Blessed Bukhara

[Благословeнная Бухара]

Тajikistan. 1991. 132 min. Color
Directed: Bako Sadykov
Written: Ulugbek Sadykov, Bako Sadykov
Cinematography: Rifkat Ibragimov
With Ato Mukhamedzhanov, Umed Sadykov, Mukhammad Ali, Bakhtiiar Zakirov, Iuris Strenga, and Guna Geikina

Released at a time of violent political turmoil in Tajikistan, in a historical moment that would effectively redraw the map of what used to be the Soviet Union, Sadykov's film has been lost "in the cracks" of recent film history. Hardly noticed in the newly reconfigured space of the former multinational empire, Blessed Bukhara also escaped the attention of Western audiences. Its unheralded appearance at the 1991 Cannes festival did very little to afford the film a cynosural status. A decade later, those willing (and able) to rediscover it are guaranteed—if nothing else—a challenging visual encounter.

Easily eluding generic labels, Blessed Bukhara combines the Bildung story, the religious parable, and the post-colonial allegoric narrative. Pregnant with history, religious tradition and legend, Bukhara is a fortunate site of convergence for heterogeneous planes of meaning: the past and the present, the figurative and the "literal," the realistic and the mythic, become mutually transparent in Sadykov's film. The events that take place on the screen do so in a mode of permanent "double exposure." They participate, simultaneously, in the historically specific narrative of political and religious repression in Soviet Tajikistan, and in an ahistorical tale of the Last Day and the Apocalypse, the sinful and the righteous. Under that same double exposure, the characters in the film reside now in the their real-life bodies, and now in the evanescent flesh of symbol and allegory. As their individual storylines unfold and intersect, the viewer is drawn into a world where personal stories in the present cannot but repeat and confirm communally endorsed stories of the past. In this—hardly comfortable for Western audiences—tight embrace between (mythic) past and present, the real is only that which is pre-inscribed. Not surprisingly, books and prophets—the preservers of the sacred Word before it "comes to pass"—are the composite central hero in the film.


Bako Sadykov was born in 1941 in Dushanbe. In 1967 he graduates from the Theater Institute in Tashkent and begins work in "Tajikfilm" studio. Works, initially, as an assistant director to Boris Kimiagarov. In 1976 enters VGIK in the class of E. Lotianu. His short-length film, Adonis XIV, which appears in the following year, wins him prizes at the film festivals in Oberhauzen, Manheim, and Odense. Sadykov's other films include Tornado [Смeрч; 1988], Dzhosus (1992), The Island [Остров; 1992]. He currently works on a film trilogy entitled Memory.

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