Сәлем!, Қош келдіңіз!
Welcome to a vast land of over a million square miles, larger than Western Europe, the 9th largest country in the world, yet a land steeped in mystery to many. Independent from the Soviet Union since 1991, it is a land of taiga, canyons, towering snow-capped mountains, steppes and desert, bordering Russia to the North, the Caspian sea in the South West, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan in the South to China in the East and close to Mongolia in the North East. A land rich in oil and mineral resources, traditionally of nomadic lifestyle. A land of bears, Caspian Sea wolves, camels, saiga, great bustards, beluga sturgeon, lynx, cheetah, snow leopard, storks and a range of interesting wildlife. The national drink is fermented mare’s milk. In 1997 the capital was relocated from Almaty (formerly Alma-Ata), Kazakhstan’s largest city, to Astana, the world’s 2nd coldest capital in winter apparently, being developed with grand modern architecture.
“A land of superlatives, from its dramatic topography to its position as a geopolitical crossroads within Central Asia, Kazakhstan’s film culture in the post-Soviet era has given rise to a generation of filmmakers and a plurality of film forms that display the country’s kaleidoscopic sense of identity and its increasing cultural engagement with the world. Once a center of Soviet film production activity, whose landscapes grace the iconic Ivan the Terrible by Soviet master Sergei Eisenstein, the modern nation, with its complex checkerboard of ethnicities and its unique conjunction of defining national narratives, fuels cinematic statements that artfully construct and necessarily test the ideal of “the nation.” Working across an array of genres, filmmakers inscribe depictions of ethnic and tribal identity, clashes between tradition and modernity, and the legacy of Soviet rule and the momentous economic transformations of the post-Soviet era. Bold cinematic voices, marshalling both Kazakh and international resources, offer innovative storytelling modes, as well as engagements with world cinema’s most well-traveled genres, finding acclaim and commercial success as the Kazakh national cinema assumes its place on the world stage.” (UCLA Film and Television Archive, June 2011 season Kazakh Cinema Montage )
The leading Kazakh director Darezhan Omirbaev competed and was much appreciated in the 2010 Directors Cup (which he supported) on mubi. His neglected treasures, like his country’s culture, are ripe for wider discovery.
The Chechnya-set film Prisoner of the Mountains was a Russian-Kazakh production. I’ve included the short Danish-Russian film Berik, set and filmed in Kazakhstan. The comedy Borat (in)famously used Kazakhstan as a suitably little known nationality to enable its eponymous character to explore foibles and attitudes in the USA, rather than critique Kazakhstan.
Related list: Central Asian Cinema, by Arsaib
Senses of Cinema Article on Central Asian Films that champions Ardak Amirkulov’s landmark The Fall of Otrar and Darezhan Omirbaev’s films.
The films below are in year order.Read less