Issue 65 (2019)

Ruslan Akun: Finding Mother 2: New Adventures (V poiskakh mamy-2. Novye prikliucheniia, 2019)

reviewed by Gulbara Tolomushova © 2019

The Devils from Antalya

finding mother kazWhen Finding Mother 2 premiered in Bishkek in February 2019 and the film crew stepped onto the stage, it consisted only of young people. The course of time is relentless, and high-grade film crews in Kyrgyzstan are already formed of the generation born in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There is practically only one older (episodic) role in the film, which is performed by the national actress of the Kyrgyz Republic, Djamilia Sydykbaeva. She plays a close relative of the new heroes, Murat and Aliya, brother and sister who were orphaned in their early childhood. If the bulk of the first film of the dilogy Finding Mother was shot in California (US), then the majority of the second film is shot in the Turkish city of Antalya.

Two years ago, in February 2017, director Ruslan Akun and producer Nurbek Aibashov presented audiences in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan with the first film, Finding Mother, which met with success in both countries. In September 2017, the filmmakers received the Tulpar Award of the National Academy of Film Art in the nomination “Best Foreign Film”. According to official data from Kyrgyz distributors, the first film broke the box office records in domestic distribution, and was also a leader at the box office in Kazakhstan for 2017.

finding mother kyrThe theme of the search for the mother occurred in Kyrgyz cinema for the first time in the short film Don’t Cry, Rhinoceros (Ne plach’, nosorog, 1994) by Temir Birnazarov, which was at the time planned as a feature film. However, before the start of the shoot, the producers Maria Abakirova and Petr Eliferenko asked domestic sociologists to read Birnazarov’s script and give it an expert evaluation on the topicality of the theme. A small homeless Kyrgyz boy wanders through the city and searches for his mum. In first half of the 1990s it was still impossible to admit such an idea (!). The boy sticks the mother’s photos on fences, gates, walls of houses and doors of shops, with a spark of hope in his eyes. The sociologists answered the producers that the scriptwriter hit the nail on the head: with the disintegration of the USSR, there would inevitably be abandoned children in Kyrgyzstan, who would not have been abandoned during Soviet times: if a child was orphaned (for the different reasons), it was taken in by relatives. At the beginning of the 1990s there were still few abandoned children where the parents were still alive, but with time, the experts emphasized, their number would grow drastically. The script was titled “A Boy in Search for his Mum,” but the film received the title Don’t Cry, Rhinoceros!, because the decision was made to speak about the issue indirectly, through a broad artistic image. The boy-tramp, seeing a broken crying rhinoceros in a museum of sculptures in the open area of the Oak Park in Bishkek, takes some snow to wipe away the tears on the rhinoceros’ cheek. The orphan boy realizes that someone has an even harsher and more painful fate, and needs even more moral support than the hero.

finding motherA quarter of a century has gone by. In the first film of Ruslan Akun’s dilogy Finding Mother (2017), the protagonist is the 12-year-old schoolboy Azamat; since the age of six he has lived in an orphanage. He has a phenomenal memory, quickly memorizes and easily manages complex information. However, the boy does not remember at all what his mother looked like. Moreover, two key events—a cerebral gap and the loss of the mother’s image—happened simultaneously and under mysterious circumstances, which will be unveiled at the end of the first film.

Having lost the image of the mother, Azamat does not stop admiring her; each time when older children try to paint her in a negative light, he uses his fists to deny even the idea that his mum did something that could cast a shadow on his idealised image. The seeds of kindness planted in the mother’s womb have grown and sowed in his soul the belief that his mother cannot be bad, nor can she do bad things. He believes in the mother’s purity and creates a myth in which he dispatches his absent mother to America where she has to carry out an important task.

In Akun’s short film Transit (Peregon, 2013) the mother went somewhere far away, and the small children had to work hard to get to her. When they met their mum, all the difficulties disappeared just like that, their mum caressed them, warmed them, fed them, and put them to sleep with a lullaby. Lullabies are compulsory! The mother’s voice influences the consciousness of the child wonderfully: the child calms and falls asleep. The mother is associated with something warm, tasty, gentle, and reliable. The mother will not betray, never.

finding motherIn the present day the situation in families develops in an unconventional manner for Kyrgyz society when mothers have to go abroad to earn money, and the children remain with the fathers or other relatives. The childhood happens without the mother. The children miss her, lose valuable reference points, and often do not know how to set their priorities in different situations. The fathers are frequently irresponsible; Transit shows such a type of father who at any opportunity darts off and goes on a spree with his friends, leaving the children to their fate.

Often such useless fathers become an embodiment of evil of the modern world: they drink, they are indifferent to the fate of the children, they quickly get into a rage and vent it on small and defenceless children, beating them hardly and severely, leaving children damaged and traumatised for life.

