2003 FILMS ALONG THE SILKROAD

 

 

İPEK YOLU BOYUNCA SİNEMA-2003

 

 



 

Films from Along the Silk Road:
Central Asian Cinema

May 2 to 29, 2003

left: my brother silk road
 



 





about the series | film descriptions and times

Presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Seagull Films with the assistance of the Confederation of the Filmmakers Unions. This program is made possible through the generosity and support of the Open Society Institute (OSI) with special thanks to Anthony Richter. Thanks also go to: Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan, Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan, OSI Tadjikistan and OSI Uzbekistan. Special assistance by the Embassies of the United States of America in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Special thanks are due to Galina Peshkova, Ludmila Kasatkina, Gulmira Kerimova, Usuf Razikov, Fatikh Dzhalalov, Neya Zorkaya, Edith Kramer, Tom Luddy, Gulnara Abikeeva, Tynay Ibragimov, Anton Artemyev, Eastern Tours Consolidated, and Noe productions.
This program is curated by Alla Verlotsky and Kent Jones.

Between the Middle East and the western Chinese border lies a vast stretch of the continent that has barely registered on the western cultural radar. This is the world where Genghis Khan ruled, and through which the great trade route called the Silk Road ran. The five former Soviet Asian republics are known to some as "the stans" - Turkmenistan, Tadjikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, linked by geographical proximity yet each possessed of its own unique culture. And its own distinctive national cinema.

Chances are you've never heard of most of the films in this series, the first comprehensive retrospective of movies from this cinematically rich corner of the world. You may wonder why. The reason is nothing more or less than an accident of history. When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the apparatus for the promotion and distribution of films from Central Asia. Every time the films have surfaced, it's been the result of a titanic effort on the part of a few valiant scholars, programmers, and festival organizers. But the films are worth the effort. These countries are as culturally rich as they are cash poor, and the films, from throughout the region, are hand-crafted wonders, rich in artistic and poetic miracles.

As a special feature of this series, we are paying tribute to the late Kyrgyz director Tolomush Okeev, one of the greatest "open-air" filmmakers who ever worked in the medium. We will also be showing WITHOUT FEAR and MAN FOLLOWS BIRDS, two extraordinary films by the Uzbek master Ali Khamraev, not to be missed. We are also featuring a special presentation of TAKHIR AND ZUKHRA, an enchanting 1944 Uzbek film that will leave you breathless. And you will be seeing films by directors like Darezhan Omirbaev, Serik Aprymov, Amir Karakulov and Ermek Shinarbaev from Kazakhstan, Aktan Abdikalikov and Marat Sarulu from Kyrgyzstan, Jamshed Usmonov from Tadjikistan and Khodjakuli Narliev from Turkmenistan, and many others whose names you may not know but whose films you will never be able to forget.

We expect many of the directors to be present for Q & A. Please check back on this page for updated information about guest appearances.

Please note that there have been several schedule updates since our print calendar went to press. The updated program is contained on this page; you may also see our  for a summary of them. Thank you!

The current issue of Film Comment includes an article on Central Asian Cinema by Kent Jones; see also our online only article by Olaf Möller.

 


ORATOR / VOIZ
Yusup Razikov, Uzbekistan, 2000; 83m
Yusup Razikov's crystal-clear and mordantly funny political comedy gets right to the heart of the bizarre mismatch between Soviet communist aspirations and human realities. In the early 1920s, a gentle Uzbek man who inherits three adoring young wives from his late brother is unexpectedly called to the stage during a rally, and reveals a gift for oratory. He is catapulted into the absurd and often treacherous world of Soviet politics, and keeps on speechifying to protect himself and his beloved wives. Every new twist in this colorful, theatrically stylized film nudges the hero and the viewer to another level of strangely twisted logic.
preceded by

 


THE THREAD / NIT
Sergey Alibekov, Uzbekistan, 1989; 10m
A sinuously beautiful animated short from Uzbekistan, with the odd clarity of a dream.



