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Ashik Kerib (PG) + introduction by Michael Brooke

Queer 80s

A young person playing a lute in traditional clothing, against a desert scape.

Sergei Parajanov’s last film, co-directed by Dodo Abashidze, is an Azeri-Turkish love story about a wandering minstrel forced to roam the world for 1001 nights to win the hand of his beloved. 

Based on a tale by Armenian director Sergei Parajanov’s favourite Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov, Ashik Kerib is a gorgeous fable about a minstrel compelled to travel the Caucasus to earn riches and win the hand of a rich merchant’s daughter. On his travels he is nearly thwarted by a wicked pasha and a cruel sultan (to whom some critics have drawn parallels with Brezhnev and Stalin). 

The viewer may see similarities between the minstrel and Parajanov himself – both are persecuted for forbidden love (Parajanov was jailed for ‘homosexual acts’) and free themselves through art. Shot in Azerbaijan, Ashik Kerib is a glorious tribute to Azeri culture, filled with music, poetry and joy. Although any queerness is necessarily kept at a subtextual level, the film is a feast for the senses and stands as a fitting swan song for a unique director.

Tagged with: Cinema Queer 80s

Soviet Union 1988 dir Dodo Abashidze, Sergei Parajanov 73 min 

The film has been restored by Georgian National Film Center.


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Michael Brooke

Michael Brooke is a regular contributor to Sight & Sound, the Journal of Film Preservation and numerous Blu-ray labels, whose specialist interests include British and central-eastern European cinema.

‘Filled with lovely details of medieval frescoes and artifacts, sumptuous costumes and stirring folk songs. It is a children's tale as rendered by a sophisticated romantic. ‘
Walter Goodman, New York Times

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