Aura was one the many documentaries made during the early years of perestroika that cast a critical eye on pressing social issues that had previously been ignored by the moribund Soviet documentary film industry. Among these films were Juris Podniek ’s Is It Easy to be Young? (1986) , which examined alternative youth cultures; Tat'iana Chubakova’s The Homecoming (1987) about Afghan war vets; Hertz Frank’s Final Verdict (1987) about the death penalty; Vladimir Shevchenko’s Chernobyl: Chronicle of Difficult Weeks (1988) about the nuclear disaster in Ukraine; and Tofik Shakhverdiev’s Stalin is With Us? (1989), which followed a group of ardent Stalinists.
Aliev’s film, Aura, addressed perhaps the most explosive social problem that faced the Soviet Union after the many years of politically imposed constraints were lifted: drug addiction. The film is a polemical examination of narco-business and the new narco-mafia in Central Asia, linking them to governmental agencies.
The film won First Prize at the Tempere ( Finland) Festival for Short Films in 1989 and a Special Prize in the Panorama program of the Berlin Festival (1989). It is also one of the very few films that was “shelved” during perestroika, precisely when the Conflicts Commission was releasing hundreds of other films that had been “shelved” during the Stagnation years. All prints in Turkmenistan were destroyed.
Born in Ashkhabad in 1951, Aliev graduated from the State Filmmaking Institute (VGIK) in Moscow in 1977. From 1975 to 1990 he worked as a documentary filmmaker at Turkmen Studios, directing more than 30 films. Between 1990 and 1992 he was the artistic director of the Nusai center for children’s television and cinema, and in 1993 was appointed deputy chairman of the Turkmenistan State Cinema-Video Company. His filmmaking career in Turkmenistan ended abruptly in 1997, when president Niiazov (Turkmenbashi) expressed his negative opinion of Children of the Earthquake. After being officially banned from the Turkmen film industry in 1999, Aliev moved to Moscow where he continues to work.
Selected Filmography :
1977: The Road to Olympus (doc)
1980: The Red Echelon (doc)
1987: Aura (doc)
1988: Velvet Season (doc)
1996: Children of the Earthquake
2001: The Children of Mighty August (doc)
2004: Secrets of Black Sand (doc)
2005: Guys of Steel (TV-serial)
2006: The Officers (TV-serial)
This series is co-sponsored by the Center for Russian and East European Studies and the Film Studies Program. It was made possible by the support of the Office of the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and it would not have been possible without the generosity of Forrest Ciesol.