BOYS IN THE SKY / MALCHIKI V NEBE
Zoulfikar Musakov, Uzbekistan, 2002; 86m
Zoulfikar Musakov's gentle comedy about four teenage boys growing up in Tashkent is modeled on the Fellini of Amarcord, a series of loosely connected sketches that catch the beauty, the pain, the joy and the confusion of adolescence. There are hilarious episodes: a visit to a video boutique with an animated tribute to action cinema from the overenthusiastic proprietor; a disastrous ride in a "borrowed" Mercedes; a birthday celebration with a sense of adolescent awkwardness, ending with the director's son Tahir doing a rousing homage to Michael Jackson; a look at a pirated copy of Emmanuelle. Musakov's movie has been playing to sold-out audiences in Tashkent for months, and it's no wonder why: with its freewheeling, lovably antic spirit, BOYS IN THE SKY could have been made by the four friends themselves.

 



THERE ARE HORSES / ETO LOSHADI
Tolomush Okeev, Kyrgyzstan, 1965; 10m
Okeev's very first film as he was graduating from his Mosfilm apprenticeship consists of images and sounds of horses in motion - wild young horses running, then being trained to race, then being herded together. A wordless documentary, THERE ARE HORSES is a film of truly elemental beauty 

 


WITHOUT FEAR / BEZ STRAKHA
Ali Khamraev, Uzbekistan, 1972; 96m
A Uzbek Red Army officer in the 1920s is in charge of his local village. His task is modernization, and one of the first, gigantic steps is to allow women to drop their veils and enlighten themselves. A brave teenage girl offers to step forward and set the example, setting off a series of charged, tragic encounters from which no one, from the soldier's young bride to his militant father-in-law to the intransigent mullahs, emerges unscathed. Shot in crisp black-and-white and written by the estimable (and, during this period of Soviet filmmaking, seemingly omnipresent) Andrei Konchalovsky, WITHOUT FEAR is at once philosophically lucid, melodramatically engaging and altogether electrifying. Director Ali Khamraev is a master, whose political acumen and cinematic intelligence are in perfect balance. This timely film has a Brechtian edge: each sharply rendered detail cuts like a knife.



LAST HOLIDAY / POSLEDNIYE KANIKULY
Amir Karakulov, Kazakhstan, 1996; 65m
May Day in Alma Ata, 1979. Valera, Karim and Jacob are a crew of hard-partying, drug-taking teenagers looking for kicks during their spring holiday, and they break into the bar at the Highland ice rink and steal an electric guitar. When Valera's dad finds the guitar, he turns his son over to the police, who brutalize him and leave him severely wounded on the outskirts of town. Karim and Jacob kill Valera's father, then hide their friend and do their best to keep him alive. In scarcely more than an hour, Amir Karakulov's precise, beautifully minimal film offers a portrait of an entire society through the lens of disaffected adolescence, at the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.
preceded by


ANTI-ROMANTIKA
Nariman Turebaev, Kazakhstan, 2002; 16m
A young man leaves his one-room apartment and comes back with a gorgeous prostitute. What happens next is about as perfect an embodiment of the title as it's possible to imagine. A tough little comic gem, emotionally precise and drily funny.


SYMPOSIUM 1: MAPPING THE HISTORY OF CINEMA IN CENTRAL ASIA
This symposium will explore the unique history of filmmaking in the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia, from the silent era through the present. Guests include: Neya Zorkaya, film historian, Russia; Tynay Ibragimov, director of Kyrgyz Film Studio; Ali Khamraev, director, Uzbekistan; Hadjikuli Narliev, director, Turkmenistan; Ardak Amirkulov, director, Kazakhstan.

 

SYMPOSIUM 2: THE FUTURE OF MOVIEMAKING IN ASIA: STRATEGIES AND SOLUTIONS
In this symposium, the panel will explore the realities of getting a film made in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan and the possible future of movies in the currently repressive state of Turkmenistan. We'll be exploring everything from the philosophy of filmmaking to the bedrock realities of international co-production. Guests include Amir Karakulov, director, Kazakhstan; Usuf Razikov, director; president of Uzbekfilm Studio; Aktan Abdikalikov, director and president of Beshkempir Studio, Kyrgyzstan; Darejan Omirbaev, director, Kazakhstan; Cedomir Colar, Academy-Award-winning producer, president of 4 Production, France.

