29 October 2020

Thursday, 05:05



Hamida OMAROVA: “No technology can replace live contact, live exchange of thoughts.”



“Just like everyone, I walk on the Earth...” I recalled these lines from Alla Pugacheva’s popular song Songs About Me (1978) not by accident. The person I’m going to tell you about is a famous actress, TV host, professor, writer, People’s Artist of Azerbaijan - Hamida Omarova. She is a very kind and bright woman, who continues to live in full compliance with the moral laws of her ancestors, with a clear understanding of good and evil. It was incredibly difficult to talk to her about herself, because she was constantly going away from the topic and began to talk (quite enthusiastically and in detail!) about her colleagues. By the way, this is not my first interview with such a famous and popular person. But for the first time I saw a woman who wanted to talk not about herself, but about others.


Loving one

Never during our online dialogue has she tried to demonstrate or hint that she was somewhat special. On the contrary, my interviewee impressed me with her extremely modest, open-minded and kind personality. She lives the way her mother lived: responding to other people's pain, lending her hand to those in need. In this conversation about her related specialties (actress and teacher), she constantly slipped into the plane of a completely different conversation. Perhaps she thought that it was more important to tell me how wonderful her talented classmates from VGIK (1979) are, the interesting characters of young actresses and actors, young directors she had been able to share the stage and the movie set. Her words about each of her colleagues were so sincere and so enthusiastically emotional that I wanted her to take me to the set of the TV series Ata ocağı, in which she has shared the set with her classmates and those young actors and actresses for three consecutive years. She has also made appearances in various other films shot not only in Azerbaijan but also in film studios of Yalta, Tajikistan, Iran... Hamida Omarova was more interested in talking about others than about herself - for a long time, thoughtfully, with sincerity and love.

Her students is a different part of the story. She describes them affectionately, with motherly love, and highly appreciates their love of cinema... Our conversation was not about the profession as a profession but about profession as a style and meaning of life.


“How do you find the combination of so different functions as an actress, teacher and mother? How do you get along with all of them?”

“I must admit that it’s difficult. But I have to keep up! First as a mother, then as a teacher, actress, public figure, TV host, relative, writer and until recently a daughter... Full cycle all day long. I lost my mother when I was 54 years old, but I still feel her loss as if it happened just yesterday. Time does not heal at all! All those rumours that actresses live a bohemian lifestyle is just a myth. It only seems that the actresses has a life compared only to fairy tales - beautiful, full of wonderful surprises and so on. But in reality, we live like everyone else. I am one of those actresses who do everything themselves, taking care of their life and home. I do not have servants who would do all the housework for me. My mother has taught me that a woman must take care of the housework on her own. Like so many other actresses, I also need to do everything myself and be in time so that I could perform each of the above listed functions efficiently. That’s why I try to do everything enthusiastically.”

“Which of these functions has a priority?”

“My son is the most important part of my life. I sincerely hope that all his dreams come true in his own life and in the life of his friends. I want them all to find their place in life and be happy.”

“How strong do you feel the need for constant intellectual and emotional renewal?”

“My life path is developing in such a way that I do not have a deficit of renewal: I have roles in films, I continue teaching and working for the television. This is a process of constant renewal.”

“How long have you been collaborating with television and teaching?”

“A little over 30 years.”

“As far as I know, you have been a TV host in various programs created on TV studios in other cities of Azerbaijan?”

“That’s right. I have been the host of the program Retro since March 8, 1986 up until 2007. It was broadcast on the AzTV-1 channel in Baku. After that I hosted the program called Kinoshtrikh. Then I had my own programs on ANS (Seans), Medeniyyet TV (Müasir xarici kino), Sheki television (Müasir Azərbaycan kinosu), and Khachmaz television (Azərbaycan kinosunun unudulmaz sənətkarları).

“How do you fill in your personal space: reading, watching movies, writing memories, learning languages?”

“My dream is to have a sleep, a good one. I have been saying this for many years. That’s because of the rhythm of my life. Now I recall this with a bright sense of nostalgia. It so happened that my entire personal space is strongly linked with my professional activity and creativity, with the life of my son and my relatives. I have some time for reading, and for watching new films, and for writing stories, and for communicating with friends, and for writing a new textbook, and for drawing portrait sketches...”

“How many books have you written and what are they about?”

“My first book called Ölümdən sonra xoşbəxt idim (I was happy after death) took me almost 25 years to complete. It includes stories related to mother, her memories, thoughts of the growing son, my profession and funny cases on the set. I wanted to capture some moments from our lives, leave them in time and share these moments of human happiness with others. This also included the first part of my script for the movie. And the remaining four books are about the history of world cinema as a textbook for students. But it seems to me that books will be interesting to those who love cinema and are interested in its modern development.”

“Do you have any idols among actors and directors?”

“Yes. Masters of Azerbaijani cinema, which have deeply influenced both my professional development and life. I remember everyone with love and gratitude. All of them, both actors and directors! Because each of them was ready to share their professional secrets with me, a beginning actress. How can I forget this?”

“What is the fundamental principle of being an actress?”

“Interest in life, interest in a person, his thoughts, motives of his actions. In a word, one should be interested in all the concepts of human relationships and life.”

“Where do you feel yourself as actress the most: on the theatrical stage or on the movie set?”

