Holy Cow

Review by Tom Williams

Directed by

Imam Hasanov

Starring

Khanali Huseynli Majid Abbasov

Anticipation.

It’s a film. About a cow.

Enjoyment.

A surprising and compelling story.

In Retrospect.

The most you’ll care about a farm animal since Babe.

This intimate film chronicles a simple rags to riches tale of a man and his cow.

A family’s strange journey, which starts from buying and raising a cow, is documented by director Imam Hasanov. Taking place in a small village in Azerbaijan, the story is told primarily through the perspective of affable patriarch Tipdig. The reward of the purchase is potentially huge for this poverty-striken family, but the risk, it transpires, is even higher.

Due to the religious connotations of purchasing an animal not native to the village, several of the elder members of the village wish for Tipdig to be banished from the community. In addition to this, he suffers internal pressure from his wife to spend the money on more concrete investments. The cow is a window to a more prosperous way of life – he pins a picture of the cow on a wall as if it were a Lamborghini or an idolised celebrity, only for his wife to cover it up with a large sheet.

We gain an insight to both the family and community through the very un-intrusive style of filming. Hasanov employs several slow pans and long static shots to remain passive in the documentary, with no interviews with the residents of the village. This allows for the glorious landscape to shine through with a gorgeous, hushed tranquillity. The desolate shots that frame the characters pack an emotional punch too, especially at the lowest dramatic ebb where we see our cow-buying hero sat alone at a table while his former friends refuse to eat with him.

Although the premise of this film at first may seem comical, it is in fact a sincere and moving tale. Our hero’s love for the cow (or Madonna as he names her) provides a simple and heart-warming resolution that, despite our disconnection to rural customs and lifestyles of the region, allows us to relate to the motives and decision making we see. Things wind down in the latter stages, but the documentary closes with a lovely grace note as Tipdig’s kindness means that he’s able to get the last laugh. It’s a climactic display of humanity typical of our hero and proves why he is deserving of what truly is a Holy Cow.

Published 10 Dec 2016

Tags: Documentary

Anticipation.

It’s a film. About a cow.

Enjoyment.

A surprising and compelling story.

In Retrospect.

The most you’ll care about a farm animal since Babe.

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