 



MAN FOLLOWS BIRDS / CHELOVEK UKHODIT ZA PTITSAMI
Ali Khamraev, Uzbekistan, 1975; 87m
A young boy gets a brutal sentimental education under the open skies of medieval Uzbekistan. Ali Khamraev's stylistic tour de force is almost unclassifiable - a mystic vision, an eastern western, a pageant of color and movement, a portrait of adolescence painted in broad, expressionistic strokes. MAN FOLLOWS BIRDS moves from one sumptuous moment to the next - rides through ecstatically colored landscapes, a trio of friends waking up covered in apple blossoms, the hero imagining his beautiful and long-dead mother in images that have an abstract power and beauty. A movie that truly deserves the word "visionary."

 


THE DAUGHTER-IN-LAW / NEVESTKA
Khodjakuli Narliev, Turkmenistan, 1972; 81m
Khodjakuli Narliev's plaintive cinematic poem is as delicate as a desert breeze. A woman whose husband has been killed in WWII lives with her father-in-law in the desert. "You've been irreproachable all these years," he tells her - at once a compliment and a sad realization. She cannot leave and go back to her family, because that would mean the end of hope that her husband, a heroic pilot, might return one day. The film, composed in rich color, is a series of encounters and memories - the birth of a child, a visit from her brother, a plane ride with her husband just before he went off to war - that revolve around the memory of what was and the bittersweet image of what might have been. A singingly beautiful film.
 



THERE ARE HORSES / ETO LOSHADI
Tolomush Okeev, Kyrgyzstan, 1965; 10m
Okeev's very first film as he was graduating from his Mosfilm apprenticeship consists of images and sounds of horses in motion - wild young horses running, then being trained to race, then being herded together. A wordless documentary, THERE ARE HORSES is a film of truly elemental beauty

 


KAIRAT
Darezhan Omirbaev, Kazakhstan, 1991; 72m
"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.
preceded by


JULY / SCHILDE
Darezhan Omirbaev, Kazakhstan, 1988; 26m
Two boys on a hot summer afternoon on the steppe wander into a Bollywood movie. They want to go back for the second show but don't have enough money for a ticket, so they think up a scheme to earn the cash. Recounting the "plot" of this glorious short film from Darezhan Omirbaev doesn't begin to do it justice - it's as controlled a piece of filmmaking as you could hope to find, and a beautiful evocation of the landscape of childhood. Omirbaev was a master right from the start.



THE ADOPTED SON / BESHKEMPIR
Aktan Abdikalikov, Kyrgyzstan, 1998; 81m
Aktan Abdikalikov's first feature was a worldwide success, and it stands as one of the finest films of the 90s. Beshkempir (played by the director's son Mirlan) undergoes an identity crisis at the age of 13 when he learns that he is adopted. From this simple situation, Abdikalikov creates a wondrous film of hand-crafted beauty. "Abdikalikov's sparing use of color - clearly a matter of aesthetic rather than financial reasons - our perception of color as well as of black-and-white in movies: every shift between these registers is experienced as an epiphany, a bursting re-creation of the world. When Abdikalikov was asked what motivated this eccentric construction, he replied that it was inspired by the way rugs in Kyrgyzstan are woven and patched together. A lateral camera movement over one of these gorgeous rugs in color is the film's first image, and everything that follows conforms to this beautifully abstract pattern, much the way a musical theme would be developed."
- Jonathan Rosenbaum
preceded by


LULLABY / ALDEY
Ernest Abdizhaparov, Kyrgyzstan, 1997; 10m
A lovely little poem about life's possibilities, rendered through the simple but potent central idea of a man and a woman gazing at one another through the chaotic rush of a passing train.
preceded by


THE GUARD
Beyzhan Aidkuluev, Kyrgyzstan, 1989; 10m
Beyzhan Aidkuluev's short, impressionistic portrait of an old man who presides over his Kirghiz village like a benign spirit, and an emissary from a past that is quickly disappearing. Aidkuluev is a filmmaker of rare gifts, building his images and sounds into a work of incantatory power.



