In its sixteenth edition, the Eurasia International Film Festival returned, after an absence of two years due to Covid, from Astana, the capital, to Almaty, its first headquarters. Everything was prepared quickly, in a very short time, and impeccable organization, in order to program films, invite guests, and present daily press conferences with filmmakers and guests from the world of cinema. Conferences not only conduct dialogues with directors about their films, but also discuss issues of National cinema like production and distribution.
The cinema of Kazakhstan is developing and imposing itself more and more on the international scene. Almost half of the annual production is subsidized by the state, represented by the Cinema Support Fund, under whose auspices the festival is also organized. The support was evident from the presence of the Minister of Culture at the opening ceremony and the Director of the Support Authority, which this year provided grants for the production of more than fifty long and short films.
The film industry in Kazakhstan has its origins in the production of documentaries in Alma-Ata (now Almaty) in the 1930s, developed to use as instruments for Soviet propaganda. The first Kazakh feature film, Amangeldy (1939), about the leader of the 1916 revolution, Amangeldy Imanov, was however the work of Lenfilm in Leningrad. Filmmaking in Kazakhstan was given a boost by the dislocations caused by World War II, as the main Soviet film studios, Mosfilm and Lenfilm, were both evacuated to Alma-Ata, where they combined with the Alma-Ata Film Studios to produce the “Central United Film Studio”. As a result, the Central United Film Studio, which continued working in Alma-Ata till 1944, produced 80 percent of all Soviet domestic feature films made during the war. Much of the great Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein's two part epic “Ivan the Terrible” was filmed in the Kazakh SSR. One of the major Soviet film schools, “the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography “(VGIK), was also temporarily relocated to Alma-Ata during the war. This film school became an alma-mater for the most notable Kazakh filmmakers of the 1980s, known as "the new wave". On January 6, 1961, the major Kazakh film company Alma-Ata Film Studios had its name changed to Kazakhfilm by the Ministry of the Culture of the Kazakh SSR.
Therefore, there was a curiosity to learn more about Kazakhstan's cinema outside the framework of international festivals, movies that are shown in the country and are not "lucky" to be known globally. A competition has been devoted to the national cinema to choose the best film, director, actress and actor with two juries, one of which is international and the second is Asian (NETPAC). 15 fiction features produced in 2021-2022 (2 more were added from the International Competition for NETPAC Jury), some of them have already participated in international festivals. “The Poet by Darghan Amirbayev is the winner of the Tokyo Film Festival, “Scheme” played in Berlin, and “Life” by Amir Baygazin participated in Toronto. They are joined by successful films such as “Fire” by Aizhan Kassymbek, “Dos-Mukasan by Aidyn Sahaman, and others.
The programme was also a handshake for generations of great artists. The maître of the Kazakh New Wave Serik Aprymov (“Village”) meets with his young student Alisher Zhadigerov (“Otau”). Bolat Kalymbetov, rethinking the view of history and personality (“Mukagali”) encounters Yana Skopina, who presents her debut film (“The Summer Will End Soon”). The conditional world of the constructed society of Emir Baigazin (“Life”) sits next to the free-spirited, innovative and absurd situations of Eldar Shibanov (“Mountain Onion”). The reality of life depicted by Sharipa Yurazbayev “Red Pomegranate” echoes the family history of Aizhan Kasymbek (“Fire”) with a story of a little man in a big city who burns in a mad rhythm of life everyday. “Fire” won the NETPAC Award for showing that despite the burden of days, the fire of hearts is here.
This programme engages with questions about the issue of ethical, moral responsibility not of a person, but of society before the little man in a changing reality. Movies combine breathtaking visuals with a poetic depiction of life that make it difficult for any jury to choose the best.
The 15 films participating in the international competition (from 2021-2022 productions) were mostly from the former republics of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, such as the Czech Republic and Georgia (directing award is shared equally for “Brighton IV” by Levan Kogashvili and “Cold as Marble” by Asif Rustamov from Azerbaijan), Kyrgyzstan (Best Film Award for “This Is What I Remember” by Aktan Arim Kubat), Estonia, Ukraine and the Republic of Sakha Yakutia in northeastern Siberia (Special Mention for “Don't Bury Me Without Ivan” by Lyubov Borisova), which is one of the most important cultural exports From the post-Soviet Russian Federation, which despite its tiny population (less than a million) compared to its vast area, has managed to build a diverse, vibrant and prolific film industry. And since the festival dedicates itself as a cultural bridge between Europe and Asia, that is, between the West and the East, hence its name "Eurasia", it also screened films from Iceland, Turkey and Iran in its international competition (Acting Award for Navid Mohammadzadeh for his role in "Beyond the Wall" by Wahid Jalilund).
Written by Nada Azhari Gillon, (Syria/France), Chairperson, NETPAC Jury
Other members of the NETPAC Jury:
Dr. Sharofat Arabova (Tajikistan) & Sultan Usuvaliev (Kyrgyztan)