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Uzbek Film Evening at the EBRD

An Uzbek Film Evening took place on the 11th of June 2015 in London. It included screening of the feature film "Shabnam" and meeting with its art group – director Mirmaksud Akhunov and producer Zafar Yuldashev, as well as a representative of the National Agency "Uzbekkino" Asya Batraeva.
The event was organised by the Embassy of Uzbekistan in association with the British-Uzbek Society and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) at the latter’s headquarters in the City of London. 
Near 300 guests attended the evening, among them – the EBRD’s Secretary General Enzo Quattrociocche, heads and employees of a number of departments of the Bank, representatives of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, business, educational, expert circles and the media, as well as members of the diplomatic corps in London.
Opening the evening, Larry Sherwin, Deputy Director of Communications at EBRD, said that Uzbekistan is an extraordinary country, with a lengthy and fascinating history – and an equally fascinating culture. On behalf of the Bank, he welcomed the first Uzbek cultural event in its premises and expressed a hope for continuation of such mutually enriching exchanges. According to him, the attendance of such a distinguished audience comprising British and international business circles and London’s diplomatic community demonstrates their growing personal and professional interest towards modern Uzbekistan.
In his welcoming speech, Ambassador of Uzbekistan Otabek Akbarov attracted guests’ attention to the fact that the history of the Uzbek cinematography has begun more than 100 years ago when Hudoybergan Devanov produced his first silent film in Khorezm province of Uzbekistan. Since that time the Uzbek cinematography passed through different periods of its development, but only when Uzbekistan obtained its State Independence in 1991, this art became aesthetically and culturally independent. 
The Government of Uzbekistan, recognizing key importance of spiritual development of the people, allocates considerable budget resources for production of feature, documentary and animation films every year. Masters of the new Uzbek cinematographic art created spectacular films which tell about history, culture, achievements and contemporary life of the Uzbek people. Number of them were awarded at prestigious international film festivals.  
Ambassador underlined that such cultural initiatives can help better knowledge and understanding of modern Uzbekistan, the traditional principles and values of our people, as well as promote prospects for partnership. He thanked the British-Uzbek Society and the EBRD for their interest and contribution to organisation of this event and expressed the Uzbekistan Embassy’s willingness to expand such ties in future. 
Asya Batraeva, the Deputy Head of International Relations Department of the National Agency "Uzbekkino", spoke about the current priorities of the Uzbek cinematography.
In particular, it was said that "Uzbekkino" comprises the film studios "Uzbekfilm", "Uzkinohronika", "Karakalpakfilm", "Studio 5" and 14 regional studios. The Government annually allocates funds for production of 15 feature films, 60 documentary films and 7 animation films. In 2014 52 movies were produced.
Asya Batraeva informed about the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan from 18 May 2015 on additional measures for development of cinematography. In particular, it envisages adoption of a special law on cinematography, allocation of additional budget funds for modernization of the state film studios, as well as training of young Uzbek filmmakers abroad.
She also mentioned that "Uzbekkino" organizes various joint projects with foreign embassies in Tashkent, in particular, the Days of Japanese, American and European cinematography, the Festival of German children's films, etc. It was also said that currently there are 382 private studios and art associations functioning in Uzbekistan. In 2014 they produced 34 films, and since the beginning of this year - 21 films.
According to Batraeva, the film "Shabnam" is an example of cooperation of the state film studio "Uzbektelefilm" and private studio "Kinomania." The film was a hit in Uzbekistan and became the leader at the box office and by views on the Internet.
Director of "Shabnam" Mirmaksud Akhunov told the guests about the creative ideas behind the film. It was produced in 2008 being designed for spectators who prefer to see themselves on the screen, are irrational in their contemplation and enjoy romantic novels.
The film’s art group tried to tell a story where the feelings are in harmony with the moral choice of every person who at the same time should not forget about the national roots. The heroes of the film try to understand themselves and experience a genuine love, looking for a simple human happiness and a family. The movie shows the Uzbek modernity in national colours, where the woman is a symbol of true oriental gentleness, beauty and intelligence. The main conflict develops between the freedom of choice of young people and their relationship with the older generation.
The screening of "Shabnam" aroused a great interest of spectators, many of whom emotionally empathized with the characters of the film. According to some guests, they rediscovered the present Uzbekistan, beautiful scenery of modern Tashkent, as well as a dynamic modern Uzbek youth open to pure feelings and respecting national traditions. They noted special artistic way of presenting the images and narrative of the film, use of long "impressionist pieces" when the cameraman show in details the behaviour of the characters while they are waiting or making difficult choices, focusing on the range of emotions experienced by them.
According to some guests, the Western moviegoers are tired of "blockbusters with edgy stories, where the hero saves the Earth from aliens, or detonates a dozen of cars to rescue the hostages, and so on." They show more interest to intellectual films with fine aesthetics and deep meaning, as well as asserting universal human values.
The spectators stressed that this show was a long-awaited event in London and the local public would welcome a series of such screenings of  Uzbek feature, documentary and animation films, for example, in the form of the "Uzbek Films Week" in London.
Before and after the screening, the guests were also offered the tourism materials about Uzbekistan, gift DVDs with "Shabnam" and famous Uzbek palov and drinks.
From left - Larry Sherwin, Ambassador Akbarov and Enzo Quattrociocche
Larry Sherwin opens the evening
Welcome by Ambassador Akbarov
Asya Batraeva speaks
Mirmaksud Akhunov shares his creative vision
Uzbekistan delegation
Ambassador Akbarov with EBRD Political advisor Mahir Babayev 
The audience
Shabnam poster
Gulchekhra Eshonqulova as Shabnam
Heroes of Shabnam
During the reception
With thanks to 


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