DON'T CRY / JYLAMA
Amir Karakulov, Kazakhstan, 2003; 80m
Amir Karakulov's latest film is a boldly experimental departure. Shot in intimate and colorfully vibrant DV, JYLAMA is the story of a Chinese-trained opera singer living in a remote Kazakh village with her grandmother and her ailing young niece. The bulk of the action consists of the steadfast heroine trying to make enough money to get the rare and costly medicine that may save her niece's life. What makes the film so thrilling is that this elemental situation allows Karakulov and his cast of non-actors to illuminate the details of everyday life: reality and fiction dissolve into each other, and the audience achieves a heightened awareness of simple activities like the cooking of a meal, teaching a child to count in Chinese and English, visits to the doctor or the marketplace. Entirely improvised by the filmmaker and his actors, JYLAMA is one movie that puts digital technology to thrilling use.
preceded by


UMAY
Naryn Igilik, Kazakhstan, 2003; 14m
A rapturously beautiful 14-minute meditation on womanhood and the passage of the soul from one life into the next. The film's sedate rhythms and peacefully luminous images will leave a lasting impression.
 

 

 

THE SWING / SELKINCHEK
Aktan Abdikalikov, Kyrgyzstan, 1993; 48m
Aktan Abdikalikov's early masterpiece is less a narrative film than a poetic incantation on celluloid. The almost wordless "story" is about a young boy in a Kirghiz village, whose days are spent in the company of an older, retarded man. Together, they push a beautiful girl on a swing. There is joy, there is disappointment, there is death, and there is love, all rendered with a timeless, almost otherworldly grace. preceded by

 


STAIRWAY IN THE HOUSE WITH AN ELEVATOR / LESTNITSA V DOME S LIFTOM
Aman Kamchibekov, Kyrgyzstan, 1982; 27m
The only film that the immensely gifted Aman Kamchibekov completed before his tragic death at the age of 36, STAIRWAY is a beautifully observed, real-time comic exchange between two Kirghiz women from the steppe, bickering their way to the top floor of a Bishkek apartment building as people whiz past them in the elevator. preceded by

 


THE DOG WAS WALKING BY
Aktan Abdikalikov, Kyrgyzstan, 1989; 25m
Aktan Abdikalikov's 1989 short recounts the odyssey of a dog making its way across town, encountering the highs and lows of contemporary Kirghiz society, from the fancy, manicured pets of the middle class to the down and dirty fights between stray dogs wandering the streets. A warning is in order: this film realistically depicts the harsh lives of stray animals.

 


preceded by
ASSAN-USSEN
Aktan Abdikalikov, Kyrgyzstan, 1997; 7m
Aktan Abdikalikov's simple, clear-eyed poetry finds an elemental form here. Two twin brothers are walking down the road carrying a pail of water, they fight and come to blows, and a bemused older man intervenes and sets them back on their way. It's that simple and it's that lovely.

 



MARTIN SCORSESE PRESENTS: THE FALL OF OTRAR / GIBEL OTRARA
Ardak Amirkulov, Kazakhstan, 1990; 165m
Four arduous years in the making, Ardak Amirkulov's 1990 historical epic about the intrigue and turmoil preceding Genghis Khan's systematic destruction of the lost East Asian civilization of Otrar is unlike anything you've ever seen. The movie that spurred the extraordinary wave of great Kazakh films in the 90s, Amirkulov's film is at once hallucinatory, visually resplendent and ferociously energetic, packed with eye-catching (and gouging) detail and B-movie fervor, and traversing an endless variety of parched, epic landscapes and ornate palaces. But THE FALL OF OTRAR is also one of the most astute historical films ever made, and its high quotient of torture and gore (Italian horror genius Mario Bava would have been envious) is always grounded in the bedrock realities of realpolitik: when the Kharkhan of Otrar is finally brought before the Ruler of the World, he could be facing Stalin, or, for that matter, any number of modern CEOs. The movie that has everything, from state-of-the-art 13th-century warfare to perfumed sex, THE FALL OF OTRAR is a one-of-a-kind experience. Shot in a sepia-toned black-and-white, and written by none other than Amirkulov's old teacher Alexei Guerman and his wife, Svetlana Karmalita.

