Rhythms of Lost Time

Tajikistan, a Central Asian country with a turbulent past, is home to a rich and complex culture. Traditional practises dating back to Zoroastrian times have been kept alive, evolving sometimes naturally and sometimes in response to the changing demands of Soviet, Islamic and capitalist influence. The survival of these traditions is now under greater threat than ever before.
With an emphasis on musical traditions, we meet experts and local people in remote areas who explain and demonstrate their traditions, and witness funerals, fire ceremonies and weddings.
The film features British musician Leo Abrahams who has travelled to Tajikistan in search of maddoh - a form of transcendental funeral music which he has been interested in for many years but never witnessed.

  • Anisa Sabiri
  • Anisa Sabiri
  • Ismail Zibai
  • Joseph Proto
  • Smita Proto
  • Leo Abrahams
    Key Cast
  • Alexey Venzos
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    45 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    May 1, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    23,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Persian
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital, mov, H264, 20mbit, 2K
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Sole Luna Doc International Film Festival
    July 5, 2021
    European Premiere
    Best Picture Award
Director Biography - Anisa Sabiri

Anisa Sabiri was born in 1991 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In 2013 she obtained a law diploma with distinction from Moscow University. For several years she worked as a tour guide in the Pamir mountains while building a profile as an award-winning author, cultural activist and photographer.
In 2016 she studied under the German filmmaker Fred Kelemen; her first student work ‘Redemption’ was selected for the Russian film festival Kinotaur.
Her short film 'The Crying of Tanbur', concerned with the aftermath of the Tajik civil war, was featured in a number of international festivals, where it won several awards.
With the support of the British Embassy in Dushanbe she founded My Vision — an experimental residency that gave young, novice filmmakers the opportunity to work with professionals in producing their first short films.
Next she began work on a feature documentary called 'Rhythms of Lost Time' about the ritual music of Tajikistan.
In 2019 she won a UK Government funded Chevening scholarship, which allowed her to undertake a 1-year MA in screenwriting at London Film School, where was awarded with a Prize for Outstanding Screenwriting Student. At London Film School she also developed her feature script 'Tightrope', which she started to work on with British producer Luke Schiller.

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Director Statement

Rhythms of Lost Time is very close to my heart, being an amplification both of my country’s voice and of my love for Tajik culture. Due to a turbulent past, this culture has been much endangered.

Before becoming a filmmaker I was a tour guide, showing my country to hundreds of tourists from all over the world and telling them about the roots of our beautiful Persian culture, which spread out across the world. Isolated in the highlands of Asia, pushed back by invasions and political challenges, this beautiful culture has nevertheless survived. It was my way, at the time, of storytelling. At the same time, I longed to make films. I had already published poems and photographs, but always felt that film is the most powerful medium, and one I wanted to use to shed a light on Tajikistan.

Each time I visited traditional craftsmen or artists, their practise resonated with me deeply. I was particularly drawn to the music of the Badakhshani tanbur. I wondered aloud to a local musician why its sound affected me so much, and he told me that it is not just a musical instrument: it’s purpose is to help the soul to separate from the body after death. Therefore, he said, the tanbur cries. It seemed wrong to me that although some in the West are aware that Tibetans play funeral music on such instruments, they are probably unaware of these instruments' origins in Central Asia. Likewise, most outside the region probably don’t know that the Tajiks are also Iranians, and keep alive many of the traditions that have died out in Iran itself. Many people have never even heard of Tajikistan!

So I was dreaming not just of being a filmmaker, but a storyteller from Tajikistan – a country which has something to say.
My first short film was called ‘The Crying of Tanbur’. But despite the title it was a work of fiction about the civil war, and nothing to do with music. The following year, when I heard about the German Embassy in Tajikistan’s interest in sponsoring a film about the music in my country, I was delighted. But there is so much music there that I proposed to narrow the subject down to the most endangered one: ritual music.

The stories told in this documentary are only a small part of what I hope to reflect in my future projects, but it has succeeded in documenting an endangered culture of great significance. ‘Rhythms of Lost Time’ challenges the film industry in Tajikistan and Central Asia, where not many documentaries are made because of a lack of resources and interest. And, indeed, it is even more challenging for a female director. The support the German Embassy in Tajikistan, Bactria Cultural Centre and a crowdfunding campaign to create a precedent by setting up an internationally funded film in Tajikistan, opening up the possibilities of international filmmaking in the region, whilst also empowering the female directors, and raising the profile of Tajikistan generally.