ANGEL ON THE RIGHT (Tajikistan / 2002)
The title of the film, Angel on the Right (Fararishtay Kifti Rost), is derived from an Islamic law which states that every human being has two angels, one of each shoulder, who document the good and the bad deeds to be interpreted on judgment day. So, with that in mind, it becomes obvious early on that one of the angels on our protagonist, Hamro (played with brooding intensity by Maruf Pulodzoda who looks like an extra from a Guy Ritchie flick), hasnt been doing much work lately since we learn that this ex-con has just spent 10 years in a Moscow prison for murder, and has also been involved with drugs in the past. But, as he makes his way back towards the remote, poverty-stricken village in Tajikistan, he doesnt realize that hes being duped by his mother (Uktamoi Miyasarova) and the local villagers (including a tyrant of a mayor) into coming back so he can pay off his numerous debts. Directed by Jamshed Usmonov, a Tajik who is most famous for playing the lead in Darezhan Omirbayev's The Road (2001), Angel on the Right is a relatively minor parable in every sense, although, its not without its pleasures. Along with examining a couple of interesting relationships, Usmonov often livens up his bleak milieu with dry humor and by introducing some wicked local customs: one of whom involves a barbaric hand-shake (Tourist Warning: Dont try to bargain!). Eventually, Hamro comes across his son (Kova Tilavpur), possibly a product of his past relationship with a local prostitute, and develops sexual feelings for a beautiful young nurse (Malohat Maqsumova). But, for the most part, Usmonov wisely refuses to redeem this selfish and materialistic man. A political reading of this rare film from Tajikistan might render it even more important, because as the director said, "[It] reflects the problems of present-day Tajik society, which is facing profound social and political upheavals and a seven-year civil war. The main character Hamro is the product of these events." If I were to decipher my opinion using the films titular logic, then Id say that there's definitely more good here than bad.
*ANGEL ON THE RIGHT premiered at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard).
*Available on DVD in the U.S. (First Run Features) and the U.K. (Tartan).