 



MY BROTHER SILK ROAD / ALTYN KYRGHOL
Marat Sarulu, Kyrgyzstan / Kazakhstan, 2001; 80m
Marat Sarulu, co-writer of Aktan Abdikalikov's THE ADOPTED SON, made his feature debut with this beautifully shot (in glorious black-and-white) and carefully drawn parable of the transition from old to new in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Two young boys and a girl from a mountain village make their way to the rail line that crosses the old Silk Road. By boarding the slowly moving train, they're looking for a sense of definition, a way into their own future and a future for their country, as well as a link to the past. A film with a very special tone, pitched between bittersweet nostalgia and longing.
preceded by


THE GUARD
Beyzhan Aidkuluev, Kyrgyzstan, 1989; 10m
Beyzhan Aidkuluev's short, impressionistic portrait of an old man who presides over his Kirghiz village like a benign spirit, and an emissary from a past that is quickly disappearing. Aidkuluev is a filmmaker of rare gifts, building his images and sounds into a work of incantatory power.
preceded by


THE FLY-UP
Marat Sarulu, Kyrgyzstan / Kazakhstan, 2002; 10m
Marat Sarulu's elegant 2002 short is based on a strong, simple idea - a man living in a dull black-and-white world soars to color and the freedom of the skies in a homemade flying machine.


THE LAST STOP / KONECHNAYA OSTANOVKA
Serik Aprimov, Kazakhstan, 1989; 78m
A young man comes home to his Kazakh village after finishing up his stint in the Soviet Army. All that he finds are his old friends drinking, senselessly carousing, tumbling into one violent brawl after another. THE LAST STOP, described as the "first perestroika film," was Serik Aprimov's thesis project when he graduated from VGIK Institute in Moscow. The only reason the downbeat story made it past the government approval committee was that they thought the action was set during WWII. However, there's nothing downbeat about Aprimov's artistry, and his dedication to getting the texture, the rhythm, the pulse of dead-end life, which makes THE LAST STOP akin to a rougher and more somber version of Fellini's I Vitelloni or Scorsese's Mean Streets. Beautifully shot by Murad Nougmanov, one of the unheralded geniuses of the Kazakh New Wave of the 90s.



REVENGE / MEST
Ermek Shinarbaev, Kazakhstan, 1987; 100m
There have been plenty of films based on the theme of revenge, but there's never been one like this. Director Ermek Shinarbaev and his writing partner Anatoly Kim arguably kicked off the Kazakh New Wave with My Sister Lucie in 1985. They made quite a formidable team in the 80s and 90s, and this is their masterpiece. The action begins after a brief but potent prologue set in the court of a young king during the 18th century. Flash forward to Korea at the turn of the last century. In a fit of anger, a resentful teacher murders a child, then flees his village. The parents seek revenge, and the father spends ten years tracking down his prey, only to lose his chance at the ultimate moment. The mother has him take on a second wife, in order to give birth to a son who will grow up to carry out the task. Shinarbaev and Kim trace the current of revenge as it mutates across a broad span of time, and this carefully crafted, artfully precise film keeps deepening in mystery and suspense until it reaches its transcendent end point. 


KILLER
Darezhan Omirbaev, Kazakhstan, 1998; 80m
Marat, a young man in Almaty with a wife and a new baby, accidentally rear-ends a Mercedes. Short for cash, he turns to a loan shark, which puts the mob on his back. Eventually, he's backed into a corner. To make good on his debt, he must kill a man. Omirbaev's third feature departs from his customary poetic-autobiographical explorations - in an effort to portray the mean reality of life in contemporary Kazakhstan, he worked from the clear, strong metaphor of a lone individual who is forced to shoot before he's shot at. The story and the sensibility have a kinship with Bresson's L'Argent, but KILLER has an altogether different tone, at once drily entrancing and profoundly melancholy.
preceded by


THE APPLE / YABLOKO
Abay Kulbaev, Kazakhstan, 2003; 5m
A man picking berries in a snow-covered landscape observes a curious sight in the distance: a boy jumping and trying in vain to catch an elusive apple. Which, as we all know, never falls far from the tree. A very nice little comic parable, starring director Darezhan Omirbaev.



