Friday, January 19, 2007

A new Krygyz film

Yesterday evening I attended a screening of Birds of Paradise, a new Kyrgyz film about border issues, drug trade and life near Jalalabat. It’s only the third film I’ve seen where Kyrgyzstan has been the setting.

The first was Beshkempir, a Soviet film that made Kyrgyzstan seem primitive and dirty, where kids rolled around in mud and played with animals. Then recently, there was Sunduk Predkov, a Kyrgyz/French effort about a Kyrgyz man living in Paris who brings his French fiancée home to meet his family. That film played the distinctive elements of Kyrgyz life a little over the top. However, the scenery was beautiful. And it offered at least a partially accurate representation of the life and culture, especially the emphasis on marrying within the ethnicity.

This film, about a young, female journalism student who goes to the border to document the issues there and falls in with a comic gang of smugglers, was not as good as Sunduk Predkov. It felt roughly strung together. The acting was sometimes weak. And the character development was not very deep. But it did feature the famous ostrich farm, located just outside Bishkek. These birds, that sell for $5,000 (and the eggs for $50-100 each) were the Birds of Paradise. And truly, for that kind of money, the potential income is a type of paradise. And the farmer who thought about raising ostriches in Kyrgyzstan definitely a unique and creative person.

Best of all, almost the entire cast was there are the packed screening. Before the performance I saw all the faces lined up across the stage that I’d later see on screen – including an Ethiopian with perfect Russian who has made Kyrgyzstan his home. And while seeing them on screen, I knew they were with me in the small auditorium of the Dom Kino (Movie House).

The female lead said she searches on the internet obsessively, in English and Russian, for news of the film’s success. That hope, that effort, and that pride in their work was what I liked best about the film.

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