One of the important premises of Rhythms of Lost Time is time and the rhythm of life, which is beautifully slow and mellow. "Time itself echoes in this ancient poetry." What importance do time and rhythm have in your film?
I believe that time itself wouldn’t exist without human beings. We have invented time as a form of guidance, and that is pretty much being reflected through music and language. And yet, rhythm is the language of time - and that’s what I find very interesting about ancient music - the capsulated time that has survived throughout thousands of years. I think that’s invaluable as a case of study and perception, and it can teach us a lot about something that we have lost - not only in a sad way.
There are several aspects to the film, including the influence of religion, political systems, imperialism, gender roles (men and women are mostly separated when portrayed during their communal activities and signing). Could you speak about these?
Each culture has a great ability to encode layers of history of peoples’ lives, and Tajik culture is a good example - current traditions from metaphysics to a complex colonial and post-colonial history of Tajikistan, and I find it amazing. To me, this complexity seemed very important to be reflected in this particular film, as some sort of a starting point - in a way, to take responsibility for a narrative-driven documentary that would let me not return to this subject anymore… So, the film Rhythms of Lost Time is not the end of the project. We have documented more than 30 hours of unique footage - so there is a lot more I am considering using in future projects. I'm now thinking of making a less narrative adaptation, and releasing the music recordings. But this was an ambition from the very beginning - to let the footage live through different forms of media, and so to promote the Tajik culture. And I'm very grateful to our financiers - The German Embassy in Tajikistan, and the Bactria Cultural Centre for being co-minders in that.
"Someone said that traditions are like a thread of life carried through time; a connection with our ancestors; a kind of code for our communication with past and future generations." Is a quote from your film. How do you view the influence of globalisation on these remote communities?
Just as different parts of the human body, societies have always been influencing each other in the most incredible way. Places we find remote today, have been on pathways of major trade routes, or affected by migration. This is how it has been in Tajikistan - on a tiny territory 93 percent covered with mountains; you can find so much cultural diversity - because people from different places of the region have been finding their shelter in the mountains, running out of prosecution, or conquerors, or due to their spiritual search. So it would probably be incorrect of me to say that there was no influence of globalisation there before - it just had a different scale and form; and I think, now, all the mountain communities in the world share this pattern - being some DNA of different layers of the local history.
Now there are other patterns - migration to Russia, technologies, climate change, economic crises and political challenges. People in the mountains are very sensitive to all these, and much less protected than everybody else - including the danger of being exoticised, classified and put into ‘boxes’ that I find very threatening.
I think it is very important, when we come to those remote areas with respect to people who live there, without being trapped or representing them or speaking about their needs, or telling them who they are. I can see that nowadays it happens a lot, unfortunately.