Eurasia: The Meeting Place

in 10th Eurasia International Film Festival Almaty

by Nigora Karimova

From 15-20 September the city of Almaty hosted the International Film Festival Eurasia. This year the festival was held for the 10th time, celebrating its anniversary. Historically Kazakhstan has always been a place where the traditions of East and West crossed, thus promoting the creation of rich and varied forms of world culture. As a whole, the concept of Eurasia reflects this century-old specificity of the region to interact with cultures of various areas and countries of the world.

The program of Kazakh films, which giving the fullest picture about film production in Kazakhstan today, was titled “Dynamic Kazakh Cinema” and included six films, two of which premiered at the festival. Broadly speaking the program can be divided into two parts: auteur cinema and popular cinema, i.e. films continuing the transformation of the “Kazakh New Wave”, and purely commercial projects. Nariman Turebayev’s film The Adventure (Priklyuchenie) takes a special place, since it differs by its search of non-standard solutions in the dramaturgic structure and in visual aesthetics. The film once again confirms the filmmaker’s fidelity to cinema as pure image, as it renders the thoughts of the hero and time. I shall note here right away that Turebaev’s film received both the FIPRESCI and the NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) award at the festival.

The film is based on Feodor Dostoyevsky’s novella White Nights. Of course, the chronotope of the events, the characters of the heroes and the peripetiae are cardinally different. The film tells about a young man called Marat, whose life is monotonous and boring, until a young girl appears and transforms it into a continuous adventure. In a word, this is the classical meeting of two loners, two “little” people. In the lead roles are Azamat Nigmanov and Ainur Niyazova.

The section of auteur cinema on the level of Adventure was also represented through Alexei Gorlov’s film Story of an Old Woman (Istoriia odnoi strarushki). Searching for a proper space and an original form, the filmmaker embarks on a creative experiment of shooting this feature film in a single take. The film is shot without cuts or edits, in a non-stop mode, as in real life. The heroine is an elderly woman, who is paralysed. She lives in a home for the elderly, notwithstanding the fact that she has a daughter, a son-in-law, and grand-daughters who lead a prosperous life. One fine day they bring her home, but not in order for her to spend her final days with the family and in happiness…

Rashid Suleimenov’s Journey Home (Doroga domoi), Ermek Tursunov’s Kempir, and the debut work by Saken Zholdas He and She (On i ona), as well as Askar Uzabaev’s Careful, a Cow! (Ostorozhno, korova!) are audience-oriented films which form a separate wing of the dynamic Kazakh cinema. This original mix of auteur and genre cinema presents a simple everyday story, a philosophical parable, a romantic melodrama, a folklore comedy… These genres are especially close to Kazakh national mentality. It is pleasant to see that popular cinema has strengthened its positions in Kazakhstan in the last few years. This means that there is a demand for such films among audiences.

So, the hero of the film Journey Home is a talented and successful biochemist, who left Kazakhstan for a life in Norway. When he returns to Astana for a day to sign a contract, he learns that his grandfather has died and left him a huge inheritance. The film may be one of the many films that serve as image-makers for the country, and both the title and the content of the film correspond to these tasks: to show the modern country with a beautiful capital, with tremendously beautiful people, both in appearance and soul. The film of the young director Zholdas, He and She, continues this line.

Tursunov’s Kempyr (which means: Old Woman) is another element on the stratification of the “family”. However, after Tursunov’s sensational films Kelin: The Bride (2009) and Shal: The Old Man (2012), Kempyr seems simple, hastily made, without the aesthetic searches of the previous films. Once upon a time there lived an elderly couple in an aul. They have the usual worries, with adult children and their grandson; on the whole, they have what is called a normal life. This is disrupted by the news that they will soon have a child and husband and the wife start to get ready to become parents once again… A fertile theme for sketches and gags.

In conclusion, I should like to stress that since its inception Eurasia has distinguished itself as an artistic platform that offered space not only to an international competition with various global film-trends, but also to the cinema of Central Asia. Thus, it attracted the attention of the spectator and the professional to the film-industry of Central Asia: within the context of the film festival there was a non-competitive, already traditional program titled “Central Asian Panorama”. Alas, to our great sadness, this year the Central Asian Panorama was not held in the framework of the 10th edition of Eurasia. We would like to hope that such an important segment of festival would not be lost for good.

Edited by Birgit Beumers