Rustam Ibragimbekov, an Azeri screenwriter, did not look to international negotiations or non-governmental organization reports for help in trying to show the impact of Azerbaijan and Armenia’s 23-year conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh on ordinary lives. Rather, he delved into state records associated with the 1988 slaughter of ethnic Armenians in the Azerbaijani town of Sumgayit.
Ibragimbekov, a 72-year-old native of Baku, has a track record of crafting wrenchingly emotional screenplays that explore how the Soviet system manipulated, and often destroyed individual lives. Along with Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov, Ibragimbekov co-wrote the script for the Oscar-winning “Burnt by the Sun,” a 1994 film about Stalin’s repressions. He explored a similar theme as a co-writer for Régis Wargnier’s Oscar-nominated “East/West” a work about the return of Russian émigrés to the Soviet Union.
With the February 27, 1988, massacre in Sumgayit, Ibragimbekov believes he has hit on a no less controversial topic.
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Khadija Ismayilova is a freelance reporter based in Baku and hosts a daily program on current affairs broadcast by the Azeri Service of RFE/RL.