KinoKultura: Issue 66 (2019)

From Ufa with Love! IFF Silver Akbuzat 2019

By Gulbara Tolomushova

AkbuzatFrom 24–27 August 2019 the IV International Film Festival Silver Akbuzat took place in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan. Akbuzat is a mythological, winged horse from the Bashkir epos and from fairy tales. For the first time it was described in the epos Ural Batyr which dates back over a thousand years. The image of a horse is also depicted in the epos Akbuzat. The winged, heavenly horse is a symbol of goodness and justice, of true obedience to the powerful warriors, the batyrs, who fight for general happiness.

The republic of Bashkortostan is a subject of the Russian Federation, part of the Ural economic region. For the first time the IFF of national and ethnic cinema “Silver Akbuzat” was held in 2014, funded by a grant of the President of the Republic Bashkortostan (since 1 January 2015 called Head of the Republic), followed by the second and third editions in 2015 and 2016. The first three editions contained three competition programs, of full-length fiction films, short fiction films, and documentary films. The festival’s main prize is a statuette of a Silver Akbuzat, awarded for the best film selected from the winners of the three competitions.

After a short break, the fourth edition took place at the end of August 2019. The organizers have thematically enlarged the concept of the festival, adding a section on social and motivational cinema alongside that of national and ethnic cinema. The two sections consisted of six competitions, three in each, of full-length fiction films, short fiction films and documentary films. Each film was shown twice, and for each screening the halls were full. All screenings took place at the Rodina Cinema. In total 50 films were shown, 48 competition films and two out-of-competition films.

AkbuzatThanks to the support of the Ministry of Culture of Bashkortostan and the Government of the Republic, the main prize was a statuette of the winged horse Akbuzat for the winner of the Grand Prix, along with a monetary award of one million rubles. The statuettes were crafted by Arslan Bikbaev and Salavat Ganeev. The international jury, which was headed by the People’s Actor of Russia Sergei Shakurov, awarded the main prize across the two programs of feature films in the two sections of national-ethnic and social-motivational cinema to the Yakut director Liubov’ Borisova for the film The Sun Sets Above Me (Nado mnoi solntse ne saditsia). A special prize in the section of Social and Motivational Cinema was awarded by the public figure Karine Khabirova to the Kazakh film The Girl and the Sea with the words: “This film has made an impression and touched to the depth of the soul.” Aziz Zairov and Mukhamed Mamyrbekov have made their drama about the life of people with limited abilities and filmed disabled people in the leading roles.

AkbuzatAmong the festival’s guests of honor were the well-known Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi, who led a master-class for young directors, took part in the final press conference where participants shared their impressions of the festival, their perception on the state of contemporary Bashkir cinema, and presented their national cinematographies.

In 2014 when the Bashkirs started to organize their film festival, they thought of a qualitative breakthrough, first of all, for the development of Bashkir cinema, because a festival, as a rule, gives a unique opportunity to show national cinema to the spectator, to visitors and foreign experts. IFF Silver Akbuzat has already interested curators and coordinators, who have brought this forum into focus, enquiring about it, demanding full accounts about the program, the best films and new names.

Bashkir Cinema at the IV Silver Akbuzat

iz ufy Before the festival I read enthusiastic responses about a film by the leader of the new wave of Bashkir cinema, Ainur Askarov: From Ufa with Love (Iz Ufy s liubov’iu, 2017). The film ran successfully for a long time in cinemas in Bashkortostan and the Russian Federation. At last I had the opportunity to see this breakthrough film, which evidently shows that Bashkortostan has a positive dynamic and aspires to move on in cinema without forgetting about its fine traditions, but respects them whilst challenging those that stop or hinder advancement. The film has become a cult film for Bashkir youth and an embodiment of a new time of the ancient Bashkortostan. 

On the other hand, director Bulat Yusupov is still very active, having begun his career in cinema in the early 1990s, when the film studio Bashkortostan was founded. At the festival, he was a member of the international jury. The Bashkortostan film studio was created on 25 May 1990 by order of the Council of Ministers of the Republic Bashkortostan to support and develop national cinema. In 2018 Yusupov made a very important film assessing the history of Bashkortostan in the twentieth century: First Republic (Pervaia respublika). The film is devoted to the Bashkir Renaissance after the formation of the Autonomous Bashkir Soviet Republic or “the First Republic” on the territory of modern Russia.

