BAKU, Azerbaijan, MAY 23, 2002 (ZENIT.org–Avvenire).- Eldar Guliev, 64, is the most famous and loved film director in Azerbaijan. He has produced many films of a historical and social character, and was in the first row at Wednesday´s meeting of representatives of the world of culture and art with the Pope.
“I have always wanted to meet with John Paul II,” said Guliev. “He was and continues to be a great artist. He was born and lived in a Communist country; therefore, he well understands Azerbaijan´s problems — good reason to address us in Russian!”
Guliev would have loved to have the Pope walk around Baku. Guliev called Baku “a city that already Russian writer Maksim Gorky [1858-1936] liked to compare to Naples — a marvelous place that has always had an international character, even before oil was discovered. The Silk Road passed through here, it was a meeting point between East and West.”
And today? “For 25 hours we returned to what we used to be, thanks to the Pontiff,” Guliev exulted.
In the film director´s opinion, the Holy Father can revive the authentic Azeri soul, “stranger to all religious or political radicalism, immune to nationalism, open to all.”
Guliev touched a sensitive spot. Though the Shiite Muslim majority coexists peacefully with the Orthodox minority and the small Catholic community, from the political point of view tension is increasingly acute with neighboring Armenia over the question of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“That accursed war is the poisoned fruit of the demise of the Soviet Union,” Guliev said, referring to the conflict that left 20,000 dead. “It was the first interethnic conflict that opened the way to the wars in Yugoslavia.”
A state of cold war exists between Armenia and Azerbaijan, despite the truce signed in 1994. “And Moscow continues to fan the fire,” the film director said.
But what can John Paul II do? “He is a man of peace, not only in word but by example,” Guliev said. “In the ´60s, Karol Wojtyla was among the protagonists of the reconciliation between his country and Germany, two neighboring nations shot through with profound hatred. A model for us.”
Eldar Guliev has taken part in several meetings with Armenians — a difficult option, a still distant understanding. However, he has shown that dialogue can be initiated. His latest film, “The World Is Beautiful,” is about a group of madmen who escape from an insane asylum but eventually prefer to return, as outside everything is upside down.
“But I continue to be optimistic,” Guliev joked. “Things cannot get worse.”