Issue 54 (2016)

Bakyt Mukul, Dastan Japar Uulu: A Father’s Will (Zaveshchanie otsa, Kyrgyzstan 2016)

reviewed by Gulbara Tolomushova© 2016

The Son for the Father

Many compatriots, who have left Kyrgyzstan over the years, sooner or later consider where they want to be buried. Some people have a strong desire to find their last rest in the native land. This theme forms the subject of the film A Father’s Will, which was made by two directors, Bakyt Mukul and Dastan Japar Uulu. In the lead role of Azat is Iman Mukul, a graduate of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg.

fathers will Azat is the film’s protagonist, an American of Kyrgyz origin, who at the age of eleven left the country with his parents to go to the US. Fifteen years later, Azat comes back to Kyrgyzstan to carry out the last will of his late father and bring the latter’s ashes back home. The problem is complicated by the fact that Azat’s father, Murat, before his departure abroad borrowed money from many local peasants and never returned it.

The son makes a decision that is unpopular with his family (mother and sisters): to go to Kyrgyzstan and ask pardon from everyone, who was undeservedly offended by the father, to pay off all the debts, and then embark on the basic mission of his trip: to begin a conversation with the elders about a burial place for the father’s ashes. (Here again: cremation is not allowed in Kyrgyzstan at a legislative level, though in the Bronze age in the territory of Kyrgyzstan, in Talask valley, the ritual of committing a body to the flames prevailed.)

The meditative rhythm of the prologue corresponds to the internal emotional state of the protagonist. On the one hand, he is self-confident, because he clearly sees the purpose of his visit to Kyrgyzstan. In a focused and almost laconic manner, he behaves tactfully: his good upbringing is obvious. On the other hand, Azat has no support yet in his native land, and the fellow villagers look at him as if it had come from another planet, while the creditors don’t even want to look his way. His coevals, thinking along stereotypical lines, ask naive questions. Azat understands that for the time being he should not tell anybody about the father’s death. First he must restore the father’s reputation so that the peasants will not turn away when he asks them to forgive Murat.

As Iman Mukul, who plays Azat, explains: “When I read the script, I paid attention to the fact that Azat was an disobedient boy in his childhood; I would say—he was a choleric, and life made him in such a way that he keeps everything inside. He is fully concentrated on his mission. That’s the first thing; and secondly, he does not know our culture, the traditions of the people, and even the language. I even tried to speak with an accent. He arrived to a country where he is a stranger. During the process of immersion in the character, I also changed my gait. It was hard to get into this character, because I am choleric myself, but had to play more of a melancholic person.”

When Azat drives to his native village in the car he hired in Bishkek, he remembers well the final stop, the father’s house. But, as a close friend of the father tells him: “you have left in the dark, without telling anyone, and your house has not been looked after.” Indeed, the house is in a terrible condition: it is almost dilapidated, the branch of a fruit tree has grown through a window and extended inside the house, there is no electricity, and the glass in the windows is broken. But it is a house, a place where the hero can retire any time.

fathers will As Iman Mukul says: “When, according to the plot, the repair of the abandoned house of Azat’s family is finished, I thought: ‘In fact the house is everything’. The house never will be thrown away, it will always wait. I also wanted to say about the role: I heard people say that I seem static in my character. But this in fact depends on style of the film, because the camera remains static during the film; and I thought if I were emotional, very nervous or aggressive, it would be an entirely different approach to my role. Where does the idea of a uniform line come from? In ballet, too, it is important to keep the line, the character, the image; it seems to me that it is very important. The only time when Azat breaks out is in the scene of a meeting with uncle Choro. Up to this episode he was constrained and laconic, although the people he met as the son of “that Murat” answered him sharply and roughly. Azat’s emotions had piled up, and, at last, they explode in the scene with uncle Choro…”

It is hard for Azat to constantly face the spiteful attitude of the fellow villagers, and the last drop is the behaviour of uncle Choro, who has autocratically entered his house, not greeted him at the meeting, and now makes claims addressed at Azat’s father, while it is the son who has to listen. Therefore Azat’s nerves give way, and he snaps. In 1935 Stalin said: “The son does not answer for the father…” (Pravda, 4 Dec. 1935), but in this film the son is ready to answer for the father: it is for this purpose he has come to Kyrgyzstan, and in good time, still in the US, sold the car, collected money to pay off the father’s debts, and most important, to carry out the last will of the parent: to bury him on the native soil.

fathers will The house is an advanced post of Azat’s family and relatives. Azat will leave the native village, and Choro will leave for Russia to earn money. But in any case, they sooner or later return home, and it is important that their house will stand in its place.

Azat will pay all the debts, renew the dialogue with the father’s comrades, the village elder and the young men will authorize the burial place for his ashes. With uncle Choro he’ll iron out things also. But uncle Choro hastens to his flight, which departs most likely to Russia. But now there is a reason to hope that the house will be looked after.

A Father’s Will shows a young man of a new generation and a different way of thinking. This is a serious, purposeful young man, who thinks before saying or doing something. The young man is true to the memory of the father. Through extreme emotional pressure he manages to carry out, point by point, the task of restoring the father’s rights to a good memory in the native village.

Gulbara Tolomushova

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A Father’s Will, Kyrgyzstan, 2016
DCP, 112 minutes
Production: Kyrgyzfilm, Elfilm
Language: Kyrgyz
Script: Bakyt Mukul, Dastan Japar Uulu
Director: Bakyt Mukul, Dastan Japar Uulu
DoP: Akjol Bekbolotov
Producers: Gulmira Kerimova, Ermek Mukul, Talant Tolobekov
Cast: Iman Mukul, Marat Alyshpaev, Taalai Kasymaliev, Bakyt Mukul, Amantur Abdysalam Uulu, Tynara Abdrazayeva, Diana Sabyrbekova
Awards: Golden Zenith at Montreal World Film Festival, 2016

Bakyt Mukul, Dastan Japar Uulu: A Father’s Will (Zaveshchanie otsa, Kyrgyzstan 2016)

reviewed by Gulbara Tolomushova© 2016