Ru Hasanov on Sarajevo Player ‘The Island Within’ and the Rising Azerbaijani Film Biz

Seymour Tahirbekov is a reluctant chess star, a young grandmaster from Azerbaijan whose life is rigidly controlled by his emotionally toxic father and coach. On the eve of his showdown with the defending world champion, Seymour’s nerves began to fray, and he escapes to a remote island populated by wild horses and a solitary old man. Away from the limelight, and with a newfound sense of freedom, he begins to find peace of mind. But with the world championship days away, it’s just a matter of time before the nationwide manhunt for the AWOL grandmaster closes in.

Sarajevo Film Festival.” data-reactid=”20″>“The Island Within” is written and directed by Ru Hasanov, who co-directed the 2013 Locarno player “Chameleon.” Produced by his Baku-based outfit Coyote Cinema and co-produced by France’s Arizona Productions, the film world premiered in competition at the Sarajevo Film Festival.

Then my dad showed me an article about this island which was an ex-Soviet farm. There was, up until recently, this guy who lived here in absolute solitude, a Russian guy by the name of Vitaliy Pronin. He died this year, just a few months ago. I was fascinated by the idea of someone living on an island with unique flora and fauna. There are flamingos, and there are horses that drink water from the Caspian Sea. I was blown away by that. These two ideas clashed, and that’s how I came up with the idea of this chess player who runs off to that island.

For me, personally, it’s not really the matter of [Seymour] not having the time to do something. It’s more about the void that he feels in himself. It’s a matter of personal freedom that he doesn’t really have time to explore and form as an individual. There’s this thing I heard someone saying once, that boys need their father’s permission to become men. Maybe the problem is that he didn’t really have the time to get his father’s permission to become a man.

However, I do think that when we’re talking about filmmaking, and the film industry in Azerbaijan, there is a generation of young filmmakers which has been forming throughout the past decade. And I think that from year to year, we are making our voices heard. Last year, for example, one of our colleagues won the Fipresci prize in Rotterdam, and this year we have a film in Cannes and a film in Venice. We are in Sarajevo. So I think the tendency of this group of people, or this wave, who are making their voices heard internationally, this is a very good start and a very positive thing that all of us share and take pride in. Who could ask for anything more?

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