History of Cinema in KAZAKHSTAN

Historical overview

Native Kazakhs, a mix of Turkic and Mongol nomadic tribes who migrated into the region in the 13th century, were rarely united as a single nation. The area was conquered by Russia in the 18th century and Kazakhstan became a Soviet Republic in 1936. During the 1950s and 1960s agricultural "Virgin Lands" program, Soviet citizens were encouraged to help cultivate Kazakhstan's northern pastures. This influx of immigrants (mostly Russians, but also some other deported nationalities) skewed the ethnic mixture and enabled non-Kazakhs to outnumber natives. Independence has caused many of these newcomers to emigrate. Current issues include: developing a cohesive national identity; expanding the development of the country's vast energy resources and exporting them to world markets; achieving a sustainable economic growth outside the oil, gas, and mining sectors; and strengthening relations with neighboring states and other foreign powers.

History of cinema from 1896-2000

In Kazakhstan, the first local production units did not come into being until the late 1920s, under the impetus of the Soviet power which considered cinema as a powerful propaganda instrument to support collectivisation, modernisation and the fight against Islam. Something of a The film industry in Kazakhstan began only in the 1930s. In the 1940s the mighty men of Soviet cinema (Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Vertov) and some few thousand film workers descended on Almaty, near the Chinese border. Stalin had decided during the war to shift his two main film studios from Moscow and Leningrad to Almaty, then the capital of Kazakhstan, the Soviet Union's largest republic.

These Mosfilm and Lenfilm studios were relocated to Almaty, the former Kazakh capital city, where Tsoks, the "Unified Central Studio" was established. Masters of Tsoks had a tremendous influence on the Kazakhs who were just beginning to work in film. It turned into a true film school.

Yet, with the end of the war and Russian film-makers leaving, film production quickly dwindled. Over the nine following years, only four fiction films were made, including three by Russian film-makers. It is only in the 1950s that Chaken Aimanov, the founder of Kazakh national cinema, made his first film. Although Kazakh cinema celebrated its 70th birthday last year, one could argue national film history only began in 1954 when the first Kazakh fiction film was made, Chaken Aimanov's "A Love Poem".

When the studios left, after the war. the seeds of film-making were deeply planted. There was uncertain progress during the first "new wave" of Kazakh filmmakers in the 1960s. Film was particularly successful at the end of the Sixties. Films such as Sultan Khodjikov's Kyz Jibek (1971) and Chaken Aimanov's The End of Ataman (1971) were great popular successes. K. Kassymbekov's children's film Chok and Cher (1971) won the first international award, the Monte Carlo Festival silver award. But both Chaken Aimanov and Majit Begalin died a tragic death and Kazakh film was on the decline. The first wave of Kazakh cinema had ended.

In the early Eighties, Sergei Soloviev had the idea of training a special group of Kazakh film-makers at VGIK (the Moscow Film Institute). This is how the core of the Kazakh New (second) Wave was born and that Kazakh cinema had its full flowering. Since independence in 1991 the new republic has been producing up to 10 films a year. This surge of activity, if nothing else, is indicative of a mood of reborn national and cultural identity since the break-up of the USSR. Serik Aprymov's Last Stop (1989) was described by Moscow critics as "the first perestroika film the cinema has given us". This film marked the symbolic end of the social realistic themes so strongly rooted in the Soviet dominated pictures from the past. Kazakhstan filmmakers finally screened their own identity. More recently he has completed Three Brothers, which has joined like-minded nonconformist works such as Satibaldy Narimbeto's Biography of a Young Accordionist (1994).

Ermek Chinarbaev's My Sister Lucy (1985), Abay Karpykov's A Small Fish in Love (1989), Surzhekei - Angel of Death (1991) by Damir Manabaev, Amir Karakulov's Last Holidays (1996) and Darezhan Omirbaev's Jol (2001) all won prizes in the film festival circuit. The story of the country's commercial film industry began with Rashid Nugmanov's 1988 film The Needle, which was a big hit all over the Soviet Union and one of the first films to break the taboo of talking about drug addiction. Next came Aprimov's Terminus, a film depicting the absurdity of daily life in a Kazakh village. These films set a realist tone, and the works that followed-many of them autobiographical-claim to follow in the tracks of France's "new wave." With their almost documentary styles and ingenuous touches, these films gave directors the freedom to say exactly what they felt.

The period after perestroika and then independence in 1991 proved quite a good time for artists. Government continued to subsidize the film industry and more than 30 private studios sprang up. But most of these have since disappeared due to a lack of cash. In 1994, Kazakhstan (with its 16 million inhabitants) turned out about a dozen films. By 2000 this had fallen to only a handful. Working conditions are tough, with no laws to encourage private film production, old-fashioned studio equipment, virtually non-existent distribution networks and a public with little money to spend on going to the cinema. Filmmakers have also lost their prestige. The unity of style and subject of the early days has gradually faded, and local films were quickly eclipsed by American imports. Everyone has adjusted to the new situation in their own way. The luckiest filmmakers, such as Omirbayev and Aprimov, have found foreign production partners-in France. Cooperation might be the door another Kazakh Wave.

Cinema links from KAZAKHSTAN

Herald Online paper includes an extensive art section
Kazpravda Online paper offering some cinematic information.
Orken Film Major distributor and producer founded in 1991

Darezhan Omirbaev

Damir Manabaev

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