A countryside schoolboy tries to stand up against an albino bully in the charming and gorgeously assembled “Buta,” this year’s foreign-language Oscar submission from Azerbaijan. The titular orphan is named after the paisley shape that finds its way into both the carpet he receives for his birthday and an enormous stone monument he’s constructing on a scenic mountaintop. This naturally acted contempo fable has been making the fest rounds, and will also appeal to tube buyers looking for exotic, G-rated fare.Pint-sized Buta (Rafig Guliyev) might be far too small for the hand-me-down shirt he’s wearing, but he’s not afraid to stand up for himself. Scribe-helmer Ilgar Najaf uses the protag’s symbolic name as the binding element of several related stories that elegantly blend light comedy and equally light drama, offering an almost fairy-tale-naive if never quite moralizing look at love, family and village life in rural Azerbaijan. Javnshir Guliyev’s score, alternating between delicate flutes and more melancholy wind instruments, helps underline the emotions, while Giorgi Beridze’s supple camerawork, featuring many helicopter shots, drinks in the scenic landscapes, especially in the pic’s breathtaking finale.
An Azerbaijanfilm Studio, Buta Film production. Produced by Ilgar Najaf, Xamis Muradov. Executive producer, Azer Guliyev. Directed, written by Ilgar Najaf.
Camera (color), Giorgi Beridze; editor, Guishan Salimova; music, Javnshir Guliyev; art director, Aziz Mammadov; visual effects, Asimmetrik. Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival (Awards Buzz), Jan. 8, 2013. Running time: 98 MIN.
With: Rafig Guliyev, Tofig Aliyev, Elnur Karimov, Laman Naviyeva, Arzu Isayeva, Bahadur Sefiyev.