Eurasia Film Festival builds on Cannes success
International recognition of Kazakhstani cinema continues to grow, with two movies set for international distribution after success at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and its business counterpart, the Cannes Film Market.
Distribution rights for “Zhauzhurek Myn Bala” (1,000 Brave Boys) were recently purchased by Canada’s 108 Media company. Director Akan Satayev’s historical epic, with a USD 7 million budget, set a new financial record for Kazakhstan film-making. Made in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence, the movie tells its tale through the eyes of a group of Kazakh children and teenagers. It has been selected as Kazakhstan’s entry in the Best Foreign Language category at the 85th Academy Awards in February 2013.
“Student” by Kazakhstani director Darezhan Omirbayev, met with a warm reception from the Cannes critics after showing in the “Un Certain Regard” sidebar at the festival. Inspired by Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, “Student” is the tale of an impoverished, lonely philosophy student who commits a fatal robbery. Germany’s Media Luna has secured the international distribution rights.
At the Eurasia Film Festival, held in Almaty on September 17-22, Chairman of the Jury Wolfgang Petersen had high praise for “Zhauzhurek Myn Bala”. He described it as a beautiful movie and an example of the global potential of Kazakhstani cinema. Mr Petersen is a renowned German filmmaker, screenwriter and producer whose movies include “Troy”, “The Perfect Storm”, “Poseidon” and “Boot” , which garnered six Oscar nominations.
The 8th Eurasia Film Festival also included an international feature competition which attracted 149 entries from 33 countries; a program on “Dynamic Kazakh Cinema”; a program featuring the cinematography of Greece and Turkey; and the showing of four recent winners of the famous Golden or Silver Bear awards at the Berlinale film festival.
Amir Karakulov represented Kazakhstan on the Festival jury. His latest movie, “Virtual Love”, featuring a complex plot which develops in parallel real and virtual worlds, was screened at the opening ceremony of the Film Festival, held at Almaty Republic Palace.
It was one of 16 Kazakhstani movies featured at the Festival, all shot between September 2011 – September 2012, and with a range of themes and styles demonstrating the dynamism of the country’s film industry.
The history of Kazakhstan’s film industry extends back to the Second World War, when renowned Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisentein sought refuge in Kazakhstan, bringing with him the entire staff and equipment of Mosfilm and Lenfilm, the two leading Soviet studios. After the war ended, many filmmakers chose to stay in Kazakhstan and from this foundation grew a renowned film industry.
The industry fell into decline after the end of the Soviet era, but was revived by President Nazarbayev in 2005 with USD 37 million funding for “Nomad”, a historical epic recounting the feats of Kazakh warrior Ablai Khan. Since then, the film industry in Kazakhstan has gone from strength to strength, with both domestic and international movies in regular production. Among international movie stars who have filmed in Kazakhstan in recent years are Gérard Depardieu, the French character actor, and Oscar-winners Adrien Brody and Hilary Swank.