Issue 30 (2010)

Nazym Abbasov: Oydinoy (2008)

reviewed by Olga Klimova © 2010

oydinoyNazym Abbasov’s Oydinoy is an example of auteur cinema in contemporary Uzbekistan, or “central Asian New Wave,” as named by Gul'nara Abikeeva. The narrative of Oydinoy depicts life in a traditional Uzbek village or kishlak. It narrates the story of a six-year old girl, Oydinoy, whose passion for learning makes her come to school every morning to be turned down by a teacher. The story is presented as the flashback of a young female violin-player who leaves in Tashkent. The main character is introduced to viewers as she is standing in front of an open window facing a picturesque view of the city with the distinctive blue dome of the Amir Temur museum in the background. Abbasov describes the beginning of Oydinoy’s path from a small village girl who makes her own dolls and sings at the local bazaar, to a musician in Uzbekistan’s capital city. The life in her kishlak is very simple: many residents ride donkeys and students study in an old school with bare plaster walls. An old motorcycle, a movie theater that plays old Charlie Chaplin movies, and photographs of an Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, and a Russian pop-singer, Iosif Kobzon, at the school principle’s office are among the few signs of Western civilization. Many scenes are made in a documentary style, with the actors looking directly into the camera, in order to create an atmosphere of “authenticity.” Oydinoy and her family are presented as the most “authentically” Uzbek family in the kishlak: they sleep on the floor, dress in traditional Uzbek clothes, use an oil lamp, and cook in a tandoor. Unlike other school children, the main heroine wears a traditional robe, a skull-cap, and has her hair braided in dozens of pigtails. In one of his interviews, Abbasov stated that “young, pure, chaste Oydinoy is a living part of our Motherland.” (Ianyshev). She represents Uzbekistan with its old traditions and rich culture. The “modernization” of Oydinoy begins when her aunt Zebo, an actress, arrives on a train from Tashkent.

oydinoyBefore the appearance of the beautiful aunt in her stylish white coat and high-heeled boots, with her face fully made-up, the young character’s life was routine and simple. Abbasov shows her waking up in the morning and going to school, when all the adults tell her that she is too young and children make fun of her. She feels lonely and, because people around her do not understand her desire to study, she leaves for the mountains, where she finds her only friend—a white donkey. Throughout the film, Oydinoy is depicted alone within the frame, and when she is sad or crying Abbasov uses close-ups to emphasize her misery. Oydinoy’s imagination is another outlet for her lonely existence. Abbasov adds some mystical elements to his drama and occasionally inserts shots of unusual bright lights in the sky over the kishlak. The alternating images of animals, butterflies, fish, and people in the sky are accompanied by violin playing, and the juxtaposition of these visuals with a shot of sleeping Oydinoy suggests that they are the figments of Oydinoy’s imagination. 

oydinoyThe arrival of aunt Zebo changes Oydinoy’s life: she brings her niece a modern European pink outfit and a pink hat, becomes Oydinoy’s mentor, and tries to help her to get into a school. Zebo also educates her niece and teaches her how to read and write. However, she is not the only person who plays an important role in the girl’s life. The strong generational connection is represented in the relations between Oydinoy and her old grandfather whom she brings lunch at work and who teaches her to play violin. At the end of his film, Abbasov adds a dramatic twist: the old man dies and his death triggers a loss of Oydinoy’s voice. At the same time it becomes an excuse for Zebo to take her niece to the city by bus to consult doctors. Oydinoy ends on an upbeat note with the main character helping the bus passengers to find the holiday camp after they all find themselves lost in fog. The narrative of Oydinoy is not very complex; but, unlike most other Uzbek filmmakers, Abbasov likes to experiment with the form and continuously uses a variety of visual techniques, such as changing the color palette or superimposed pictures from Oydinoy’s imagination. This is probably why the film received two awards at the 18th International Festival of the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America but was not shown to Uzbek spectators.   

Olga Klimova
University of Pittsburgh

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Works Cited

Abikeeva, Gul'nara. “Uzbekistan: ‘chopping board’ or serious cinema?” Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema 4.2. (2010): 221-226.

Ianyshev, Sid. “Uzbekistan: Fil'm Nazyma Abbasova Lunolikaia nachal svoe pobednoe shestvie po miru.” (20 June 2009)

Oydinoy (Uzbekistan, 2008)
Color, 80 minutes
Director: Nazim Abbasov
Screenplay: Nazim Abbasov
Camera: Alisher Usmanov
Art Design: Abdulkhai Shermukhamedov
Music: Albert Khalmurzaev
Sound: Akhror Kurmanov
Editing: Aleksandra Anosova
Cast: Khusan Amirkulov, Ilmira Rakhimzhonova, Zulfiia Raimkulova, Tukhtamurad Muradov, Bekhzod Hamraev, Izrokhat Muradova, Marina Khamirova
Production: Gala Film Studio, with the support of the National Agency Uzbekkino

Nazym Abbasov: Oydinoy (2008)

reviewed by Olga Klimova © 2010