Ongoing: Central Asian Cinema
Asian Cultural Center of Vermont presents the Central Asian Cinema film series in Brattleboro. To promote awareness about Central Asia world-wide, The Arts and Culture Network Program of Open Society Institute (OSI) commissioned Central Asian Cinema Expert Gulnara Abikeyeva to bring together this collection. The aim of this series is to view the Central Asian through a prism of selected films of five republics, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This film series consists of two sets of films, the series developed and coordinated by Dr. Gulnara Abikeyeva, Director of the Center of Central Asian Cinematography. The first set of films, released in Almaty in 2006, is entitled Two Epochs of National Self-Determination in Central Asian Cinema: The 60s and 90s. Each republic is represented by two feature length films. For each republic, there is a film made during the Soviet times of the 1960s and another made during the independence decade in the 1990s. The second set of films, released in 2008, entitled Two Epochs of National Identity Formation: Documentary Films of Central Asia, consists of 70 documentary films of the region. These films are shown with the permission of OSI, screening free to the public, together with a presentation related to the film topic. Film viewing is preceded by a short introduction and followed by a discussion period. The cover art for the feature film set showing a compelling image of hands-as-film focusing on an eye, was created by Ilya Rudoplavov, (photo credit Gulnara Abikeyeva). See below for specific films.
Shown by permission of Open Society Institute, these films are offered to the public free of any admission charge. Donations are always welcomed to help with Cultural Center programming and event expenses. The Central Asian Cinema series in Brattleboro is hosted by the Asian Cultural Center of Vermont.
Part one of the Central Asian Cinema series: feature-length films of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan:
DAUGHTER-IN-LAW, a film from Turkmenistan. (75 minutes, 1963.) This film is for general audiences. Shown by permission of Open Society Institute. An old goat and sheep herder and his daughter in law breed lambs in an isolated part of the desert with rarely a visitor. She lives with images in her mind of her husband, awaits his return from the battlefront, and hopes he is still alive. Gulnara Abikeyeva our Central Asian film expert describes: “The war has taken her husband. And this dream – to sing a song at the baby’s cradle – is carried out to the culmination of the film.” One of the heroes of the film is “an always awaited child” who “will never appear.” The film moves in the rhythms and landscape of traditional Turkmen lifestyle, opening with old man buried in the hot sand up to his neck to treat his rheumatism. Later they dry melons for winter, and take in newborn lambs. This film has won prizes at many film festivals.
LITTLE ANGEL, MAKE ME HAPPY, a film from Turkmenistan. (88 minutes, 1993.) This film is for general audiences. During World War II in Turkmenia, the deportation of Soviet citizens of German origins begins; adults are sent to concentration camps, children to orphanages. Six-year-old Georg hides from the Red Army Soldiers in his now-abandoned village, has to bury an adult relative, figure out how to care for a sick child, and, through this world turned upside down, he keeps his belief in Little Angel that he has heard from a children’s song. The story touches on one of the most complex of problems: what is the Motherland? Gulnara Abikeyeva our Central Asian film expert considers this film to be one of the top ten for her of all time.
YOU ARE NOT AN ORPHAN, a film from Uzbekistan. (75 minutes, 1963.) This film is for general audiences. This remarkable and touching film produced during the Soviet era, and based on true events during World War II, describes the family of a blacksmith couple who take in fourteen children while their own son is away at the battlefront. These children of different ages and nationalities learn to live together. When the son returns from the Front with yet another child, and from the country of the enemy army, even this child is welcomed into the family.
THE ORATOR, a film from Uzbekistan. (90 minutes, 1998.) Parental guidance is suggested. Set during the 1930s, The Orator, is a historical drama, told as a fairy tale, of Iskander and his four wives moving through a regime change in which women are ordered to throw away their veils.During the film, Iskander moves from poverty to affluence to acclaim to ostracism.
BESHKEMPIR, a film from Kyrgyzstan by Aktan Abdykalykov (77 minutes, 1998, subtitles.) Beshkempir traces the life of a young teen boy in the Kyrgyz countryside. The film opens with an adoption ceremony of the boy as a baby by the village elder women. We then see him as a young teen with his peers, and with his step parents, and then the closing with the funeral of his beloved grandmother. Parental guidance is suggested with scenes not appropriate for younger children of sexualized activity and some swearing.
THE WHITE MOUNTAINS, a film from Kyrgyzstan by Melis Ubukeev (62 minutes, 1998, subtitles) In White Mountains, subtitled “Difficult Crossing,” Mukash is chased by officials, learns of the devastation of war from a blind woman and helps her daughter to freedom beyond the river crossing, he, having to choose a tragic solution. This film has some swearing and a plotline for ages 10 and up.
HASAN – ARBAKESH, a film from Tajikistan (1965, 91 minutes). Hasan, with his cart and horse, who journeys in the name of his beloved Saodat, hoping to earn enough to marry his sweetheart. After courageous exploits, with the world is changing around them, with trucks taking the place of the horse and cart, the heroic couple, alas, cannot ultimately be together. A charming but sad movie, with subtitles, with sung Tajik folk tunes now and then.
KOSH BA KOSH, a film from Tajikistan (1993, 98 minutes). The opening caption of KOSH BA KOSH dedicates this film “to all women we love.” This romance, set against a backdrop of civil war, first in the city, then in the mountains, living by a funicular railway. After a father loses his daughter to a young man in a game of dice, the two young people grow to love each other. By the end, she must bury her father who has been caught in the crossfire of the civil war. Gulnara Abikeyeva explains further: “Kosh Ba Kosh” is a term that refers to disputable situation in the ancient Tajik dice game and it means “let’s play it again.”
THE LAND OF THE FATHERS, a film from Kazakhstan by Shaken Aimanov (85 minutes, 1966.) The Land of the Fathers, shows the heartwarming odyssey of a boy and his grandfather to recover the remains of the boy’s father in the aftermath of World War II. There is a meeting of different worldviews within the Kazakh and Soviet society of the time, the atheist scientific view of life and the devout Muslim view come to light in dialogue while people talk on the train journey. This is for general audiences with one scene of an amorous adult couple.
AKSUAT, a film from Kazakhstan by Serik Aprimov (80 minutes, 1997.) Aksuat, a tragic farce, shows a grim look at the changing modern times in relation to a traditional Kazakh village and the plight of two brothers, one who stays in the village and the other who becomes a social outcast in the city. Aksuat is the name of a real village where Writer/Producer/Director Serik Aprymov lived as a child. This film depicts the real Kazakh village without movie studios or stage sets. Gulnara Abikeyeva described the experience of this film through Aman, the brother that stayed behind in the village: “The film has an amazing rhythm – unhurried and reserved, just like the character of Aman. At the same time the film doesn’t have anything unnecessary; all elements add important information to the whole picture of the film. Behind this reserved appearance, an incredible energy pulses – of course, the humans’ lives are broken!” There is also “the visceral and heartbreaking musical score” and “the deserted almost moon-like surface” of the landscape. … If Serik Aprimov says something with a straight face, it means that a trick is somewhere about. His films are the same way. He sees funny things and paradoxes in everything. But behind this ironic smile there are deep feelings and a true love of his people.” Adult situations mean that this film is not for children.
Part two of the Central Asian Cinema series: documentary films of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan:
Contact the ACCVT Executive Director for details on this part of the series, until the online summaries are available.