Fighting to Survive

in 11th Eurasia International Film Festival, Almaty

by Pierre-Yves Roger

Toll Bar (Shlagbaum), a Kazakh film directed by Jasulan Poshanov, tells the story of two characters whose lives are separated by a barrier.

Rauan has spent his childhood in a village in Kazakhstan. He came to Almaty to become a professional boxer. That’s his dream. But he can’t consecrate 100 per cent of his time to his favourite sport because he has to make a living.

During the day, he works as a security guard at the entrance of a residential complex. During the night, he also works as a security guard, but this time at the entrance of a disco. When he doesn’t work, he is training at the boxing club, and he takes care of his younger brother who is still a pupil. The two brothers live in a small flat in a poor neighbourhood.

Aidar is the son of a rich oil-baron. His aim is to complete his studies to be able to go abroad to a good university. But he is a bit lazy and his teacher requires him to work more if he wants to study abroad.

Socially, Rauan and Aidar belong to two different worlds. They are separated by a toll-bar between wealth and poverty. Each day, they briefly meet at the entrance of the residential complex: Aidar, in his luxurious car, often wakes Rauan, who tends to fall asleep because of his tiring way of life. Sooner or later, a clash will occur between the two men.

Toll Bar was shot in February 2015 in just 25 days, in Almaty, with a very low budget. “Most of the actors are professionals, but they accepted not to be paid because they like to work with us, in a social film evoking real life,” said Rinat Safanov, one of the film’s producers.

Jasulan Poshanov is a member of the “Partisan Movement”, which gathers several Kazakh filmmakers willing to shoot films in a realistic way, with a social point of view, and with a very small budget, so they can be independent.

The problems evoked in the film could concern everybody: the relationship between parents and children, difficulties of adapting to life a big city for people coming from the countryside, social barriers between rich and poor people.

Jasulan Poshanov explores local social problems, which are topical all over the world, in an entertaining way. Produced by “567Creative Laboratory,” his film is very professionally made and based on a very good script.

In June 2015, the lead actor of Toll Bar, Erkebulan Dairov, won the Best Actor award at the 37th Moscow International Film Festival. Two months later, the FIPRESCI jury awarded its prize to Toll Bar at the 11th Eurasia International Film Festival.

Edited by Birgit Beumers