The image of the mother in Akun’s films Transit and Finding Mother is the traditional image of a kind, understanding, accommodating, portly and smiling woman who, in a single appearance, introduces the sensation of good fortune in the distraught soul of a child. Without doubt, thus, the director understands the lost image of the mother as motherland (where Kirghizia is feminine in gender) which was kept only in the genetic memory of the sons, because part of the new generation of Kyrgyz people have grown without parental care due to the migration of mothers from the early 1990s onwards to earn money abroad. Not accidentally at the end of the first film of the dilogy stands an inscription: “Devoted to all orphans”.

finding motherIn the finale of the first film, the image of the mother stands in a paradisical garden of the other world where she, telling the son about good things and a just life, does not try to take the son with her. That is, the boy finds the mother through the revival of her visible image which he lost in his early childhood because of a trauma inflicted by the monstrous father, who beat his small son in an attack of alcohol-induced rage. During an unexpected meeting with the father, who tries to greet the son, Azamat remembers how his mother looked. But Azamat shrieks back in horror: the figure of the approaching father causes a panic attack and he loses consciousness.
Nowadays, several years later, the father is a well-known master in manufacturing traditional objects of olden time, national musical instruments: he is a man who has found his calling, having gone through a difficult period in life connected with the loss of his wife.

During this hard time, the father was a regressive, embittered man; now he asks the son for forgiveness, justifying his cruelty. The death of Azamat’s mother, he says, unsettled him, broke him apart, and he became malicious against the world and directed his aggression at his small son who, as a result of the beatings, partially lost his memory and developed epilepsy, but who has phenomenal abilities in mathematics and related subjects.

So, in the first film the boy Azamat represents the small Kyrgyzstan (now of masculine gender!) with huge intellectual potential; he finds an adoptive father (a guardian) in the young Kazakh Daniyar. For the sake of justice, we must note that both heroes often change their roles: one leads the other, and the other way round. They have an ideal partnership of two brothers, because they are “linked with one chain,” and cannot live without each other. The triumph of their tandem happens in America, where their leisure is brightened up by the enfant terrible TJ, a cheerful Afro-American. TJ also accepts active participation in the Antalya episode of the two friends.

finding motherIn Finding Mother-2 the figure of a second intolerable child appears: the older brother of Daniyar’s bride, Murat, who decides to check on Daniyar’s future prospects and arranges a complex multistage test. Murat has an idol: the well-known Turkish actor Burak Özçivit. Murat dreams of meeting him, talking with him, getting an autograph. On the other hand, Murat is sick and must get a medical check-up abroad. Therefore Daniyar and Azamat take Murat to Antalya in the hope that they can meet the film star and get a consultation with a specialist.

Yet why does Murat dream of a meeting Burak Özçivit, an actor of Turkish television serials, rather than a female star? The answer comes with hindsight: Murat is an orphan and has also grown up without parents. He is Aliya’s older brother, but he always longed for the image of a strong man, a father-figure, whom he could imitate. Murat found this image in the charismatic Turkish actor, a knight without fear and reproach. This image of a strong, noble man motivated Murat during his maturation. The image of Burak Özçivit is a dream image, like Santa Claus who can light up one’s life with a single appearance.

If Azamat has a real Daniyar as his guardian, adoptive father, and older brother, then Murat has an unreal Burak, an image that exists on the screen, which Murat carefully reproduces it in his imagination. When the friends get a chance to arrange a meeting between Murat and Burak—even if it is the actor’s double (Burak Khan, who plays in the film, is Özçivit’s double)—Murat’s joy knows no end. His dreams must be fulfilled!

finding motherThe intolerable Murat perfectly inscribes himself in the close circle of the magnificent trinity of Azamat, Daniyar and TJ. The quartet of the “Antalya Devils” emerges, or an enfant terrible, where the “intolerable child” is already an adult but still behaves like a child to confuse people with his provocative and eccentric behaviour.

A cardinal change of status priorities takes place: the “intolerable” young men with honour pass the test for stability and decency. They prove that they can confidently stand on their feet and build a stable life that will withstand any storm. They no longer worry about the assessment of their actions by the older generation, a generation of irresponsible fathers who once left their sons to the mercy of fate. The orphaned lads have grown up with a sense of responsibility for the future.

This foursome of free lads who will easily overcome all obstacles on the way to their goal is an idea that goes back to the heroes of the film Paradise Birds (Raiskie ptitsy, 2006, dirs. Talgat Asyrankulov, Gaziz Nasyrov), who—as a matter of fact—are the younger brothers of the heroes of The Elusive Avengers (Neulovimye mstiteli, 1967, dir. Edmond Keosayan), who in turn descend from Ivan Perestiani’s Red Devils (Krasnye d’iavoliata, 1923). Therefore I call Akun’s dilogy “The Devils of Antalya.”

Translated by Birgit Beumers

Gulbara Tolomushova

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Finding Mum-2. New Adventures, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, 2019
Color, 90 inutes
Languages: Russian, English, Turkish, Kyrgyz, Kazakh
Director: Ruslan Akun
Script: Jenish Dzhunusov, Bakyt Osmonkanov
DoP: Zhantay Kydyraliev
Production Design: Maksat Bolotbek, Ege Sirin
Cast: Azamat Ulanov, Taukel Musilim, Michael Mapongo, Emil Esenaliev
Producer: Nurbek Aibashov, Dogacan Aktas
Production: Amanat Films

Ruslan Akun: Finding Mother 2: New Adventures (V poiskakh mamy-2. Novye prikliucheniia, 2019)

reviewed by Gulbara Tolomushova © 2019

Updated: 2019