Azerbaijanian drama “Hostage” teaches a laudable parable about forgiveness and revenge when a woman is compelled to keep one man hostage in order to make an exchange for her own kidnapped husband. However, the film’s technique, right down to its Academy ratio, is so old-fashioned this might easily be mistaken for an archival discovery, though not necessarily one to treasure. Despite the torpid pace, the pic’s timely subject coupled with its exotic origins could capture interest from a fests seeking Central Asian fodder.
Script by veteran helmer Eldar Guliyev, who’s little known beyond Azerbaijan, sets the story during the 1980s-90s failed civil war, when an Armenian minority fought the Azerbaijan army. Azerbaijani matriarch Sona (Gyuliar Nabiyeva, queenly) is utterly distraught when her husband falls into the hands of the Armenians. Her fellow villagers hand her an Armenian hostage (Gurban Ismailov) to give her a bargaining chip for her man’s return. Despite initial hostility, Sona learns to see the hostage’s inherent decency as he chips in with the chores and shows kindness to her three kids. With its post-dubbed dialogue and heavy traditional score, the tech package evokes low-budget Indian cinema.