«Fisherman's Daughter» press conference report
On October 1, 2020, the press conference dedicated to the film «Fisherman's Daughter» by the debutant director Ismail Safarali took place. The picture participates in Main Competition of the 42nd Moscow International Film Festival. Director Ismail Safarali, director of photography Shandor Berkeshi and producer Alexander Rodnyansky.
Sarah is a 14-year-old girl living in a small fishing village on Apsheron peninsula at the seaside of the Caspian sea. Her father goes missing while fishing. With his body not found, Sarah refuses to believe that he is dead. However, the girl's family and the villagers insist on holding a funeral, albeit ceremonial — the elders are sure that an unburied fisherman causes all the miseries that the small village is going through. Sarah rebels and goes against her family’s will and traditions. The nature rebels with her — a storm is coming on, and Sarah sets out to sea to look for her father.
«In the beginning of the 90s, a similar story happened to me – my father disappeared for a week. Later, the film events took place almost literally. I didn't want to take myself as a prototype, it just seemed to touch too close home. That's why I chose a female character, for which I partly used my daughter's traits,» Safarali told journalists.
Based on childhood memories, the story was conceived back in 2015, with the Kinotavr pitching in 2016 contributing to the active work on the project. Safarali developed the story with screenwriter Marina Zemlyanskaya. At Kinotavr, the project was noticed by producer Alexander Rodnyansky.
«I first saw Ismail at Kinotavr, where he confidently won the pitching and made a great impression on me. He was different from other participants, because he had a life unusual for a filmmaker. First, he graduated from a university in Baku, then got a Master's in Economics at the prestigious Duke University in the US. His career as a banker, hedge fund manager had been quite successful before he honestly admitted to himself that he was bored. Then, he entered the Moscow School of New Cinema. Recently, I've been tuning in for emerging filmmakers, I really like it when people tell stories about themselves and from their point of view in their debut films. So I liked the idea of a picture founded on personal experience and feelings, and in the language most of Ismail's family spoke when he was a kid. It's an honest film by a talented person who is starting to pave his way as an independent artist with life experience under his belt,» Alexander Rodnyansky said.
Safarali admitted that he was trying to work with «locations and traditions» he «knows well». Apsheron's community, he said, is very patriarchal and isolated. That’s why he and director of photography Shandor Berkeshi decided to single the main character Sarah out visually by giving her traits that stand out. For example, she mostly wears a red dress, unlike other locals dressing in black.
«We had to make up our minds with picture and colour. Azerbaijan is ocherish warm, has blue sky and blue sea. So, these were two colours we chose to be actively shown in the film. After first location scouts, we chose the picture to be wide screen, and later on worked on the film’s coloristic solution. How the girl should be dressed, how she should stand out,» Shandor Berkeshi said.
Young actress Khamail Gasanova starred as Sarah, and Safarali found her during the filming of the film's teaser for the Kinotavr pitching. Three years later, when the shooting was nearing, he didn't consider Khamail for the role first.
«I had a few options I was discussing with Alexander Yefimovich, and then he asked why I wouldn't try the same girl. So we decided to call her. When she came to the casting, I realized how mistaken I was not having contacted her earlier. I saw her and just realized that she was it. She mastered the role fantastically, and coped with strenuous physical load, too. She is strong-willed, and I thank God for this choice of mine,» Safarali emphasized.
According to Rodnyansky, «The Fisherman's Daughter» will get a limited release, but it will happen «when people will enter cinema halls without fear or concern». The film might be released internationally too, because the prominent Wild Bunch company acted as the picture's partner.
«I guess that the world will see more active times when festivals will not be postponed or cancelled. We agreed to the Moscow International Film Festival's offer, because it's real, and it is strange to live in expectations and put off the film for a long time. Also, I would like Ismail to continue working as a director,» the producer concluded.