Posts Tagged ‘kazakhstani film’

Ayka | My Little One (2018) **** | Cannes Film Festival | In Competition

Dir: Sergei Dvortsevoy | Wri: Gennadiy Ostrovskiy | Cast: Samal Yeslyamova | Drama | Kazakhstan | Dop Jolanta Dylews

After giving birth in a squalid Moscow hospital minutes before, a young woman trudges back through blinding snow to pluck chickens in a factory outlet. Sound like your kind of film? This harrowing hunk of social realism is the delicately drawn follow-up from the man who rose to international stage with his tender Kazakh Un Certain Regard winner Tulpan back in 2008. 

Writer-director Sergey Dvortsevoy returns to the Croisette with this competition hopeful AYKA, a much more morose affair anchored by a carefully considered performance from Samal Yeslyamova, that won her Best Actress at Cannes, and who also played the main character’s sister in Tulpan.  Chased along the icy streets and tawdry interiors by awarded DoP Jolanta Dyweska’s handheld camera AYKA has the same chaotic feel as the Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta (1999). Here our back-footed heroine has had to abandon her baby to battle against a callous country populated by criminal landlords, corrupt employers, poverty and disdain. And we feel for her. 

Dvortsevoy and his co-writer Gennadi Ostrowski, trip backwards and forwards offering inklings into the Kyrgyzstani woman’s background in a drama whose themes of social injustice and transmigration are not hammered into place but lightly alluded to in a tale that makes us focus more on Ayka’s blood-stained postpartum hardships (which are not for the feint-hearted) and her fearsome fight for survival in a place where she is neither wanted nor welcome. Some of the scenes make for gruesome viewing but this is a brave and ballsy film that begs for an audience and certainly deserves one. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | BEST ACTRESS WINNER 2018

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Stranger (2015) | Asia House Film Festival 2016

Writer|Director: Ermek Tursunov

Mikhail Karpov, Roza Kharyrullina, Erzhan Nurymbet

Drama | Kazakhstan |

STRANGER is Kazakhstan’s Oscar hopeful, a sweeping historical and folkloric parable that sees a fearless outlaw retreating to the hills during the country’s Soviet occupation. Set to a lively mix of folk and electronic music, STRANGER is also strong on visual impact but Murat Aliyev’s magnificent widescreen cinematography of the country’s snowbound mountains and sun-baked scenery cannot sustain the film’s lack of momentum or narrative vigour and its rather vapid, underwritten central characters remain unconvincing.

In a similar vein to Turkish director Reha Erdem’s 2013 feature JîN, that followed the exploits of a young Kurdish  guerilla (Deniz Hasguler), Kazakh writer and director Yermek Tursunov explores the travails of a resistance warrior Ilyas (Yerzhan Nurymbet) who decamps from his childhood village after losing his parents during the 1930s Soviet hostilities, and settles for a precarious, nomadic and spiritual life in a mountain retreat where his only companions are the local animals and wildlife. But Ilyas is gradually to fall from grace for refusing to join the cause at the outbreak of the Second World War.

This is a worthy and watchable portrayal of a slice of Kazakhstan’s past. That said, the historical background of STRANGER is quite patchy. It appears that Kazakhstan was traditionally home to nomadic tribes who had lived under their own traditions and mores for centuries until the Russian Empire claimed the territory at the turn of the 20th century and subsumed it into the Soviet Union during the 1920s. During Stalinist collectivization in the late 1920s and 30s, the Kazakh’s nomadic life was threatened as farms were forced into collectives to provide food for the burgeoning industrial cities of the motherland, resulting in the death from poverty and starvation of millions of locals. Dissidents deported from Russia, fetched up in the region where they lived also lived a bleak and rootless existence, as seen in the character of Roza Khairullina. But the main fault with STRANGER is a our lack of empathy for any of these characters who appear so faceless and sketchily drawn that by the final showdown we couldn’t care tuppence for any of them. MT

SCREENING DURING ASIA HOUSE FILM FESTIVAL | STRANGER IS KAZAKSTAN’S 2016 OSCAR HOPEFUL

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