BAKU. June 21, 2012: Today, a group of well known actors, film directors and film producers of Azerbaijan established the Union of Azerbaijani Cinematographers. A union of cinematographers under a similar name already exists and is headed by Rustam Ibrahimbeyov, famous Azerbaijani writer and author of many successful movie screens, including the “Burnt By the Sun” which received the Academy Award under the foreign movie nomination in 1994. Rustam Ibrahimbeyov had a fallout with the Azerbaijani government after he started participating in the work of the Forum of Intelligentsia which sharply criticized the authoritarianism and corruption in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani government expressed its discomfort with the fact that Rustam Ibrahimbayov voiced dissent while heading a quasi-state organization which was intended to trumpet the propaganda line of the Azerbaijani government. This discomfort was expressed in the government owned newspapers, the TV channels and Radio, where the people who described themselves to be “the true intelligentsia” attacked Rustam Ibrahimbeyov’s credentials. The establishment of the new organization under the same name of the Union of Azerbaijani Cinematographers followed the unsuccessful attempts of the Azerbaijani government to unseat Rustam Ibrahimbeyov in the existing Union of Azerbaijani Cinematographers.
The actress Shafiga Mamedova was elected a chairman of the new Union of Azerbaijani Cinematographers. The Board membership includes Ayaz Salayev- screenwriter, director of channel "Medeniyet" Jamil Guliyev, director of "Space" TV channel, Vagif Mustafayev, film director Oktay Mirgasimov, screenwriter Ramiz Fataliyev, artists and Mais Agabekov and Yusif Guliyev, composer Siyavush Karimi, director of the film studio "Azerbaijanfilm" Mushfik Khatamov , director of the film studio "Narimanfilm" Nariman Mammadov. The local press was not invited to the event but the Azerbaijani government was represented by the Deputy Prime Minister Elchin Efendiyev and the Minister of Culture Abulfaz Garayev.
Turan News Agency reports that in his speech at the constituent assembly of a new organization, Vagif Mustafayev, a film director and the board member of the newly established union, criticized the Union of cinematographers led by Rustam Ibrahimbeyov and justified the need for the establishment of an alternative structure.
Turan News Agency attempted to talk to Oktay Mirgasimov to find out about his position. Mirgasimov said he could not give a comment on the phone, and promised to do it later. At the same time, he justified the creation of a new organization, described the existing situation in the Azerbaijani cinema as “crisis” and expressed a hope that the situation in the Azerbaijani cinematography would improve.
Another participant of the event, Ayaz Salayev told Turan, that he was not the initiator of this meeting. "I was invited, and I went, because I have hopes that the new alliance will bring the development of the Azerbaijan cinematography,” he said.
Turan News Agency managed to get some comments from Rustam Ibrahimbeyov on this topic. Rustam Ibrahimbeyov said he was not surprised to see this development and added the following: “Creating another Union at present is irrational. Moreover, the meeting of a union on creative activities was attended by the members of the Azerbaijani government, suggesting the involvement of the authorities in this scheme.”
Answering the question if a new union was established as an alternative to his organization, Ibrahimbeyov said he could not rule out that the establishment of a new organization was meant to serve that purpose. He said that it is easy to establish an organization, but the main thing is the goal of the organization. "Now, if the new union helps to raise cinema, we will be happy, ” he said. “They (the Azerbaijani government –ed.) did not allow us create a school of filmmakers, the festival and other initiatives. If the new organization succeeds in doing all of this, let them do it by all means," said Ibrahimbeyov.
Speaking on how he regarded the transfer of his colleagues to the new Union, namely the participation of Oktay Mirgasimova, Ayaz Salayev and several others in the new organization, Ibrahimbeyov said everyone was free to make a choice. "It is not a question of law; it is a question of conscience. To be honest, I was surprised by their actions. But as for Vagif Mustafayev, I am not surprised. Ten years ago, we excluded him from the Union for unethical behavior," said Ibrahimbeyov (Azerireport).