Issue 30 (2010)

Djakhongir Kasymov: The Water (Suv Yoqualab, 2009)

reviewed by Olga Klimova © 2010

waterDjakhongir Kasymov’s The Water is another example of what Gul'nara Abikeeva’s has called the “central Asian New Wave.” Like Oydinoy, it touches upon a standard set of themes: the search for national, or cultural, identity, relations between generations, gender disposition in Uzbekistan nowadays, and the exploration of cultural, ethnical traditions. Kasymov’s The Water did not reach the mass public, but nevertheless received acknowledgement at international film festivals, such as the 19th Golden Knight International Film Festival in Moscow in May 2010. Kasymov’s film is a screen adaption of Erkin Agzam’s literary work named the best film script by the Uzbekkino National Agency in 2006. Not only does it offer an interesting narrative but, as an auteur film, is also remarkable in form and style. With its long tracking shots of beautiful mountain landscapes, occasional sepia shots of trees, overexposures, and melodious plangent soundtrack, The Water is reminiscent of Soviet poetic cinema of Tengiz Abuladze and Sergo Paradjanov.

Kasymov is interested in the relations between people in a provincial setting. The Water is filmed in the Uzbek kishlaks, Nanai and Sidzhak, which are located in the Bostanlyk District of the Tashkent Region. It narrates the story of an old village man, Bolta, a former kolkhoz chairman, who lets the stream in the mountains runs freely through the irrigating ditch. He wants to water his garden but, because he shares it with his neighbors and friends, the water never reaches his house. On his trip to the stream with two of his sons, Bolta reevaluates his past and learns new things about his family members and about himself. The camera meticulously follows the old man on his horse-back ride through the kishlak, accompanied by his younger son Nadyr, a graduate student from Tashkent, and his other son Kadyr who has a drink problem. Throughout The Water, Kasymov uses either a tracking shot or a high angle shot to record the life of Uzbek provincial people. The camera acts like an independent observer, studying the men of the village while they drink tea in chaikhona (a tea house) and talk about old times, focusing on the young women cleaning rugs on the roof of the house, or watching the children and women collecting water from a fountain.

Water becomes one of the main characters of the film, and this is not unusual as Uzbek cinema for a long time has being preoccupied with the trope of water. In The Water water has a sacred meaning and by order of the new collective farm chairman is guarded by an ex-con. It is also a metaphor for the tide of life, and while walking along the irrigating ditch with running water in it, Boltai also teaches his son Nadyr about life’s truths, resolves conflicts between neighbors and relatives, as well as equally allocating water among the kishlak residents. The narrative of Kasymov’s film is simple, without any serious dramatic shifts. It is a chronicle of a day in the life of a well-respected man who discovers that his daughter is sick and unhappy, his younger son is in love with a girl in Tashkent, and his married son Kadyr is flirting with another woman. Bolta realizes that blindly following old Uzbek traditions can make people unhappy. Nadyr is facing an arranged marriage but the old man advises him to follow his heart and be with the person he loves. Kasymov reveals at the end of the film that not only are Bolta’s children unhappy because, obeying the old traditions, they married the people they did not love, but the old man himself still has feelings for another woman— a widow, Sharafat. The film starts with the search for water, and a big clay jar under the tree in the opening shot symbolizes the emptiness in Bolta’s life. Throughout The Water, the old man spends some time with his children, does good deeds for his neighbors, and gets an opportunity to talk to Sharafat. Bolta begins his journey in his garden and ends under the tree in the same garden with heavy rain pouring on his motionless body. The structure of The Water is cyclical: the film opens with sepia shot of an old tree, and in the closing shot Sharafat and Nadyr are standing under this tree holding each other and crying. Bolta finds his peace through the rain that finally waters his garden and the tears of people who love him.

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.


The Water, Uzbekistan, 2009
Color, 86 minutes
Director: Djakhongir Kasymov
Screenplay: Erkin Agzam
Camera: Nadzhmidin Guliamov
Art Design: Alisher Umrzogov
Music: Artem Kim
Sound: Viacheslav Shin
Editing: Liubov' Bakhteeva
Cast: Tahir Saidov, Djavanghir Kasimov, Saiora Iunusova, Djamshid Zakirov, Aisha Djuraeva, Zulkhumor Muminova,
Production: Uzbek Film Studio, with the support of the National Agency Uzbekkino

Djakhongir Kasymov: The Water (Suv Yoqualab, 2009)

reviewed by Olga Klimova © 2010