AkbuzatOn 15 November (28 November New Style) 1917 the Bashkir Central Council had proclaimed the autonomy of Bashkortostan. As a result of signing the “Agreements of the Central Soviet Authority with the Bashkir Government about the Soviet Independent Bashkiria”, on 20 March 1919 it was recognized by the central Soviet authorities and transformed into the Bashkir Independent Soviet Socialist Republic. At that time, Bashkir science, literature, and arts began to blossom. Despite the reprisals of the 1930s Bashkortostan has preserved its achievements in the non-material sphere and made them the people’s achievement today: when coming in Ufa today, visitors have a unique opportunity to enjoy the art of Bashkir actors, musicians, singers and dancers.

Watching some Bashkir films in different competition programs, the spectator gets a fine idea of the nuances of internal relations in the Bashkir family, about the Bashkir character, and the musicality of the Bashkir language. In two short fiction films—Roman Pozhidaev’s When There was Snow (Kogda shel sneg, 2017) and The Savage (Dikar’, 2017)—the mother is presented as spiritual and moral support for the family.

In the short film When There was Snow the main character is simultaneously mother and grandmother. She has a daughter and a grandson, but she also had a son. The daughter hides her brother Azat’s death from the mother in order to protect her fragile health and weak heart. On the other hand, the mother does not tell the daughter that she knows of Azat’s death in order to maintain the illusion that Azat has left on a long business trip.

After viewing the film it occurred to me that in families of law-abiding Soviet citizens the concealment of a death inside the family is basically impossible; and the fact that the action takes place in the Soviet era is specified by the price labels in the bakery: “9 kopecks”, etc. However, it turns out that Azat lived separately from the mother, while the sister and her son stayed with the mother. Her kindness, tenderness and consideration for the grandmother’s health motivate the delicate relationship between daughter and mother.

The same sensitive, attentive and gentle image of the mother stands at the center of Farzana Utarbaeva’s short fiction film The Savage. A woman raised an adopted son like her own, and until the last moment she hides this fact from him. But she writes a letter to the son before her death, revealing the secret. We never learn what the son does for a living. When he travels to the hospital, he receives numerous calls on his mobile phone and asks for something. The man responds in an apologizing tone, justifying himself. His demeanor suggests an activity in a field that is not absolutely legal. But seeing the love with which the mother turns to him and how sensitively the son talks with her, the ideas about a life outside the legal field of the son remain secondary. Only when you later recollect the title of the film, The Savage, you think that this is not accidental. This is confirmed by an episode: the son wants to pass by a puppy on the road, but the mother softly and firmly insists that the son picks up the puppy. The son, seemingly brutal and independent, remains obedient in his relationship with the mother.

In medium-length fiction film Out-of-class Lesson (Vneklassnyi urok, 2018) by Ruslan Yultaev, the moral support of the new generation comes from the grandfather in a village, where he lives separately from the son’s family. But he manages to interest the grandson and granddaughter with his stories about the past of the settlement, when the peasants left for the fronts of the Great Patriotic War and perished for the victory.

The three films present an image of moral support of the nation: in wisdom, calmness, keenness of the older generation. These grandmothers and grandfathers never raise their voice on the children and grandchildren, but manage to influence them (people of a totally different time and generation). Their quiet, even emotional behaviour in any situation is impressive. They never raise their voice, but remain quiet and pacified by that modest prosperity they have. They are wise.

Another situation is presented in Dinara Abdrashitova’s short fiction film Asya. Here the world without grandmother and grandfather is shown: a young single mother lives with her small daughter while dreaming to find a husband. The character of the little girl impresses: she has a great dream and plans to realize it. Asya is a film about dreams, about the possibility to realize and express this dream in the grey timelessness of the surrounding space.

The little Asya lives with her mother in a village. Around everything is grey, maybe therefore the girl wears an orange jacket to brighten up the dullness of her mother’s everyday life. The mother has invented a legend about the girl’s pilot-father, who one fine day will arrive to see his daughter. So every day Asya climbs on the highest mountain, ready to meet her father. Gradually the girl formulates her first dream: she must learn how to fly to be worthy of her father, the pilot.

The girl collects birds’ feathers and makes herself wings for the future flight. She understands concisely what is good and what is bad, and dislikes her mother meeting with other men. Every new male friend of her mother gets her into a rage. Once the girl, contrary to her mum’s disbelief, flies over the space of their settlement and soars into the air, lightly and joyfully. Now the mother, having climbed on the highest hill in the area, with pleasure and excitement realizes that the beautiful, improbable and elevated dream may become true, as long as one believes in it 

The film is superbly shot, offering an excellent artistic solution for the grey space, in whose center stands the girl in an orange jacket. This girl is truly very mobile: she does not sit for a minute in one place. The mother’s purple dress is a sign of some dull view on the world around; probably in her childhood Asya’s mother was also a creative child with an enthusiastic perception of the world, with a dream. Probably something went wrong, and the mother lowered herself on the ground and stopped dreaming. The daughter’s flight brings back the mother’s belief in dreams. Children are our future and parents should support all exploits of children, however strange and impossible they may seem.

