I know they are just short films, but seeing seven films in about two years from one filmmaker is nothing short of mindblowing to me. This is the rapid-fire pace with which Tofiq Rzayev, from Azerbaijan, has presented his films to me since the first part of 2015. It’s been exciting to watch, because even when you feel like you are about to get a more traditional genre exercise, it takes a left turn, and becomes something just a touch different. Such is the case with “Leftovers.”
The film starts with two detectives (Erhan Sancar and Ismail Mermer) driving an individual (Gökberk Kozan) in the back of their car. We hear over the radio dispatch trying to get a hold of them, but one of the detectives turns the radio down, as if they are going off the grid. They have to stop the car, because the person in back is getting sick. The cop in charge takes a call from his superiors, getting an update from him; he’s also calling to make sure everything is alright, as they weren’t getting through on the scanner. We get a wrinkle in the case the individual in the back is related to, and a little more, as well.
His films are technically strong, his stories are hard-edged and, many times, rooted in genre, but ultimately, I don’t think it’s unfair to call Rzayev a filmmaker of matters of the heart, first and foremost. As I mentioned earlier, his films take a left turn at a key point in the narrative, and become something more than we are expecting. The films of his that have resonated strongest with me (“Araf,” “Aftermath,” “Nihan: The Last Page”) have powerful themes of loss and how we deal with it at their core, and it’s a bit of a shock to learn by the end that “Leftovers” is similar in nature. The individual the detectives are driving has secrets they don’t even know, let alone the audience, making their reveal that much more potent. I feel like, in the past two years, I’m watching the emergence of one of the freshest, most important voices in world cinema, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for me next.