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Of ‘Nomads’ and Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz film critic Gulbara Tolomushova sees “Myn Bala” as a step up from Kazakh Film’s last big-budget production — “Nomads,” a 2008 historical drama released that was an international flop.

She adds that Kyrgyzstan is some way off producing films on that level.

Ms. Tolomushova says that some excellent low-budget and art house films have come out of Kyrgyzstan in recent years.

But she is less optimistic about a more lavish production depicting the life of Kurmanjan Datka, a Kyryz historical heroine celebrated for resisting Russian rule in the early 20th century.

The film has a budget of nearly $1 million, provided by former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev — who was overthrown in a popular revolt in 2010 — as well as private investors.

“‘Myn Bala’ is a great production for Kazakhstan,” Ms. Tolomushova said. “The Kurmanjan film will be Kyrgyzstan’s ‘Nomads.’ The production is very good and well-funded, but the artistic level is very low. We need five or 10 years before we are making films at the level of ‘Myn Bala.’”

Still, the Kyrgyz film scene in a lively one: The country has five annual film festivals, including the One World Human Rights Festival, which was held last week in the capital, Bishkek.

State and the art

Last Sunday, the Golden Leopard Film Forum opened in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, and later this month, Tajikistan will host its fifth annual Didar International Film Festival.

The festival aims to provide “an effective interaction between Western cinema as a source of democratic values … and oriental cinema reflecting a deep philosophy of feeling and lofty ethical ideas,” according to the festival’s organizers — the Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Foundation, headed by President Islam Karimov’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova.

A pop singer-cum-fashion designer, Ms. Karimova has tried to cast herself as philanthropist with a passion for the arts, but is tainted by the horrific human rights record of her father’s regime and her own murky business interests.

And some question her taste in film.

“Gulnara Karimova pays a lot of money to famous international directors to come here and watch our really bad, government-funded films,” said Oleg Karpov, art director of Central Asian Festival of Independent Films. “It’s an establishment festival, the same as the Eurasia Film Festival in Kazakhstan.”

The first Central Asian Independent Film Festival was held in June, offering Tashkent audiences something different from the government-approved movies showing in state-run cinemas.

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