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Once Upon A Time In Shanghai

DirectorLeyli Gafarova
ProducerVeit Helmer
CameraLeyli Gafarova
EditorLeyli Gafarova
SoundMichiel De Malsche, Leyli Gafarova
MusicEmin Sabitoglu
Length35 min
SectionShort Films, Big Stories
ScreeningThursday 7 November | 17:15 hours | Filmhuis Den Haag
Saturday 9 November | 11:15 hours | Filmhuis Den Haag

The renowned German director Veit Helmer is shooting a fiction film in a poor area of the capital Baku in Azerbaijan. The area is called Shanghai and its inhabitants are part of the film. The director’s assistant, Lejli Gafarova, makes a documentary parallel to shooting of the fiction and the famous actor, Miki Manojlovic, arrives too. A hilarious and thought-provoking documentary.


Intercepting the footage of the German film crew trying to film around the railroad going through Shanghai with scenes of the slum’s daily life, the director takes us on a journey through the last days of a slum in Azerbaijan’s capital. Men talk with a sense of nostalgia and pride over the petty crimes they’ve committed as youngsters from Shanghai. Elders instruct children to express their love for Shanghai, while children talk about the fear they feel when a train interrupts their play at the railroads and friends end up in the hospital.

Director’s bio

Georgian director Leyli Gafarova studied film at the Royal Institute for Theatre Cinema and Sound in Brussels. She finds inspiration in conflicts of everyday life and human interactions. She made five short fiction films before moving to documentaries. Her films include ‘Everything is beautiful about life’ and ‘A Humble room ADO’ 2017. 

Festivals & Awards (selection)

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, 2018 – Short Documentary Competition (World Premiere) | CineDOC, Tbilisi 2019