To Get to Heaven You Have to Die (Bihisht Faqat Baroi Murdagon)
Tajikistani writer/director Jamshed Usmonov’s macho but engaging, quirky and darkly humourous tale of impotence and mafia initiation is his first since 2002’s equally measured and memorable Angel on the Right. Set, like that film, in and around the Asht province of Tajikistan (on the northernmost tip of the northwestern Sughd province), To Get to Heaven … is the story of 20-year-old Kamal (Khurshed Golibekov) whose impotence since marriage has led him on a journey of sorts to the region. With little to do he hangs around the town watching women and attempting to kick start his libido. Then one day he meets Vera (Dinara Drukarova). But with Vera comes her psychotic petty thief husband (Maruf Pulodzoda).
By borrowing many of the conventions of the American B-movie (new boy in town, youthful introversion, initiation into a crime family, casual misogyny towards female sex workers, seductive moll of head gangster etc) and then slowing proceedings down to a snail’s pace, Usmonov creates an odd but likeable ambience. He injects this wandering tale of voyeurism and redemption with sly social commentary and a playful deadpan humour that brings to mind the early films of the great Serbian filmmaker Dusan Makavejev (most notably his debut Man is Not a Bird). As elliptical and fatalistic as you would expect from this filmmaker, To Get to Heaven … does not outstay its welcome or disappoint. (
Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 19–Sun 21 Dec.