Alias Kurban Said

North American Premiere

Netherlands | 90 MINUTES | English, German, Russian |


The real identity of the author of the exotic love story Ali & Nino has been the subject of much speculation ever since the book was first published in Vienna in 1937. With its recent translation into English and its subsequent "rediscovery," the controversy has grown. (Indeed no pen name has aroused so much curiosity since The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and other books signed "B. Traven" launched a decades-long inquiry into the man behind that pseudonym.) Sometimes dubbed "the Romeo and Juliet of the Caucasus," Ali & Nino tells the story of a pair of lovers from neighboring Caucasian lands -- a Christian girl from Georgia and a Muslim boy from Azerbaijan -- set against the turmoil of early 20th Century Baku. It ends tragically with the young man's death and with Russia's occupation of the Caucasus and displays a remarkably acute knowledge of the interaction between two ancient cultures. As Paul Theroux has commented, "This wonderful novel, beautifully constructed, vivid and persuasive, a love story at once exotic and familiar, is living proof that art is indestructible and transcendent." The pseudonym "Kurban Said" was, it turns out, possibly shared by two people, one an Austrian baroness, Elfriede Ehrenfels, and the other a Jewish émigré from Azerbaijan, Lev Nussimbaum, who had converted to Islam, taken the name Essad Bey, and lived in Berlin and Vienna. The director hunts downs surviving relatives and acquaintances of these two people, and conducts engrossing interviews with several of them.


Directed by Jos de Putter

Jos de Putter has written and directed films since 1993 -- the year his film It Was a Lovely Day, was awarded the Prize of the City of Utrecht for the year's best debut film. Since then, his documentary films have screened at festivals in Europe, Australia, the United States, the Middle East, and Asia. Solo, the Favela's Law won the Joris Ivens Award for best film at IDFA Amsterdam 1994; Nagasaki Stories was awarded the jury prize at the Tehran Film Festival in 1996. In 1999, de Putter made two award-winning films, The Making of a New Empire and Zikr. And in 2000, his film Nor His Jackass screened as a part of a series on the Ten Commandments. His film Dance, Grozny, Dance played at the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival.