Noah’s Sons

DVCam, Color, Azerbaijani, Russian, subtitles in italian
Direction: Monika Bulaj
Photography: Monika Bulaj, Aleksander Masseroli Mazurkiewicz
Editing: Monika Bulaj, Alberto Valtellina
Production: Lab 80 film
Distribution: Lab 80 film
Lenght: 95’ / Year: 2006 / Country: Italy
The camera travels in the villages of Northern Caucasus and in Northern Azerbaijan, where very old tribes such as the Jews of the Mountain have lived for a long time. Monika Bulaj enters this world with her son of 15 years old, in order to share its life and everyday’s life, spells and mysteries. The houses hold onto the mountain. In the vigils, men tell different stories. Time is made of seasons, herd transhumances, the length of light, but also of celebrations and propitiatory rites. Hers is an adventure of the eyes, a research that aims at getting closer to the meaning of things.

As the Magic mountain by Thomas Mann, the Holy mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky (or, why not, the mountain of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, or Mount Rushmore in “North by Northwest”), the new extraordinary movie by Monika Bulaj, “Noah’s sons”, is focused on the attraction to mountains. But these are very special mountains: they are called “The Thunder Mountains”.

«A crystal, vertical, secluded beehive, isolated from the world. A monolith connected to the rest of Caucasus only by a narrow diaphragm. The sky draws its profile with wide shallow steps, scattered with smoky chimney tops. Every now and then the curtain of clouds reveals its edge and it opens onto the stony and clayey town set in the mountains, over maze-like windows where the last daylight is reflected with the inflamed profile of Kyzylkaya. In the Azeri language it means “The golden rock”, the nearest big mountain. It is a stony and icy massif, filled with naphtha and tongues of fire. It breaks into pieces in the Apseron peninsula, before sinking in the Caspian Sea, by Baku», Monika Bulaj said.

In the movie, Noah’s sons are residents of High Caucasus, a place where Monika Bulaj has been several times, a place she has reached in her voyages, in every season, for more than a year, in order to study, to get together, to watch, to make photographs, and to live with those remote people. They are Noah’s sons because that’s where the legend of Noah gets around the most. It is a “legend that gallops on the mountain tops of the Caucasus region, from Ararat to Elbruz, and fragments of it can be found everywhere”.

The Caucasian region is a very strange territory: «According to the legend, while God was evening languages out in small handfuls here and there all over the world, he stumbled over Caucasus, and many languages fell out all together. Arabs called the Caucasian mountains “the mountains of the many languages”. Pliny himself was surprised: he counted as many as three hundred languages there, even more».

“Noah’s sons” in its way is a religious movie as well: «In the landscape of that region, in the land of “the temples of fire” (where the soil is cracked, and gas and flames come out of cracks), something primeval has always mesmerized me», the authoress said. «But I did not want to make a movie about those people’s faith, even if each gesture they make includes something ritual, something spiritual» she added.

Defining what “really” is the movie “Noah’s sons” is a hard task. It is not a documentary film in the strict sense of the word, although it documents in an exceptional way the life in those remote lands. It is not a journalistic reportage, even if behind all appearances the smart look of the committed observer shows through. It is neither a fiction movie, even though it tells a story (as a matter of facts it tells five stories), nor a docu-fiction.

Most likely, “Noah’s sons” is a reportage of the soul. It is a personal reportage of a year spent, and lived, not only observed, by the authoress who has taken hold of real life in order to represent it in the movie and in a video as best as she could.

There are very few dialogues, almost none. The movie is based and focused on images, the real life images of a life that has been lived and not only observed. This translates into a participated and concerned look, enriched of course by the anthropologic investigation as well, although at all times in the background with respect to the authoress’ attention and participation to the main actors of her stories.

Lab80 Film