So little is known, cinematically, about Azerbaijan that any serious film from that country is of inherent interest, which is probably the reason the confused, inconclusive “Goodbye, Southern City” will be seen lurking around fest venues. Tale about a swaggering young hero who defends his neighbors from bullies until more powerful forces hamstring his struggle for justice walks the dangerous edge of narrative incomprehension. Except for some tantalizing glimpses of old Baku’s ancient streets and mosques, nothing here will hit the spot for Western audiences, for whom the film’s political musings will prove inscrutable.
In Baku of the 1980s, shaven-headed Alik (Timur Badalbeoly) plays the local hero because he owns a gun. The folks in his sprawling apartment building, who colorfully gossip on the back stairs, turn to him in moments of need. When a cold-blooded businessman (Fuad Poladov), a political refugee from Nagorny Karabach, moves in and tries to oust a jazz band from the basement, Alik imprudently butts in. Characters, setting and story all have the quaint feeling of having been lifted from a local Azeri TV series. Tech credits, including a hasty dubbing job, are scant.