Issue 49 (2015)

Dalmira Tilepbergenova: Under Heaven (Asman aldynda, Kyrgyzstan 2015)

reviewed by Gulbara Tolomushova© 2015

When Fathers Depart for Heaven

under heavenThe premier of Dalmira Tilepbergenova’s feature debut Under Heaven took place in Bishkek’s “Manas” Cinema on 24 April 2015. Shot in an expressive manner, the film shows the harsh reality of our time. The dramaturgic structure of the film relies on the uneasy relationships of three “triumvirates:” three young heroes, three female and three male characters.

The young people are, first, two brothers. The extravagant, unrestrained Kerim, nicknamed Wolfy; and the kind, industrious, reliable Aman, whom people unfairly call “Gaspy;” and also their girlfriend, the orphan Saltanat. The brothers illegally obtain boulders of sparkled granite, which is considered a semi-precious stone. During the Soviet times, the quarry in Kyzyl-Ompol, to the west of Issyk-Kul, was known in the neighboring republics, but nowadays, because of cracks in the rock, the stone is no longer extracted on an industrial level.

Saltanat has grown up with Tayene, her grandmother on the mother’s side, since her parents perished in a road accident. The girl remained alive through a miracle, but a light, hardly noticeable limp reminds us of the terrible accident. Tayene rejoices in her granddaughter: “You have grown to be an obedient, modest girl. Your parents would be happy to see you like this.”

under heavenThe other two heroines are the brothers’ mother and their aunt Ooma. They personify two opposite female essences: the mother is tender, caring, compassionate, and strong both in spirit and physically. On her shoulders rests the brothers’ household from their father’s side, since the father Adamkul has left for Russia to earn money so he can pay off Kerim’s debts. Somehow the father managed to get the elder son out of a prison sentence for drug trafficking.

The shallow Ooma is the centre of idle talk; she does not have any concise reference points in her life; they say about such people that they are as daft as a brush.

under heavenThe men are: the blind seer Aziz Ava; the mason Tash Usta; and a gangster with the nickname “Artist.” Aziz Ava is the spiritual leader of the settlement, a wise man, a prophet, and a healer. Tash Usta is a constantly strung-up master in processing stones; he makes gravestones. He has an intimate secret: for many years he has been pining for the brothers’ mother, thinking nobody has even guessed about his passion, although it turns out to be an open secret. The Artist is a colorful figure, vociferous, who he can easily charm a silly woman like Ooma. Actually his acting serves him well, covering all unseemly affairs. 

So, nine basic characters stand in the center of the director’s attention, though the wheel of events rotates around the figure of the aggressive, angered Kerim. It seems that he brings woe, suffering, and problems to the people around him. His father Adamkul, unable to sustain the heavy work conditions in Russia, dies. Having pretended to be in love with the lame Saltanat, Kerim leaves her and goes to the city. The pregnant girl decides to commit suicide. Kerim does not help Aman, who has been hit by a sliding boulder. In a serious condition, the younger brother is taken into intensive care. And here suddenly appears the ominous figure of the Artist, who demands the return of the debt. Unable to cope with the unprecedented challenges, the mother dies.

under heavenKerim’s negative energy and aggression are resisted by Aman’s gentle force, the perceptive balance of the blind Aziz, and the patience and kindness of Saltanat’s grandmother. After the father’s death Aman has taken upon him Kerim’s debt and saved the pregnant Saltanat, having decided to build a family with her. Not leaving his native village, he begins the construction of a home.

His kind aura leads Kerim out of his aggression. Having lost father and mother, and having his critically ill brother on his conscience, he suddenly realizes that he was wrong. Kerim’s energy is preserved, but henceforth it is directed at creation rather than destruction. He lives out the father’s dream about creativity and begins to make stone sculptures, the so called Balbals. In Kerim’s dream, Aziz Ava inquires: “The Balbals were erected when the enemy had been conquered. But do you have an enemy? Over whom have you been victorious?”

One answer to the wise man’s question may be that Kerim has won over the enemy within him, redirecting his bad energy at creation and bridling his wild passions. In fact, the Balbals which Kerim has started to put up are the stone embodiment of the dead parents who should protect him and help him in his destiny.

Gulbara Tolomushova

Comment on this article on Facebook

Under Heaven (Asman aldynda; [Russian: Pod nebesami), Kyrgyzstan 2015.
DCP, 88 minutes
National Studio Kyrgyzfilm named after Okeev
Scriptwriter and Director: Dalmira Tilepbergenova
Director of Photography: Akjol Bekbolotov
Production Designer: Adis Seytaliev
Editing: Eldiyar Madakim
Music by Murzali Jeenbaev
Producer: Gulmira Kerimova
Cast: Anvar Osmonaliev (Kerim), Nurjigit Kanaev (Aman), Talaykan Abazova (mother), Munara Dooronbekova (Saltanat)

Dalmira Tilepbergenova: Under Heaven (Asman aldynda, Kyrgyzstan 2015)

reviewed by Gulbara Tolomushova© 2015

Updated: 02 Jul 15