Kazakhstan

Darezhan Omirbayev – Shilde AKA July (1988)

Review: Darezhan Omirbaev’s penchant for spare, elliptical narrative, muted figures, and disembodied framing (most notably, of hands and feet) have often been (favorably) compared to the rigorous aesthetic of Robert Bresson. However, in imposing such a somber – and inescapably cerebral – analogy, there is also a propensity to overlook the wry, self-effacing humor and irony of situation that pervade his films: a lyricism that equally captures the human comedy in all its contradictions and nobility from the margins of Soviet society. This sense of the quotidian as a continuum of human experience, elegantly rendered in Omirbaev’s recent film, The Road through Amir’s recurring daydream of a mother milking a cow and her intrusive child (who, in turn, looks remarkably like Amir’s own son) in rural Kazakhstan (an image that subsequently proves to be a catalytic historical memory from his childhood when man landed on the moon), can also be seen from the outset of Omirbaev’s cinema through his incorporation of a decidedly Buñuelian sequence in the short film, July of a young boy who, while on the lookout for guards near the foothills of a kolkhoz commissary, curiously finds himself wandering into a recital hall where the performance of a young pianist is punctuated by the appearance of a horseman on the stage. Read More »

Tolomush Okeyev – Lyutyy AKA The Ferocious One (1974)

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This visually stunning Kazakh movie tells a tragic tale of absent and misplaced compassion. A young orphan rescues an orphaned wolf cub and lavishes considerable affection on it. His uncle, believing that this “softness” will result in the boy’s being unable to endure the rigors of life on the Kazakh steppes, savagely beats the cub in front of the boy. By the time the grown wolf is released into the wild, it has grown extremely ferocious and it returns and attacks the boy, perhaps because it perceives him as being weak, just as the boy’s uncle did. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi Read More »

Abdulla Karsakbayev – Menya zovut kozha aka My Name is Kozha (1964)

Koja is really a little brat nobody can tame. His mother, neighbours and even his head teacher don’t know how to deal with such a boy any more. The head teacher tells him that, unfortunately, he is not like his father who died at war. Koja makes promises, but he forgets them as soon as he leaves the head teacher’s office … “Working on a film with children should be like a game so that the shooting does not weight heavily on them. All children are by nature actors and story tellers. They simply express this penchant in more or less obvious ways. ” Abdulla Karsakbaiev
Source Festival de Vesoul, 2012 Read More »

Adilkhan Yerzhanov – Chuma v aule Karatas AKA The Plague at the Karatas Village (2016)

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Yerzhanov is a strong voice of the new Kazakh cinema.

The story
When a young mayor arrives in Karatas, a remote village in Kazakhstan, he finds a large part of the population ill. He recognises the symptoms immediately as plague-related. The sufferers, however, insist they have the flu, and that is confirmed by the local authorities, who have for decades pocketed the money for vaccination programmes and let the deadly illness rage on. The newly-appointed mayor resists at first, but is slowly dragged down into a morass of corruption and abuse of power. Like the film The Owners shown at Cannes, Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s latest film is an indictment of the lawless practices in today’s Kazakhstan, which is understandably known as the ‘Wild East’. His approach is very theatrical. He presents his message in a Brechtian way. The sets are surrealist, the acting is alienating, the undertone mythical. The moral, however, is highly contemporary and crucial. Winner NETPAC Award 2016. Read More »

Darezhan Omirbayev – Kairat (1992)

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This 34-year-old filmmaker has invented an entire universe,” wrote Jean-Michel Frodon in Le Monde, and he was right. Darezhan Omirbaev may well have been inspired by Bresson and Hitchcock, but he has indeed created his very own universe in the five films he’s made since the late 80s. The disconnected events of his films are simple – a boy travelling on a train from the steppe to the city, riding on a bus, going to a movie and brushing bare arms with his date, wandering through a train yard. But every form, every movement, every gesture seems to have found its precise poetic place, and the emotional terrain contained within his first feature feels as vast as an ocean. Kairat is the name of Omirbaev’s autobiographically inspired hero, who moves through life exactly as many of us do when we’re adolescents – awkwardly, in bewildered confusion, guarding a wealth of emotions deep within us like a buried treasure. One of the best films of the 90s. Read More »

Sultan Khodzhikov – Kyz-Zhibek AKA Lady Zhibek (1971)

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Kyz-Zhibek – Kazakh poetic folk legend of the 16th century, tells about the period in the Kazakh nation when the people suffered from bloody feuds. In those times each province of the Kazakh nation had its own Khan and each tried to supersede the other. The love story of Tolegen, the brave warrior, and the beauty Zhibek ends tragically because of inter-family strife. Tolegen is foully murdered by Bekejan (the batyr, or nobleman, of the rival family), who earlier strived for the hand of Zhibek. Zhibek commits suicide after learning about the death of Tolegen.

16 variants of the legend exist in different parts of Kazakhstan.

In 1934 opera “Kyz-Zhibek” was staged in Abay Opera House (music – Eugeny Brusilovsky, libretto – Gabit Musrepov).

In 1970 Kazakhfilm made film based on the legend.

In 1988 the poem was translated into Russian by Kazakh poet Bakhytzhan Kanapyanov. Read More »

Darezhan Omirbayev – Student (2012)

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The film is based on “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Action takes place in modern Kazakhstan. The film’s protagonist is The Student whose major at the university is philosophy. He rents a basement room from an old woman living in the suburbs and suffers from a permanent lack of money and loneliness. The Student is stressed by the surrounding atmosphere of poverty and the ideology of total survival competition, the division of people into rich and poor, strong and weak… Influenced by all these, The Student decides to rob the nearest convenience store where he buys some bread time to time… Read More »