Central Asia on Screen in Almaty

    By Paul Bartlett
    The movers and shakers of Central Asia's cinema world are gathering in Almaty, Kazakhstan as the sixth annual Eurasia International Film Festival kicks off tomorrow, September 21.
    The five-day festival will highlight recent Kazakh productions while focusing on new movies from Central Asia and the Turkic speaking world.
    Kazakhstan’s cinema industry produced 15 films in 2009 and has been enjoying a renaissance over the last few years as directors tackle tricky social issues and the Soviet legacy.
    There will be a screening of Ermek Tursunov's Oscar nominated "Kelin," which caused controversy on its release for its depiction of the trials and tribulations of a young bride. It raised the hackles of Majilis (parliamentary) deputies, who attacked the film for negatively portraying Kazakh society.
    The prudish politicians, who have taken it upon themselves to be the guardian's of the nation’s morals, also had the knives out for "Kairat-Champion. Virgin #1" – including its scenes of homosexuality – and for "Tulpan" which showed Kazakhs in an “ignoble” light.
    In competition will be 12 films from around the region – two from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and one each from Tajikistan and Russia's autonomous republic of Tatarstan.
    The directors will be competing for a prize of $10,000 and the best male and female actors will win $5,000 each.
    Entries in the international competition include Turkish director Tayfun Pirselimoglu's latest offering "Hair," Chingiz Rasulzade's "The Dolls," set in Azerbaijan in the dying days of the Soviet Union, and "Bibinur" from Tatar director Yuri Feting.
    Ensuring the festival presents a truly international flavor, a short look at contemporary French cinema will include veteran director Alain Resnais's surreal romantic comedy "Wild Grass" and "Gainsborg," a biopic of the late, great French singer and actor Serge Gainsborg.
    Keeping with the French theme, this year’s international sex icon/guest of honor will be French actor Gerard Depardieu, according to Eurasianet.