This unique film, from an obscure Eurasian country, mixes genres and great story-telling, and is sure to draw Oscar interest for best foreign language film.
This official entry from Azerbaijan for 2011’s Best Foreign Film, The Precinct (Sahe), is a dark, dramatic mystery full of mystical symbolism. Writer-director Ilgar Safat dreamt the script for The Precinct as "a police station reminiscent of purgatory, where a person’s criminal past is scrutinized". The veteran documentarian combined with his own personal interest in Shamanism and cultural anthropology into his first feature film.
Safat’s idiosyncrasy and great casting has succeeded in creating a gripping, dreamlike psychological thriller about an art photographer with karmic debt. Zaza Bejashvili skillfully wins sympathy as the bad-boy artist Garib, and first-time actor Timur Odushev, playing the younger, conflicted Garib, is equally outstanding. Vahif Ibrahimoglu is masterful as the judgment-bearing, unearthly official.
Overshadowed by the Bird of Happiness
Garib (Zaza Bejashvili), a successful nude art photographer, is engaged to marry ceramic artist Sabina (Melissa Papel). Sabina, constantly pressured by her mother to get married, has been very patient with the procrastinating Garib. If the longstanding bachelor accepts a recent job offer from a prestigious London magazine, it will prolong their wedding date.
Sabina learns about his potential photography gig, when they take a day trip to Gobustan, a historical landmark. They argue while driving down the steep, winding roads, and the distraction causes a terrible car crash. Two local police arrive at their overturned car, just before it catches fire. But, the cops are not very sympathetic to the injured pair. Instead of bringing them to the hospital, they are taken to the local precinct to contend with the police chief (Vahif Ibrahimoglu).
The police chief is very critical about Garib’s lifestyle, and seems to know a lot about the photographer’s long-forgotten, wicked past. Here the film flashes back in time to Garib as a young student studying photography. The vulnerable fourteen year-old was strong-armed by the neighborhood thug, Pyarviz (Ruslan Ismaylov) into porn trafficking. The present-time Garib is made to re-live all his traumatizing childhood memories, and expose the tragic story of his first love Alina, (Nina Rakova). This painful incident may cost him Sabina, if he cannot confront from his past.
The Cast and Crew of The Precinct
Stars Zaza Bejashvili, Melissa Papel, Vahif Ibrahimoglu, Timur Odushev (as teenaged Garib) Nina Rakova, Ruslan Ismaylov, Ramis Ibragimov, Sonaxanim Mikayilova, Mammad Safa Gasimov, Farid Bagirov, Midhat Aydinov, Anar Zeynalov, Rafiz Mehdizada, and, Parisian fashion model, Deborah Kidd.
Written and directed by Ilgar Safat. Cinematography by Vako Karchkhadze and Konstantin Esadze. Edited by Ilgar Safat.
Production design by Torakhanim Aghabayova. Art direction by Rena Effendi. Original music by Andrei Doinikov.
Produced by Nariman Mammadov (NarimanFilm).
The Precinct (Sahe) opens theatrically at Los Angeles' Sunset Laemmle 5 on December 3, 2010.
Language: Azeri and Russian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 116 min
Denise Castillón. 2010-12-02