Rodion Ismailov: "All my films about Russia and Azerbaijan"

Rodion Ismailov: "All my films about Russia and Azerbaijan"

A producer, director and screenwriter Rodion Ismailov is known both in Russia and Azerbaijan for his documentaries 'Nomads' (2010) and 'My Kith and Kin' (2012), awarded with various festival diplomas. Last year, the Russian festivals were stunned by Ismayilov's new work - 'Third-class travel', which tells stories of Russian citizens who happened to meet on the Moscow-Vladivostok train.

- Rodion, according to film critics, your film-journey on the world's longest rail route is a social portrait of modern Russian society, while the "endless" road is a metaphor for the country, which is constantly moving somewhere...

- I just wanted to make a film about modern Russia, show our country to both its inhabitants and foreigners. It seemed to me that doing this on the train was the best option. It is possible to tell about Russia, only having passed through it, instead of sitting in some corner in a village or a city. It would be strange to make a film about Russia while sitting in Moscow. So I took the train and went to make a film about Russia.

- How long did it take to make the film?

- Seven days. Exactly as much as the train goes from Moscow to Vladivostok. We did not go outside, did not stay anywhere. We got on it in Moscow, and got off in Vladivostok. This is a documentary. There was no production, these were completely random people I met on the train. I filmed people I liked, walking in the third-class and coupe sections. Then the coupe idea was rejected. All my heroes were third-class passengers.

- Is this a special category?

- Yes. Travelling in coupe is expensive, so only a certain category of Russians can afford it. Ordinary people, about which I wanted to tell in a film, travel third-class.

- What story was the most memorable?

- The story of a man who just got out of prison and was traveling home third-class, without knowing his possible future, was very touching. He was returning home being lost n thought.

- Was it easy to get in touch with those people?

- At first, they feel shy. But I had taken some time to get my camera. At first I talked with them for an hour or half an hour and, only realizing that people came out of shell and ready to communicate, show them my camera.

- Where else will the screening take place?

- It has already taken place in more than 20 countries, at festivals, and now, in addition to Russian cities, we expect the events in Estonia, Italy, France and Germany.

- You are from Azerbaijan. Will it hold screening of the film?

- I think so. There is a festival of documentary films in Baku, and probably my film will be invited there.

- Do you often visit your homeland?

- Once or twice a year. My previous films were about Azerbaijan. 'Third-class travel' is my first film about Russia. I shot 'My Kith and Kin' in Azerbaijan. It's about the first journey of my daughter, who was born in Moscow, to Azerbaijan to get to know her relatives. The whole film is devoted to the girl's acquaintance with the Azerbaijani culture, its traditions and customs. And my first film - 'Nomads' - about shepherds moving their sheep from one place to another for six days. It turns out that all my films about some kind of travel.

- Did you shoot film in the mountains?

-Yes, in the mountains. In Tovuz, not far from Ganja. I plan to do some more projects in Azerbaijan. But so far I have two more projects in Russia. When I finish them, I will start making a new film about Azerbaijan.

- Do you have plans for shooting in the North Caucasus?

- I have nothing to do with the North Caucasus, so I can only make feature films there. Although I know that this is an amazing place, I love the North Caucasus, but I need to know well a place which I will shoot.

- What do you think about artistic cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan?

- The work at the state level is excellently organized. Today the Day of Azerbaijani Friendship was celebrated at the State Duma. We have close cultural ties, we hold a lot of events - cinema, theater, music. I eagerly participate in such events.