THE MYSTERY OF FERNS / KIRK KULOK SIRI
Rachid Malikov, Uzbekistan, 1992; 72m
The story of Malikov's meditative, mysterious and quietly shattering film is simple. A shabbily elegant old man, widowed and treated with matter-of-fact derision by his daughter and his tomboy granddaughter, begins to lose touch with the world. At first it seems to be a matter of temperament, the disengagement of an intellectual from a world that has disappointed him. Then, it seems like pure depression brought on by old age, and he is treated by a foolish, pony-tailed psychiatrist ("You resemble Cherkassov in Ivan the Terrible," the old man remarks). Then, when the man suffers a stroke that renders him mute and erases his memory, he wanders through a ruined Uzbekistan, passing from one devastated landscape to another. What makes Malikov's film so brilliant is the way he edges us into a disturbingly fractured universe. There are no expressionistic tricks or flourishes - his expressive camera simply moves away from the action and passes over chaotic assemblies of random objects, a mirror of the chaos inside the soul of his lonely hero and the soul of his country as well.
 

 



LITTLE ANGEL, BRING ME JOY / ANGELOCHEK SDELAJ RADOST
Usman Saparov, Turkmenistan, 1993; 88m
Usman Saparov's story of German emigrants living peacefully in pre-WWII Turkmenistan, suddenly scourged and displaced with the outbreak of war. The film centers around a child named Georg who escapes capture and placement in an orphanage. As he tries to make sense of what's going on around him, and why people who were once his friends are now treating him with contempt, he awaits the traditional "Baby Angel" of Easter, who he believes will protect him. Like the post-war classic Forbidden Games, LITTLE ANGEL, BRING ME JOY is a devastatingly direct vision of war and its consequences, witnessed through the eyes of a child.

 


TENDERNESS / NEZHNOST
Elyer Ishmukhamedov, Uzbekistan, 1967; 83m
Elyer Ishmukhamedov's 1967 film was deeply influenced by and tuned into the French New Wave and the latest currents in Italian cinema, and there are long stretches in this incandescent film where you might think you're watching a lost Fellini classic. It's summertime in Tashkent, and these three intertwined stories of young love (the first sharing the name of the film itself, the other two named after their heroines, Lena and Mamura) seem to float over the screen like gossamer on a warm breeze. TENDERNESS is filled with unforgettable passages and images, and it's a guarantee you'll go home dreaming of its central image of boys and girls happily lounging in their inner tubes as they float down a river.



BROTHER / BRATAN
Bachtiyar Hudoynazarov, Tadjikistan, 1991; 100m
Bachtiyar Hudoynazarov's lyrical road movie follows two brothers - 17-year-old Farrukh and 7-year-old Azamat - on a journey by cargo train in search of their father. When they finally reach him, he doesn't even recognize them. The film is about as inventive and exhilarating as the genre gets, managing a touching character study as well as a sensitively drawn portrait-in-motion of makeshift life in modern Tadjikistan. The country seems to be on the edge of falling apart as the brothers draw closer together. A uniquely touching film, made by a young director with a feel for the wonders in everyday life.

 


TAKHIR AND ZUKHRA / TAKHIR I ZUKHRA
Nabi Ganiev, Uzbekistan, 1945; 92m
During WWII, the base of Soviet moviemaking operations shifted to the east. Eisenstein shot his glorious Ivan the Terrible in Almaty, and there were many films shot in Uzbekistan. Including this glorious period piece, based on the Uzbek Romeo and Juliet. Takhir and Zukhra are childhood sweethearts brought up together at the royal court, only to be torn apart as teenagers when Takhir is banished from the kingdom. Shot in shimmering black-and-white by Daniil Demutsky, the great cinematographer who shot Dovzhenko's Arsenal and Earth, with eye-filling sets and costumes, TAKHIR AND ZUKHRA is a feast for the eyes and ears, with the magicaly beautiful Gulyam Aglayev and Yuldus Rysayeva as the enchanted lovers (it's hard to say who's prettier, Takhir or Zukhra) and Bollywood-style musical interludes in the bargain.

