Cinema of Turkmenistan
The cinema of Turkmenistan dates back to the 1920s, when the country was within the Soviet Union. Since the country's independence in 1991, Turkmenistan has had the most limited film production industry of any Central Asian state.
The earliest films in Turkmenistan were newsreels, documenting topical events such as elections, the erection of Lenin monuments, and anniversary celebrations for the 1917 October Revolution. The first documentary to be produced in Turkmenistan itself was Provozglashenie Turkmenskoi SSR (Proclamation of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic), which was the work of Sergei Lebedev and Boris Bashem, two Russian cameramen from the Sevzapkino film studio in Leningrad, in 1925. A film studio, the Ashgabat Kinofabrica, was founded in Turkmenistan's capital city the following year, with a film output consisting of documentaries, propaganda films and newsreels. Film exhibitions were often accompanied by educational lectures on the theme of the film.
The first feature-length film to be produced at the new Turkmenistan film studio was Alexander Vladychuk's documentary Beloe Zeloto (White Gold) in 1929, which focussed on collectivization in the cotton industry. The same topic was covered by the first feature film, Zemlya Zhazhdyot (The Earth is Thirsty), directed by Yuli Raizman and released in 1930. This film was made for Vostokkino and was originally silent, but had a soundtrack added a few months later. The first feature-length film to be produced with sound was Alexander Ledashchev's 1935 film I'll Be Back, which focused on the story of a young labourer, Kurban. According to Swetlana Slapke, the film "made an indelible impression on the audience, mainly because it was the first feature film in their lives and about their lives". Its release was accompanied by a kind of festival, with music from a military brass band. Other directors active at the studio at the time included Vladimir Lavrov, Djavanshir Mamedov, Nikolai Mikhailovich Kopysov, Djuma Nepesov and Shadurdy Annaev.
In 1939, the Ashgabat Kinofabrica was reorganised as the Turkmenfilm Studio. The first film shot at the new studio was Dursun (1940), which was directed by Yevgeni Ivanov-Barkov. Ten years earlier, Ivanov-Barkov had made a successful film Judas, but had made little since, until the film studio invited him to make Dursun. The film was based on a careful study of Turkmen culture and traditions, and all of the actors in the film were Turkmen, except the leading actress Nina Alisova.
In 1941, the Kiev Film Studio was evacuated to Ashgabat because of the Second World War. Ukrainian directors from the film studio partnered with personnel from the Turkmenfilm Studio to make newsreels and other films. The Ukrainians were generally more experienced, and so the war became a period of training for young Turkmen filmmakers. Swetlana Slapke argues that, "During this period, the overall professional - and especially technical - competence of Turkmen film-makers noticeably improved".
Post-war development of Turkmen cinema was halted in 1948 when the Turkmenfilm studio building was destroyed in a major earthquake, resulting in the temporary cessation of filmmaking activities. Studios elsewhere in Central Asia produced newsreels and documentaries, but no feature films.
1950s, 60s and 70s
The Turkmenfilm studio was rebuilt in the 1950s, and began producing feature films again. The first films were by Rafail Perelshtein, The Shepherd's Son (1954) and The Cunning of Old Ashir (1955). In 1957, the first colour film produced by Turkmenfilm was released: Extraordinary Mission, which was directed by Ivanov-Barkov and Alty Karliev.
The 1960s and 1970s were significant decades for Turkmen filmmaking. Where previously, most of the films produced in the Turkmen studio had involvement from Russian and Ukrainian directors, a new generation of Turkmen filmmakers emerged, and were responsible for most of the productions. These filmmakers were the first Turkmen graduates of the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography in Moscow, and were young but well-trained. Most notable among them was Khodzhakuli Narliev. Other new directors of the period included Yazgeldy Seidov, Kurban Yazhanov, Murad Kurbanklychev and Mukhamed Soiunkhanov.
- Brummell, Paul (2005). Turkmenistan. Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 978-1-84162-144-9.
- Dönmez-Colin, Gönül (2012). Cinemas of the Other: A Personal Journey with Film-Makers from Central Asia. Intellect Books. ISBN 978-1-84150-549-7.
- Dönmez-Colin, Gönul (2003). "Central Asian cinema". In Oliver Leaman. Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-66251-7.
- Slapke, Swetlana (2013). "Fragments from the history of Turkmen cinema". In Michael Rouland et al. Cinema in Central Asia: Rewriting Cultural Histories. I.B.Tauris. pp. 90–104. ISBN 978-1-84511-901-0.