by Alissa Simon
A deliberately paced tale with a visually mannered style that keeps viewers at arm’s length and distances them from the full impact of the tragic proceedings.
Reportedly inspired by Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” the downbeat Azeri drama “Pomegranate Orchard” from Armenian-born director Ilgar Najaf is a deliberately paced tale with a visually mannered style that keeps viewers at arm’s length and distances them from the full impact of the tragic proceedings. Set in rural Azerbaijan, it revolves around the return of a prodigal son with ulterior motives whose reappearance in the bosom of his family after a 12-year absence significantly changes their way of life. Further festival travel is possible, but programmers will likely find it less charming and engaging than Najaf’s previous feature, “Buta” (2012).
Aging Shamil (Gurban Ismayilov) is becoming too infirm to maintain the family pomegranate orchard, which has long been his pride and joy and whose saplings are highly valued by other growers. There are many who would like to buy him out, but the old man refuses all offers.
Shamil shares his house with his daughter-in-law Sara (Ilahe Hasanova) and visually disabled young grandson Jalal (Hesen Aghayev). His beloved elder son died in a car accident some years previously. Following that tragedy, his black-sheep younger son Gabil (Semimi Farhad), Sara’s husband, left town without a word.