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Filming the Shahnameh

 Zaur Rustamovich Dakhte was born in Dagestan, Russia in 1936.  He graduated from the faculty of cinematography and then worked for Tajik Film Studios until his retirement in 1964.  He has filmed thirteen art films and over seven hundred documentaries.  Some of his most famous works include “Humanity Changes His Skin,” “The Courageous Little Lion”, and “Rustam and Sohrab” which was broadcast to wide television audiences throughout Tajikistan and remains popular today.

 
During the Soviet period there was a remarkable emphasis placed on the quality of cinematography for art films released with the permission of Moscow.  During the Soviet period, it was easier for Tajik film directors to create large, expansive works as they had access to a vast coterie of actors and actresses from throughout the Soviet Union.  
 
Boris Kimyagarov, a Tajik-Jewish film director, working in conjunction with Zaur Dakhte gathered actors and actresses from places like Ossetia, Russia and Uzbekistan as well as Tajikistan, in order to fill the cast for his films devoted to the Shahnameh.  Many of these actors and actresses went on to become household names in Tajik cinema; but more importantly, for Kimyagarov their diversity was a vehicle to promote peace and condemn violence.  
 
Both Kimyagarov and Dakhte loved the Shahnameh and collaborated on the production of a film based on this great Persian epic. Kimyagarov was even interested in making a film about Abulqasim Ferdowsi, but he passed away before he could finish his project.  Other factors including the Civil War, poverty and the sheer cost of film production which have left much of the industry in Tajikistan crippled also impacted both his and Dakhte’s ability to complete film projects in Tajikistan.  
 
As a result of these challenges, Dakhte exchanged his cinematography skills for a camera and began filming historical events, as well as images depicting people’s cultural and social lives in Tajikistan.  His photos have been shown in a series of exhibitions both at home and abroad. Today Zaur Dakhte lives in Dushanbe and photographs for various Tajik publications.
 
This multimedia report was first published in June 2011.
 


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