Experiences of Cinematic Internationalism
Film screenings incl. live commentaries, discursive program incl. keynotes, panels, and roundtables
In 2024 at HKW and satellite venues across Berlin, Destination: Tashkent is a film festival that draws upon the history and approach of the Tashkent Festival for Asian, African and Latin American Cinema held between 1968 and 1988 in Uzbekistan. The debut edition of the festival hosted over 240 filmmakers, actors, critics, and political figures from 49 Asian and African countries and showcased a total of 115 fiction and documentary films. From 1976 onwards, filmmakers from Latin America also joined the festival in Uzbekistan. Though many participants’ home countries were at the time pursuing strategic alliances with the Soviet Union against colonialism, capitalism, and western imperialism, the participating filmmakers were not reduced to being solely national representatives; the festival also accommodated so-called Third World cinema and allowed for South-to-South encounters that were non-aligned or critical of Soviet policies. These were made possible through roundtable discussions that were seen as an integral part of the festival.
The Tashkent Festival’s manifold film programme, which included popular dramas as well as activist engaging documentaries, was aimed at multiple audiences and was well received by locals thanks to the translations provided. Within such a multilingual environment this was a sizeable challenge; very few films were available with subtitles. Festival organizers decided to provide live translation into Russian (via speakers), English, and French, and later also into Spanish and Arabic (via headphones). As historian Elena Razlogova describes, at Tashkent, translators literally re-voiced films via a live performance piped into the cinema on top of the original soundtrack. Every single guest was provided with simultaneous translation; if someone did not understand any of the official festival languages, additional interpreters supported them by whispering translations in Bengali, Khmer, and Wolof. As such, translation and oral commentary were at the core of the Tashkent festivals.
Many films that premiered in Tashkent found their way into the cinemas of the Soviet Union and its republics in Central Asia, whose audiences loved both major productions from India or Egypt and political films from Indonesia or Cuba. Until its final 1988 edition, the festival in Tashkent was one of the most important destinations for filmmakers from the South who wanted not only to present their films, but also to share a discursive space for long-lasting exchange and solidarity. The festival was an experience of cinematic internationalism and a contact zone, taking place in a city that was eventually forced to confront its own (semi-)colonial present within the Soviet Union.
After being in the shadows of the Cold War and its dislocations, Berlin is now an important epicentre of the African, Latin American, and Asian diasporas and, against the backdrop of its particular historical context, can claim to be a new meeting place for South-South collaborations along the lines of Tashkent.
In 2024 the festival’s spirit is alive in Berlin at HKW, Sinema Transtopia, and SAVVY Contemporary. Destination: Tashkent features a selection of films that demonstrates the diversity of the original festival’s programming, as well as contemporary films that explore the space of possibilities regarding the future of South-to-South artistic collaborations. Some screenings are accompanied by a live commentary, while a discursive programme expands the conversations around Tashkent festival and its traces in contemporary film festivals, film production, and circulation.