Azerbaijan Union of Film-makers : Half a Century of Loyalty to Cinematic Traditions

The establishment of the Azerbaijan Union of Film-makers dates back to January 1958, when the “Organizational Bureau of the Union of Azerbaijani Cinematography Workers” was set up. The bureau was headed by film director Latif Safarov, while film director Huseyn Seidzadeh was elected as deputy. The organizational bureau had five divisions: “Art cinema”, “Drama, theory and criticism”, “Documentary and popular science cinematography”, “Science and technology”, “Cinema lovers”. There were 82 members of the Union of Azerbaijani Cinematography Workers.

The Cinema House was opened on 10 February 1960. By that time, the number of Union members had reached 100: directors, screenwriters, cameramen, actors, artists, and composers.

The Azerbaijan Union of Film-makers was finally set up at the First Constituent Assembly, which took place on 11 January 1963.

The Second AUF Assembly (22-23 December 1964) elected film director Hasan Seyidbayli as chairman of the organization’s board.

In March 1976, the Azerbaijan department of the Bureau for the Promotion of Soviet Cinema was set up within the AUF. Every year it held a large number of creative meetings and organized film screenings for the public.

In May 1981, scriptwriter Rustam Ibrahimbayov was elected as first secretary of the organization’s Board at the Fifth Assembly of the AUF.

The Sixth congress held in 1985 was dedicated to current problems of cinema.

The Seventh Congress was held at a time when perestroika began in the USSR and in Azerbaijan. It was 1990. The AUF, together with “Azerkinovideo” Production Association, developed a new concept and program for the development of national cinema in new public and social circumstances, when there was an urgent need for an objective assessment of cinema processes. The secretariat of the Union of Cinematographers decided to launch a competition of Azerbaijani national films.

(The first competition was held in 1991, the second in 1993 and the third in 1995. In the mid-90s, Azerbaijani cinema, and indeed all Azerbaijani society, experienced serious difficulties, and the competition was suspended. It was resumed only eight years later, in 2003. Films made in 1995-2002 were demonstrated to a jury. The competition was called Qızıl Çıraq (“golden lamp”). The presentation of the Fifth National Film Awards Qızıl Çıraq was held on 2 August 2006).

The Eighth AUF Assembly was held on 15-16 December 1995. It was the first assembly held after Azerbaijan gained independence. The main issue discussed at the assembly was the preservation of cinema and its longstanding traditions in the country and its support by the state. A concept for the development of national cinema in new circumstances was developed.

In 1996, the First Baku International Film Festival “East-West” was held in Azerbaijan. The organizers were the Azerbaijan Union of Film-makers 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. The overall ideology of the festival was to facilitate a mutual enrichment of Eastern and Western film cultures. The festival is recognized by filmmakers throughout post-Soviet republics. It has become a discussion platform for film professionals in Europe and Asia.

It was in that period that the AUF initiated the development of legal framework that would govern cinematographic activity in the Republic. In 1998, the Milli Majlis (national assembly) adopted the Law “On Cinema”.

The Ninth AUF Assembly was held in January 2003. Its final resolution reflected such important issues as the development of film education and personnel training. At the end of the Assembly, Rustam Ibrahimbayov was reelected as AUF chairman, while actor and people’s artist of the Azerbaijan SSR Rasim Balayev was elected as first secretary.

The AUF Board’s Plenary Session was held on 13 May 2005. It discussed the situation in the national cinema over the past two years.

The anniversary Tenth AUF Assembly held on 30 May 2008 saw first secretary of the Union Rasim Balayev deliver a report on the work done. Rustam Ibrahimbayov was reelected as chairman of the organization.

Also in 2008, a meeting of the AUF Chairman with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev was held. The head of state approved the “State Program for the Development of Azerbaijani Cinema for 2008-2018” proposed by Rustam Ibrahimbayov.

In September 2009, the Ninth Baku International Film Festival “East-West” was held in Azerbaijan. It was the last such festival.

Since 2012, on the Day of National Cinema, the Azerbaijan Union of Film-makers has been presenting film awards to its members and young cinematographers for their outstanding contributions to the development of national cinema and creation of new films (for previous years the award was presented to director, scriptwriter and actor Fikrat Aliyev, director, scriptwriter and producer Asif Rustamov, actor and People’s Artist of Azerbaijan Fakhraddin Manafov, film director and Honored Art Worker of Azerbaijan Ziya Shikhlinsky, Art Director, animation director and Honored Art Worker of Azerbaijan Firangiz Gurbanova, actor and People’s Artist of Azerbaijan Fuad Poladov, film director Tahir Aliyev, cameramen Nizami Abbas and Yuri Varnovsky, sound producer, Honored Worker of Culture of Azerbaijan Asad Asadov, actress and Honored Artist of Azerbaijan Mehriban Zaki, animator Javid Ahadov, composer Javanshir Guliyev, film producer Adil Gulamov, presenter and People’s Artist of Azerbaijan Rafig Huseynli, sound producer Kamal Seyidov, director and Honored Art Worker of Azerbaijan Mirbala Salimli, cinema and TV director, scriptwriter Nazim Rza, People’s Writer of Azerbaijan Anar, composer Rauf Aliyev (posthumously), diplomat and public figure Ramiz Abutalibov).

On 17 February 2019, a meeting of the Board of the Azerbaijan Union of Film-makers was held, discussing organizational issues and the situation around the Union. It decided to hold the 11th AUF Assembly.

On 4 June 2019, a regular meeting of the AUF board of directors was held, discussing issues of preparation for the 11th Assembly of the Union of Cinematographers, its agenda and timing. It was decided to restore the activities of the film school and the House of Cinema.