynalov and others of “Union of documentaries and Chronological movies” under “Azerbaijanfilm” cinema studio recorded the history, the actual problems and chronology and conveyed to the spectators.
During this period movies diruced in “Azerbaijanfilm”: “Dissonance” by Teymur Bakirzadeh, “Birthday” and “Investigstion” by Rasim Ojaqov, “You cannot take with you only the island” by Gulbeniz Azimzadeh, “Evil is evident” by Oktay Mirgasimov and “Scoundrel” by Vagif Mustafayev received the highest awards in the cinema festivals of the union.
The following movies diruced by “Azerbaijanfilm” received the highest award of USSR and our country –State award: “Arshin mal alan” (1945) – dir. R.Tahmasib, M.Leshshenko - USSR, “Shared bread” dir. Sh.Mahmudbeyov, “Birthday” dir. R. Ojagov, “Bay of Happiness” dir. E.Guliyev, “Investigation” dir. R.Ojagov – USSR, “Midnight the day after tomorrow” dir. A.Babayev, “Bloody field” dir.A.Mahmudov, H.Turabov, “Scoundrel” dir. V.Mustafayev. Documentary directors R.Carmen, M.Dadashov, Kh.Muradov’s documentary films received USSR and Azerbaijan State Awards.
Reconstruction resulted in the independence of former Soviet Republics and elements of private sectors started to be felt in “Azerbaijanfilm” as in all other spheres. If before the movies were diruced only after the approval of Moscow Cinematography Committee, now cinema studio acquired independence and entrepreneurs began investing in movie diruction. “Murder in night train” by director Abdul Mahmudov, “Witness girl” by Husein Mehdiyev, “Murder day” by Gulbeniz Azimzadeh, “Sabotage” by Rasim Ismailov and so on. were diruced with the financial support of “Universal Bank”.
The films “Faryad” (Wail) by Jeyhun Mirzayev, “Ag atli oglan” (A boy on a white horse) by Enver Abluc, “Umid” (Hope) by Gulbeniz Azimzada, “Arkhada galmish gelejek” (Left behind future) by Rufat Asadov, “We will be back” by Elkhan Gasimov, made in the patriotic spirit and opening the sorrow and tragedy of our people with pain, love for country and in the artistic manner, win the sympathy of the audience.
Though new cinema studies were established in 90s in the first years of our independence, “Azerbaijanfilm” cinema studio maintained its leading role.
Directors, scriptwriters, operators bringing innovation to Azerbaijani cinema continued to cooperate with cinema studio: directors Ayaz Salayev, Vagif Mustafayev, Husein Mehdiyev, Yaver Rzayev, Jamil Guliyev, Shahmar Alakbarov, Ramiz Azizbayli, scripwriters Ramiz Rovshan, Orkhan Fikratoghlu, Natig Rasulzadeh, Aydin Dadashov, operators Rovshan Guliyev, Nizami Abbas, Adil Abbas, Nadir Mehdiyev and others.
“Strange time” by Husein Mehdiyev diruced in 1996 in “Azerbaijanfilm” won “The best director” and “The best young actress” nominations in I International Madrid Cinema Festival and was awarded “Golden Sibilla” and “Silver Sibilla”. This movie was demonstrated in over 30 countries of the world. “Sari Gelin” (Yellow Bride) by Yaver Rzayev diruced in 1998 won “Liberty” award founded by America in the International Cinema Festival held in Karlovo-Vari and won “The best scenario” nomination in “Cinema shock” Festival in Russia.
“Wizard” movie by Oktay Mirgasimov diruced in 2005 won the highest award “Gran-Pri” in “Golden pulpit” First International Festival of Islam Cinamas. “Hostage” movie by Eldar Guliyev was demonstrated and awarded in different cinema festivals – “Goteborg Exile Cinema Festival” , Sweden in 2005, “Cairo International Cinema Festival, Egypt in 2006, “Karlovi-Vari” Cinema Festival, the Czech Republic in 2007, Warsaw and Krakow cities of Poland in 2008. “Azerbaijanfilm” cinema studio is decently represented in International Cinema Festivals.
Today, young artist test their creative work at the “Azerbaijanfilm” film studio and it can be said with confidence that emergence of directors, script writers, camera operators and art directors of new generation at the “Azerbaijanfilm” film studio, having a certain tradition and playing a role of a school in the development of national cinema and formation of artists, is reality.