Turkmenistan has celebrated its 21st Independence Day XXI in full martial pomp. Preparations had been underway for several months; I’ve managed to glean some screen captures from official state television for NewEurasia’s readers to see.
Editor’s note: To mark world food day, Emil Baghirov, a blogger from Azerbaijan, travelled to the Tartar region in the center of the country to find out how Oxfam-supported strawberry farming is changing rural women’s lives. Here are his impressions.
This post has been provided courtesy of Oxfam.
Editor’s note: Earlier this week, Uzbekistan’s notorious First Daughter, Gulnara “Googoosha” Karimova, released the music video of her newest single, “Round Run”. NewEurasia’s newest blogger, Khayyam, shows us YouTube audience reactions, and asks a professional music video producer about the production quality, right down to the ominous Soviet-era ZIL. Get ready for some stinging criticism.
Gulnara Karimova is notorious for her desire to get “big” in show business as “Googoosha”. She released her eponymous album earlier this year over the Internet. The songs were written by one of the best Russian producers, Max Fadeev. And now, we have the “world premiere” of the album’s lead single, “Round Run”.
The video is set in ancient Bukhara. According to witnesses and news agency Uznews.net, the entire historical city center was closed during the shooting process. Avi Cohen, a music video director from USA who has worked with Godsmack, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and other bands, directed the video. It also starred the world-renowned parkour runner Daniel Ilabaca. So, in a sense, this is a pretty big deal for Uzbekistan. But what was the actual end result?
YouTube viewers are split between their adoration for Ilabaca and their loathing for Googoosha. Hmmm interesting. For posterity’s sake, I’ve screen-captured the YouTube page for the video before the negative comments gets censored.
So, for example, one viewer writes,
клип не рыба не мясо у нее нету дара .. наверное в узбекистане слушают из за того что это песня везде играет и включают по телеэфирам
[Literal translation:] clip is not fish meat in her no gift .. probably listen in Uzbekistan due to the fact that this song is everywhere on television time and include
Another waxes sarcastic:
прекрасный клип и энергичная музыка, не зря наша леди вошла в пятерку на Hot Dance Hits в Америке … Ну что же, так или иначе, она знаменита!
[Literal translation:] excellent video and energetic music, no wonder our lady entered the top five on the Hot Dance Hits in America … Well, anyway, she is famous!
Googoosha definitely has her defenders, particularly one Islom Yusupov, who sees this as a public relations coup for Bukhara and Uzbekistan. Others praise her physical beauty, or just the fact that Uzbekistan has the resources (i.e., money) to produce something of “Western” quality.
Meanwhile, on the Uzbek analog of Youtube, Mover.uz, negative opinions on the video were surpassing positive ones — until comments were abruptly disabled (along with the Like/Dislike function). Surprise, surprise.
NewEurasia asked one well-known European video producer about his/her impressions of the video from a professional point of view (unfortunately, he/she has asked not to be named, lest he/she have problems on future visits to Uzbekistan). Here are his/her remarks:
I don’t know how much this probably expensive director costs, but he’s not worth his money, that much is for sure. The best example is the beginning: the director fails at setting up the story. From the editing in this first part, you get a feeling that the guy is running away from the car, not that the two people actually want to meet. See the scenes and their symbolism:
- He looks over the city;
- A black car drives through;
- He slides down a wall;
- He jumps off some building;
- Frontal view of the black car;
- He runs.
The symbolics are clear: He’s fleeing from the car. The edit as well as the way places/items are shown, including the car, make that quite clear. Now, sure, you could say that it’s a game, haha, you know, they want you to believe this [running away] in the beginning, and then surprise you with a twist to the story when it turns out that they actually want to meet. But that’s rubbish. Firstly, this is a music video, not a 45 minute TV serial. Secondly, this revealing of the real story comes only at the very end, and if that is intentional, then sorry, it’s also badly done. It comes out of nowhere. All of a sudden. That’s just badly built: If you want such a surprise effect, you’d have to go through with it and implement hints during the story, too. That’s not happening.
There are plenty of small details, like toward the end when you see the guy climbing up the Arc (clearly diagonal walls), and somehow he ends up on the roof of a completely different building (with vertical walls). I mean, come on. They’re not even trying to hide the bad jump from one place to another. Likewise, around 0:28, where we play the bad old game of ‘quick cuts’, almost stop motion: Okay, the stylistics are already old-fashioned since years, but if you decide to use them, then… eh… why does for example the running guy (frontal view) make a step back all of a sudden? Now that can’t be on purpose, can it. Because it does nothing to help the story, or the aesthetics. It’s just a dumb cut.
I think it’s sad for an amazingly beautiful city like Bukhara if it looks so crap in a video. It’s not because of the camera, that was certainly expensive enough. The post-production however introduces sometimes these fast-moving clouds (okay, nothing fundamentally wrong with them); it somehow manipulates the colors but not to their advantage, i.e. the picture seems quite flat and at times even sterile. Toward the end (evening mood), it becomes entirely artificial. Additional details like these permanent lens flares don’t make it look better, too. I really feel sorry for Bukhara. It has all the visual magic, and then these folks have nothing better to do than turn it into some sort of plastic-fantastic landscape?
The camera is somewhat too hectic, even for a video of such speed. Speed is fine, but it needs to find a balance that allows to find into the rhythm, that carries us through. Here, my impression is that some of the moves are really just random. They create imbalances by e.g. not connecting to previous shots, abruptly changing directions, and the like.
