4 March 2021

Thursday, 20:48



Rauf GURBANALIYEV: “...That will be interesting to viewers and will glorify Azerbaijan beyond its borders..."



What do we know about filmmakers that always remain behind the scenes? Almost nothing. Cinema is not only actors and directors but also a huge number of other professionals. One of them is the most demanded director of photography in Azerbaijan Rauf Gurbanaliyev. He graduated from the Department of Cinema and Television led by the Honored Artist of Azerbaijan Rafig Guliyev, Azerbaijan State University of Culture and Arts. After graduation, Rauf began working with Azerbaijan International Filming Company. Since 2007, he has worked with Azerbaijanfilm. His portfolio includes 21 works, including Qış nağılı: biri vardı, biri yox and Qış nağılı: Göydən üç alma düşdü, short films İnikas, Qara bağ and others. Rauf pursued his childhood dream to become a filmmaker, to see the world of a person through himself, through the eyes and heart of a person, through a close-up of his perceptions, through that fine line of vibrating feelings and emotions that make any individual a person. We talked with Rauf Gurbanaliev about modern Azerbaijani cinema.


"We all know that a cameraman is a person who shoots a story invented by the screenwriter. But who is the director of photography then?"

"The word cameraman is used in many spheres of human activity and defines various professional directions: in mathematics and other exact sciences, in the Internet, telephone communications, programming, etc. A cameraman in cinema is a professional in charge of the operation of various types of equipment used in film-making. Director of photography defines the professional and his role in the artistic and creative process."

"Can you expand this topic for our readers?"

"Director of photography is a person who not only does design the frame with people, objects, and the environment but also defines the use of light to make the frame more expressive in terms of artistic perception. I compare this process to the work of an artist. The only difference is that in the frame you need to paint with light in space."

"Have you ever had professional differences on the set with the director?"

"It depends. As a rule, it’s the director who chooses a photographer, taking into account many details ranging from the artistic and stylistic construction of the frame to the human factor."

"But sometimes the producer chooses too..."

"Mostly in production companies. It all depends on whether the director is able to build professional relationships that would contribute the positive outcome of the venture."

"You often work for both state-run and production companies. Thanks to your your professional experience, you can compare. Which of these companies have the workflow organised better?"

"I would say state-run companies do their work better. But comparing them is not that easy. There are pros and cons on both sides. I think in the core, the only key difference is what they value during the production the most: state0run companies are concerned about the human factor, while production companies about time."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean state projects usually do not have strict time limits. Therefore, all standards on work-loads of any person involved in the filming process are observed. For example, if an actor is tired we can stop filming to give him some rest. This is not true for a production company, where time is money."

"Do you mean commercial motivation is inherent to any production company?"

"To some extent, yes. But this does not mean that producers do not make art-house films. It all depends on the goal of the producer. If he wants to show his film at an international festival, then, as a rule, it is not a popular genre like drama but something serious."

"What genres are popular in commercial cinema today?"


"How can one make a comedy without the late masters of this genre, such as Siyavush Aslan or Yashar Nuri ?"

"You answered your own question..."

"Modern cinema is teeming with films made in a short possible time without any special professional research. These films mostly target unpretentious audiences who just want to kill time somewhere. What do you think?"

"I don't make such movies. Although I did two comedies in the past. But I’m not interested in this genre. Unfortunately, there are no more intellectual viewers visiting theaters, while the demand for intellectual movies has decreased. They are replaced by the pieces of low artistic quality. Look how full the halls at screenings of such movies. Why? These people work hard and go to cinema on weekends to have some fun. They cannot be blamed for this. It’s not their fault... Demand is what drives the supply."

"Who is the target audience of modern movies today? Who is the main audience of the art of cinema that has degraded so far?"

"State cinema is usually made for festivals. It is closer to art-house, which means to the minds and hearts of the audience. Producers make commercial films, where the key formula of success is ‘money-commodity-money’. It is the producer who determines a target audience for his film."

"But the distribution mechanism doesn’t work in the national cinema. New films are demonstrated only at premiere ceremonies. What happens to movies afterwards?"

"You’re better to address this question to specialists. I can assume that they’re simply put back to storage shelves."

"Do you think our cinema has ceased to be Art, or does it still retain its positions?"

"Cinema as Art can only belong to a select few because intellectual art cannot be a mass product. That’s why it is not in demand by the general population."

“In other words, the cinema has become what is commonly called a product? Just a product that needs to be profitably sold to masses?”

"I’d say so."

"It's like in fashion business: prêt-a-porter for general public and haute couture in single copies for elites?"

"More or less. All production movies are based on this  principle. It is normal in a world built on the principles of capitalist relations. Yet we know examples of world cinema, when material interests of producers had amazing results preenting global audiences commercial yet highly artistic movies. Why don't we see this in our country? Because we have yet to learn how to combine commercial and artistic interests; because there are not many professionals who know and love their job; because material interests often take precedence over the principles of professional honor, and so on..."

"Well, but about you? When you are offered a job in a new project, what do you personally prefer: the amount of your fee, reputation of the producer and his company or something else?"

"I don't make whatever I’m offered to do. I always give preference to an interesting script and the narrative of human relations described in the script. Especially stories with psychological depth. This makes it possible to explore human characters, the nature and depth of their emotions and feelings. I love making portrait films!"

"What is it?"

"Close-ups, details on the faces of characters, when the viewers can see not only the emotional state of the character but also their thoughts. To make it easy for you, remember Joker, which is a perfect example of a portrait film. You know what I mean?.."

"So, Lawrence Sher (Joker, Director of Photography) is an example of a professional, isn’t he?"

"No. I think Rafig Guliyev would be my first role model in my profession. I'm also interested in the style of Emmanuel Lubezki, a five-times Oscar nominee, and a three-times winner of the Academy Award for Gravity, Birdman and Survivor."

"So what do our viewers find attractive in our cinema today: the plot, reputation of the crew members, including the director, cameraman and actors? Why do they go to cinema today?"

"They go for actors..."

"What would you wish to yourself and your colleagues?"

"Colleagues? Each of them has own wishes. I wish everyone had their dreams come true…."

"What about you?"

"I want to make good, interesting feature films for both creative and professional enjoyment. I hope for mutual understanding among my colleagues on the set. I hope I am able to make films that will be interesting to viewers and will glorify Azerbaijan beyond its borders..."