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Strange Sea

December 15, 2022


Strange Sea

strange sea

Strange Sea

by Lala Aliyeva
Yaman Film | Azerbaijan

Documentary | 1st feature


On the Caspian Sea shore, people live between fear and hope, dreams and their absence, while the director explores her fear of the Sea. Will she find the roots of her fears or understand how the Sea shapes this geography and the fortunes of people?


I remember being terrified of going into the Caspian as a kid. I recall my dad, carrying me into its depths and throwing me in. Submerged and panicked, I am under water. This is the root of Strange Sea, a place where it has taken its start. On the beach, a young girl Adela is playing and growing up. She fantasizes about the blue sea and wonders what is hidden under it. A horseman Ilham devotes his life to his horses. On the beach, he struggles to find a place for his animals.
The noise of the past is coming from the tunnel on the “Island of Hell”, a Stalin-era execution place. The island is empty and abandoned. Only the bones of repressed victims are scattered around.
The glass skyscrapers across the sea dominate the shoreline, offering the shiny image of prosperity as a result of oil extraction.
Amidst pipes of pink, yellow, and blue, 2000 men toil, forming a surreal landscape in the oil city, a construction built inside the sea and the income source for some and a utopian vision for others.
In the next scene oilmen and their families gather to honor the memories of the oilmen of Pirallahi island, who died during the fire at the oil platform. The sea has turned itself black.
Every time I try to dive in, the sea throws at me fragmented memories: the stories of ordinary lives in the oil industry and flashbacks of the dark past. Adela is older now and Ilham dreams of moving to Canada. I am under water.
Will I find what I seek underneath the surface of the water?

Director’s Profile

Lala Aliyeva is a documentary filmmaker from Azerbaijan.

Her short film They Whisper but Sometimes Scream (2019) premiered at Vision du Reel 2020. She is a graduate of MA in Visual Anthropology from Goldsmiths University. She has been the co-founder and commissioning editor of the Chaikhana Multimedia Platform. Currently, she is developing her debut feature, Strange Sea. She has co-founded Yaman Film. Lala Aliyeva also teachers documentary filmmaking. She has won the main prize of the DokuBaku festival with her film Jahan’s Universe. With the film STRANGE SEA she has participated in different international labs, including East-West Lab, B2B, and EAVA Change.

Company Profile

YAMAN Film is a newly established film company by the creative duo Lala Aliyeva and Aysel Akhundova. The team of YAMAN Film has participated in the CHANGE co-production development project and pitched at CPH:DOX with the film Strange Sea. The name of the company means simultaneously bad and good in translation. YAMAN film aims to help directors tell compelling creative stories and produce personal documentary films using unconventional themes and experimental tools.