Issue 23 (2009)

Serik Ibraim: The Thief (Vor, Kazakhstan, 2008)

reviewed by Zeinet Turarbekkyzy© 2009

A group of young men and women have recently appeared in Kazakh cinema, consisting of the students of the Zhurgenov National Academy of Arts. They are mostly students of Damir Manabai and Bolat Kalymbetov. These students are only at the beginning of their path to great art, but already in their course work they attempt to find an artistic style that would set them apart from “Kazakh New Wave.” Nonetheless, the influence of “New Wave” directors has left its traces. From the psychological standpoint, movies can have an effect on a conscious and subconscious level. On a subconscious level, film always exerts an influence. This is inevitably reflected in a person's work, in this case, in his film.

Serik Ibraim's short feature film The Thief is about loneliness. Philosophers believed that man in the depths of his soul is always lonely, regardless of occupation, family, and everyday activities. This probably contains a measure of truth. A lonely person is left to himself. That is why God created Eve for Adam, so that he would not be lonely and so that the harmony of nature is preserved. The hero of Ibraim's The Thief is a lonely man, living day by day. Theft is his everyday activity, his means of survival.

One marvelous day, while running from the owner of a stolen item (a car tape player) he finds himself in the home of a young woman. Their encounter becomes important to him as it subsequently develops his character. After deciding to help the young woman move into her new home, he gradually grows more accustomed to both the house and its owner. With time, this attention grows into love; he is more and more attracted to the house and to its mistress. But he expresses his love not in carnal terms, but rather by helping her with household tasks and entertaining her with songs. The protagonists understand each other without words. Since their meeting, a new path has opened in his life. The Thief begins life anew, from a blank page. This change in the hero's heart is made clear in the scene where he stops next to a car at night, contemplates, and leaves. He decides to forsake thievery and returns all the stolen jewelry to the young woman. All this is presented with artful precision. Details play well in this film: the jewelry box, the undisturbed white and fluffy snow, the sounds of a hammer and a knife. The development of the story is expressed artistically and beautifully in the film. But, unfortunately, the laws of attraction play no positive role in this film, for the Thief is mistaken in his choice. He is left alone with his guitar, sharing with it his grief and misfortune. Despite the unhappy finale, the film discloses well the image of man, how much a person can change for the sake of another. In the depths of his soul, the Thief is naïve, kind, loyal, and hardworking. He might become a good family man, if he had a woman helping and supporting him. Apparently, it was not destined to happen, for what is black often appears white, and white appears black.

Ibraim's The Thief resembles The Needle (Igla, 1988) , a film by New Wave director Rashid Nugmanov. In both films, the exact names of the heroes are not given – the Thief and Moro. According to Nugmanov, Moro is a pseudonym for a person, to whom the director did not wish to give a specific name. Both heroes are lonely persons living or, more accurately, acting, for the sake of another. Both are reticent, singing to the guitar. And also the final scenes are identical: Both Moro and the Thief walk down a street of Almaty on a cold, beautiful winter night, but unlike the Thief, Moro is wounded. According to Serik Ibraim, he was not thinking of Nugmanov's The Needle while filming The Thief , despite the obvious similarity, because he was acting subconsciously. Not only is The Needle a favorite of the 1990s, but it is also still watched and enjoyed by today's youth. Ibraim worked subconsciously and intuitively, and intuition did not betray the young novice director. I hope that in the near future Ibraim will join the professional Kazakh directors.

Translated by Alexander Rindisbacher (Claremont, CA)

Zeinet Turarbekkyzy

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The Thief, Kazakhstan, 2008,
Color, video, 34 min.
Director: Serik Ibraim
Script: E. Baygazin
Director of Photography: A. Dulatov
Cast: A. Abdrakhmanov, L. Bilibaeva
Production: Zhurgenov Kazakh National Academy of Arts
Producer: Z. Poshanov

Serik Ibraim: The Thief (Vor, Kazakhstan, 2008)

reviewed by Zeinet Turarbekkyzy© 2009

Updated: 07 Jan 09