“My career as an actress began in 1980, when I was cast for the feature film Qızıl uçurum (The Golden Abyss) based on the story by Ibrahim Musabeyov, the first film directed by Fikret Aliyev and my first role after graduation from the VGIK. That’s how the cinema entered my life. Three, sometimes four films every year. That’s why I was not thinking about theatre at that time, although I could like many of my classmates from Yevgeny Matveyev’s class. Theatre entered my life later. For example, I have played in Hasarın o üzü (The Other Side of the Fence) for the Youth Theatre under a contract for nine years. I enjoy the stage and momentary contact with the audience, but the movies and the set remain my biggest love.”

“Do you consider the profession of a TV host a component of acting? Or is it closer to the role of a teacher?”

“I think being a host has components of both professions. After all, this is creativity that not only enlightens and educates, but also captivates. The rating of each TV show depends on these three components.”

“You graduated from the VGIK in Soviet times. Comparing yourself and your classmates with contemporary first-grade acting students, what are their strong and weak sides?”

“Each period has its own characteristics. But there is something that remains unchanged. Like the structure of education, teaching methods and the atmosphere at VGIK, which constantly provokes, encourages creative pursuit and “infects” you with love for the profession.”

“You also have to conduct your classes online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Which form of teaching is better – real face-to-face communication or distance training?”

“I do not deny all the advantages of technologies that are becoming part of our lives every passing day. But from my own practice and the practice of fellow teachers I can say that high-quality training should be in real time. Face-to-face communication between the teacher and his students is a must. No technology can replace live contacts and exchange of thoughts.”

“Students who love you told us that you wrote a special textbook for them. What is the name of the textbook?”

“I hope that it is not the textbook that shapes my students’ attitude toward my personality but our mutual interests. As for the textbook, it is about the silent period of American cinema (1895-1929). By the way, many of my students have not seen the book yet. By the way, I am finishing my second book soon. It is also about the American cinema but covers a later period of 1929-1941. I am interested to hear the views and interests of my students. I hope that they also enjoy our lessons on the history of world cinema. The textbook is called Cinema in the US: 1929-1941."

“You know the history of world cinema quite well. Which director would you love to work with? And in what genre would you like to try your professional strengths?”

“I would love starring in a comedy. I’ve been dreaming about it for so long. And I also would like to try myself in a role of a strong character. I would love to work with Emil Kusturica and Martin Scorsese.”

“You have been acting in films since 1980. You had many different roles, created many characters. It’s probably hard to surprise you with any kind of script or original idea from a director. Yet do we have a young generation of film experts to be proud of?”

“We have many talented young actors and directors. I am currently starring in the TV series Ata ocağı directed by Rufat Shahbazov. I am pleased to note young and promising actors that our fans already know. These are Mansura Ahmadova, Zulfiyya Gurbanova, Konul Najafzade, Tural Ahmed, Rashad Bakhtiyarov, Zaur Aliyev, Rasim Jafar. We have many talented young people who work successfully both in big films and in TV shows. Many of them have already showed their skills in cinema, and many have more to come. But we have a professional potential indeed.”

“Why is the national cinema so poorly promoted and not distributed at all today?”

“This is a separate and complex topic. We can see that commercial cinema is actively developing and promoted now, which is not always high quality. On the other hand, the films made on state orders are represented only at festivals and are not popular locally. Festival films do not generate income and are designed for a narrow audience of intellectuals. In the past, there were many standard and low-quality films. But recently, we have got quality pictures as well. I especially want to note Pərdə - an auteur movie directed by Emil Guliyev. Azerbaijani films made not for profit also include Qırmızı bağ by Mirbala Salimli, Nar bağı by Ilgar Najafov, and Çölçü by Shamil Aliyev, etc. Very good films indeed, which have been awarded at international festivals.”

“What is the situation with international cinema?”

“Apparently, and this is important, oriental cinema is becoming increasingly popular around the world. We have very interesting directors from Turkey, Iran, Korea. With its diversity and flavours, the Eastern cinema increases its share in the world of cinema. For example, the South Korean Parasites directed by Bong Joon-ho. It is the first non-English film that received Oscar in the Best Film nomination and another three Academy Award nominations in 2020. In 2019, the film received Palme d’Or of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival.”

“There is an official Council of Cinema under the Ministry of Culture. Can you tell us why such a body was established?”

“I learned about it from the media and was pleasantly surprised to know that it is made mostly of the youth.”

“How do you feel about yourself being an actress, teacher, mother, and friend?”

“Tolerant. I hope it doesn’t sound selfish but I would like to have a friend like myself!”

“If you had a chance to rewrite your life anew, what would you add or replace in it?”

“Nothing! This is my life. But, perhaps, I would pay more attention to my mother. I would not have left for Moscow to study. Rather I would stay by her side. I don’t have her now, but still feel that I need to talk to her. Every Thursday I visit her grave. I bring her flowers, I speak with her and it makes me feel better. In my difficult times, I mentally turn to my mother, and her face appears to me as I remembered her in the last moments of her life. She is looking at me smiling. I want to paint her portrait with that last smile of her...”

“What are you dreaming about these days?””

“I dream of a world free of the pandemic; a world where one can remain creative and communicate in person, not online, in real time and in real space; so that you can exchange thoughts, looking into each other’s eyes, and not at a monitor or tablet! So that I can visit my mother on Thursdays. I dream that there should be no pandemics and lockdowns on earth. I hope all these troubles are over and forever left in the past...”