 


THE TIME OF YELLOW GRASS / MAVSIMI ALAFCHAI SARD
Mairam Yusupova, Tadjikistan, 1991; 70m
In a remote Tadjik mountain village, some shepherds come across a dead body. No one knows who he is or where he's from, but they soon discover that he is not a Muslim. As the news spreads, the people decide what should be done with this "infidel." THE TIME OF YELLOW GRASS is a film of powerful simplicity, in which documentary and fiction dissolve into one fluid means of expression. Not unlike Kiarostami with The Wind Will Carry Us and Where Is the Friend's Home?, Mariam Yusupova ties all her action into the starkly beautiful landscape, and a remarkable portrait of a people and a place out of time develops.
preceded by


FACE
Mairam Yusupova, Tadjikistan, 1991; 16m
Mariam Yusupova does something very simple yet powerful in this film: she takes her camera out into the streets of Dushanbe and simply studies faces of people walking, talking, reading, eating. Occasionally, she cuts to buildings and landscapes, and the film begins to formulate an interesting question: are we looking at the faces or the "face" of modern Tadjikistan?
 

THE FLIGHT OF THE BEE / PARVAZ-E ZANBUR
Jamshed Usmonov, Tadjikistan, 1998; 90m
Jamshed Usmonov and Byong Hun-min's fable of the new Tadjikistan is the story of a headmaster in a village school, a gentle Muslim man with a wife and child, who wants to be left alone to finish writing his book. A wealthy, insensitive businessman moves in next door and puts his toilet right next to the headmaster's property. With the collapse of the Soviet Union comes the collapse of ancient values, mutual respect and legality. When he comes to inquire about a solution, the businessman throws him out, and the mayor talks law and order. In retaliation, the headmaster buys another house next door to the mayor's office and digs a public toilet. A simple, beautifully observed portrait of a village community, as well as a chillingly lifelike demonstration of mercenary capitalism run amok.


THE FIERCE ONE / LUTIY
Tolomush Okeev, Kyrgyzstan / Kazakhstan, 1973; 97m
When Tolomush Okeev passed away at the age of 66 in late 2001, the Kirghiz Film Studio was renamed in his honor. Which is as it should be, because he was a powerfully gifted and dedicated artist who served his country and its film industry well. Okeev was one of the greatest outdoor filmmakers who ever lived: he deserves a place alongside Jean Epstein and Terrence Malick. Anyone can set up a camera in front of a mountaintop and get a majestic image. But Okeev filmed the Kirghiz mountains and deserts with an intimate knowledge and the keenest sensitivity. The action in his films is always keyed to the landscape in a way that appears effortless, no matter how painstakingly wrought: he knows every crack, every crevice, all the cruelty and all the beauty of a life lived under the open sky. This 1973 film, written by Andrei Konchalovsky, may well be Okeev's masterpiece. It's the story of a boy who raises a wolf cub, and learns quickly about savagery of the animal and human variety. No one beside Bresson has understood the essential character of an animal so well. And there are sequences here - a pack of wolves raiding a herd of sheep by night, a wolf hunt on horseback, and the snowscapes of the last section of the movie - that will make your hair stand on end. Warning: the films contains explicit scenes of violence to animals.


ANGEL ON THE RIGHT / FARISHTAY KIFTI ROST
Jamshed Usmonov, Tadjikistan/Italy/Switzerland /France, 2002; 89m
An unrepentant prodigal son straight out of a Russian jail returns to his hometown, Asht, to help his mother die with dignity. But his debts in his hometown are many and long overdue, the townspeople are tough as nails, and he soon gets more than he expected from the quiet village. In this dark comedy, his third feature, writer-director Jamshed Usmonov cast the population of Asht as its own persuasive self and his own mother and brother as the fractured yet formidable domestic couple. 

 

 

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