Okay, matter of taste to some extent, I admit I’m not into disco-clubby-popsy stuff that all sounds almost exactly the same. But matters of taste aside: The singer clearly can’t sing. This is kind of the Scooter (or how this band was called) of cheesy clubby-popsy music. Hardly any voice, that lady. Besides that, the song is predictable; bases on elements we’ve heard a million times before; it’s cheap and shallow. The content motif (lyrics) is also cheap and silly — I mean, a 13 year old who’s in love writes better poetry than this.
Then, by my best knowledge, you shouldn’t climb around historic monuments. It’s either forbidden anyway, or it’s simply a bad idea because you damage ancient building substance. Isn’t this an UNESCO world heritage site or something? Is the Arc really in a condition that we should encourage people to run all over it? Hmm.
As for me, I also can’t figure out the symbolism of this black car. It’s a Soviet “ZIL” (Завод имени Лихачёва — ЗиЛ) that was created only for Communist Party top-level bosses. It’s a very rare car. Perhaps this is an allusion to the song of Boris Grebenshikov “Blue Light”, in which he sings, “My death driving black car with a blue flame”? Unfortunately, it brings to mind corrupt aristocracy, just as it used to in Soviet days…
Editor’s note: A unique music show combining visual art and glaciology has been traveling through Central Asia to highlight the plights of global warming. NewEurasia’s Nik McCaren went to check it out as it. “The experience was quite moving,” he writes, “as though the glaciers have been lamenting to humanity and until now we have been deaf to hear them.”
The “Omnibus” Ensemble from Uzbekistan and Lillevan, a video artist from Germany, have gone on a grand tour of sorts in the region with their program, “Music of the Glacier”, in order to draw attention to global warming. The Goethe Institute in Almaty and Tashkent sponsored the program, a unique combination of art and science.
Editor’s note: A chance discovery of a Niyazov-era piece of propaganda in a Western university library sets off NewEurasia’s Annasoltan. “Propaganda has ceased to be just something that our government produces,” she writes. “It has become a way of life.” [Photos by NewEurasia's Schwartz, CC-permission.]
The other day, Schwartz found a little piece of my country’s propagandic history in the social sciences library of his university and sent me some photographs of it. The book, published in 1999, is entitled, “Turkmenistan: Eight Years of Independent Development”. The colophon says that it was a production of the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s National Institute of Statistics and Forecast, and that 3000 copies (“examples”), probably mailed to governments and academics all over the world.
NewEurasia’s readers will know that from time to time we like to publish Turkmen propaganda (e.g., here, here, here) partially for a laugh’s sake, partially to prevent the regime’s informational excesses from being forgotten, even if they deserve to be (which is also why we also reveal what should be remembered, e.g., Turkmenistan’s brief flirtation with independent media in 1992). But the sight of ths book somehow twists my stomach more than usual.
Here are photos taken by Elzara Muzaffarova of Sunday’s performance of “Imitations of the Koran” at the Ilkhom Theater. To read more about the play and the rest of the opening, click here.
Editor’s note: “Tashkent without Ilkhom would be like Paris without the Eifel Tower,” writes NewEurasia’s Nik McCaren about the Ilkhom Theater’s 37th season opening. Come check out the playbill, which includes a re-performance of “Imitations of Koran” in honor of the theater’s murdered founder and art installations by a group nicknamed the “Uzbek Banskies”.
The photos in this post are by our blogger and have been published on our Demotix account. If you would like to use them, please help him out and buy them! Also, check out our previous coverage of the Ilkhom Theater and its founder’s tragic death here.
Tashkent without Ilkhom would be like Paris without the Eiffel Tower. Ilkhom is the most famous theater of Uzbekistan — bold, controversial, innovative, provocative. The annual fall opening of the new season is a major event in the cultural life of our country.
This photo, taken by one of the people in the group, shows ethnic Russians in a container yard in Navoiy, en route from Zarafshan to Russia. It was provided to NewEurasia courtesy of Open Central Asia Magazine (OCA), who published it originally on their Facebook page.
These Russians are part of the latest wave of their ethnicity to be making their way out of Uzbekistan for the Russian Federation. According to OCA, most of Russians leaving Navoiy Province are heading toward small and medium cities in the European part of Russia.
It’s the academic dénouement in Belgium, and to unwind a little, I went down to Paris this week. Even though the ville de lumière is only two hours away by train and four by bus, this is actually only the second time I’ve been there. Seems I have an incipient knack for stumbling upon Uzbek proprietors outside of Uzebkistan, because on Rue Amelot, I stumbled upon the restaurant/chaikhana “Boukhara” (
http://www.resto-boukhara.com [Ed.: The URL appears to be broken. Instead go here.]).
Tashkent hosted the first_ever Central Asian Independent Film Festival (CAFIF). The festival provided a unique opportunity to filmmakers and video artists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to show their movies on the big screen, bring them to the audience and communicate with each other.
The festival was held at the legendary Tashkent theater “Ilkhom” from 8-10 June, former home of the dramatist Mark Weil who was murdered in 2007. Art-director Oleg Karpov, himself a well-known enthusiast of non-commercial cinema and the husband of the infamous director Umida Akhmedova — who was convicted in Uzbekistan for the film “The Burden of Virginity” — served as the main organizer of the festival.