The documentary film of the young Bashkir woman Kirsten Gainet What Our House is Sad About is devoted to the tragic pages of the history of the Meskhetian Turks in the twentieth century. The history of the deportation of this people from Georgia in 1944 is described in a girl’s school essay, which tells about the difficult fate of her grandmother, who travelled two months on a train in a carriage with several old men.

Films of Other Republics and Regions
Audiences in Ufa received a unique opportunity to see films not only from exotic and distant countries such as Ruanda, Indonesia, Nepal, South Korea, Australia, and France, but also from the former USSR: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Moldova. Widely presented was the cinema from regions of the Russian Federation, from Yakutia (Sakha), Buryatia, Tatarstan, Altai Mountains, Daghestan, and Chechnya.

The short fiction film Letter about Zaur by Adam Dunaev (Pis’mo o Zaure, Chechen Republic, 2018) is about hope. The elderly parents live in expectation of their son’s return, the son who left for one of today’s hotspots. They look after the garden, go to the well to fetch water, and pray to god. Most important, the parents protect each other: the mother hides a letter behind her back when the father enters the room. Probably the letter contains bad news. In the end of the film we see the father, who comes to pray in the house for prayers, which is located at a distance from their home. As he prays, we begin to understand that the father also feels something sad about the son’s fate, but does not tell his wife. He also protects her emotional state. Therefore he goes to pray in this remote place. The hope for the son’s return gives them the power to live.

The short fiction film The Moth (Mol', Russia, 2019) is directed by Aleksei Frenkel and represents an accomplished and therefore paradoxical film, because the well-known actress Roza Khairullina always introduces a paradox into her films. This is the story of a strange grandmother, who has been separated from the family three months ago. The grandmother lives alone, constantly knits and slowly withdraws into herself. She is replete and constantly reflects on something. When the granddaughter visits her, it seems that the grandmother does not react in any way, even though she closely follows all the actions of the granddaughter.

The short fiction film The Bright Moon (Nepal, 2018) by Abinas Bikram Shah is a bewitching and simultaneously mystical picture. The corpse of a migrant worker arrives from Qatar in a remote village in Nepal. The widow Tattini now plans to begin a new life on the insurance money for the late husband, far from the fetters of the conservative society. But her lonely father-in-law has decided to stop her and demands the money. The village court demands a darrkhan, a traditional ceremony that follows a rigid ritual.

The short fiction film The Fence (Izgorod, Republic Altai, 2018) by Mikhail Kulunakov begins with the Altai proverb that everything should be fenced—everything except for time and eternity. For man, the fence is life. No fence is constructed without purpose, but intended for something: to fence off or protect something. The whole life of the protagonist has been behind a fence. He has lived like everybody, worked like everybody, and died like everybody.

Congratulating the Bashkir cinematographers to a successful festival, I noted with sadness that, despite its rich history, functioning film production and distribution, and some film schools where future directors, cameramen and actors study, my own country, Kyrgyzstan, has no such big film festival. For many years we have been dreaming of creating a large festival, but for now our dream remains a dream.

Gulbara Tolomushova

Silver Akbuzat: Liubov’ Borisova, The Sun Above Me Never Sets (Yakutia)

Best Director: Bekzat Pirmatov, Aurora (Kyrgyzstan)
Best Script: Valerii Bylinskii, Blood (Russia)
Best Cinematography: Semen Amanatov, Lord Eagle (Russia/Yakutia).

National and Ethnic Cinema
Best Feature: Ainur Askarov, From Ufa with Love
Best Documentary: Kirsten Gainet What Our House is Sad About

Special Prize from Karine Khabirova in the nomination “Social and Motivational Cinema”: The Girl and the Sea (Kazakhstan) by Aziz Zairov and Mukhamed Mamyrbekov
Special Prize of the Union of Cinematographers of Bashkortostan named after Malik Yakshimbetov “For national spirit”: Song of a Tree (Kyrgyzstan/Russia) by Aibek Daiyrbekov
Special Prize in Honor of Amir Abdrazakov: Sultan Agung (Indonesia) by Hanung Bramantyo


Gulbara Tolomushova © 2019

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Updated: 2019