Building number 12/35 resembles other apartment blocks in Sumgait, Azerbaijan. Many of its residents, however, share a uniquely tragic fate: most of the men born in the building in the 1960s and 1970s died at an early age, many from drug and alcohol abuse. Their successive deaths cast a shadow on the building and the families living there. Once a close-knit community, many moved away over the past 20 years. Despite—or perhaps because of—their shared pain, the old neighbors often find themselves returning to the building to reminisce.
This film explores the lives of those men and the memories of those left behind: the childhoods they shared and the choices they made. These men, now in their 60s, reflect on what has happened to their generation, why most of their friends and relatives died so young and how this particular apartment block captures the story of a whole generation. The voices and lives of the departed are included in clips from amateur videos from the 1990s. Set against the background of old friends’ attempt to understand their deaths, this film is about nostalgia and how memories kindle a special kind of love for home.
The suburb where I was born and raised is one of the most dangerous places in Sumgayit, but I have always felt safe here. Regardless of its shortcomings, this neighborhood is home to me. My father and uncles grew up here, I was born and raised here, and the teachers who used to teach my father later became my teachers. We and our neighbors were like a family. My childhood, all my memories–happy and sad–are connected to this neighborhood.
12/35 was built in 1968. The original residents moved away over time and the close ties that defined the neighborhood eroded as new people moved in. Many of my childhood friends–and I–also moved away. But despite the fact that we live somewhere else now, we continue to return to 12/35. This place is still home to us.
This film is about returning to the home of our memories. We may live elsewhere, far from 12/35, but we remain neighbors in our memories—it is no longer the building that unites us but the memory of our lives together.