The Baku International Film Festival (IFF) “East-West”

The Baku International Film Festival (IFF) “East-West” was established by the Azerbaijan Union of Cinematographers and the Foundation of the 100th Anniversary of World Cinema with support from the Confederation of Unions of Cinematographers of the CIS and the Baltic States in 1996. The overall ideology of the festival is to facilitate unification and mutual enrichment of two cultures – eastern and western.

Azerbaijan and its capital Baku were chosen as the venue for the festival not by accident. After all, the border between Europe and Asia passes through Azerbaijan along the Greater Caucasus Range. The Great Silk Route ran from China to Central Europe also through here, linking East and West. Since ancient times, Azerbaijan has been located at the crossroads of cultures. For centuries, Eastern and Western civilizations, including different nationalities, religions, traditions and cultures, have peacefully coexisted in Baku, mutually enriching each other… The goal of the “East-West” film festival was to preserve and enhance this process.

The first “East-West” International Film Festival was held in October 1996 and immediately became an integral part of the cultural process in Baku, turning the capital of Azerbaijan into the Mecca of cinematographic art. At the same time, the festival earned the reputation of one of the largest and most significant cultural events in the entire post-Soviet space.

The IFF brought together venerable filmmakers, scriptwriters, playwrights, actors, producers, film critics, film studio leaders, art historians and journalists. “East-West” has become a huge discussion platform for film professionals who have obtained the opportunity to discuss current achievements and state, trends and prospects for the development of cinema on a global scale and to conduct numerous studies.

Discussions on sensitive issues took place both on the sidelines and during round tables and seminars of the film festival. In the very first year, a round table was held within the framework of the IFF on “Post-Soviet Space: Cinema and Life”, which discussed problems of cinema in the CIS and Baltic countries of the 1990s.

Other topics of round tables in different years included “Love Triangle: Today and Tomorrow” (problems of a man and a woman), “Azerbaijani cinema over the last decade”, “Cinema in a context of culture” (the state of cinema – national, eastern and western), “East-West” and problems of the modern film process”, “New reality. Cinema after 11 September 2001”, “Challenges of the global world and stereotypes of national consciousness”, “Gender policy in the countries of Eurasia: evidence of documentalists”, “Challenges of the global world: national cinema of the beginning of the 21st century”, “Producing low-budget films for demonstration in Europe”, “Legal and organizational problems of joint film production in the CIS and Baltic countries”, “New documentary cinema of Azerbaijan”.

And if we look at the geography of the films presented at the festival, we will see that the festival fully justified its name by fulfilling the mission of uniting and developing the most diverse cultures. Countries participating in the IFF over the years have been Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Serbia, Germany, France, China, and USA.

The festival program included films with a successful track record in prestigious film festivals. The focus of the festival was not on entertaining but alternative films. When selecting films, the organizers of “East-West” followed the main mission of any film festival: the most worthy films with a powerful humanistic message were picked out from a huge stream of films. The films were supposed to contain a message the organizers sought to convey to the viewer: the idea of ​​a cosmopolitan position of man, promotion of humanism and tolerance.

“East-West” became yet another indicator of cultural and social processes of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The film festival has played a huge role not only in attracting the interest of viewers to the art of cinema, motivating filmmakers to find new forms of expression, but also made an invaluable contribution to the development of international cooperation, to the intensification of globalization processes and, most importantly, to the formation of cultural heritage. Films presented at “East-West” will forever remain in the history of cinema.

“East-West” in facts:

The President of the Baku International Film Festival “East-West” is film and theater playwright, director and writer Rustam Ibrahimbayov.

The festival was held with official support of the government and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The 11th Baku International Film Festival “East-West” was held in September 2009.