• Golden Globe Awards

A Dark, Dark Man (Kazakhstan)

When a boy is killed in a village in Kazakhstan, the investigating detective, Bekzat (played by Daniyar Alshinov), is told to wrap up the case as fast as he can. His lazy superior officer is a coward who orders him to kill a supposed suspect that local police officers have conveniently found for him. Bekzat is all too happy to follow orders at first, but his routine job is thwarted by a courageous journalist. Ariana is convinced that something is rotten and insists very publicly that the case be properly investigated. That does not sit well with either the police or the criminals – not that there is much difference here. Bekzat turns from hunter into hunted when the criminal organization – one could call it the Kazakh version of the Mafia – gets involved, and he is caught in an ever-tightening web of blackmail, bribery and death threats. He slowly regains his moral compass but not without inner and outer fighting.
In a way, the unique fashion in which this film was shot – wide angles over the endless cornfields, empty spaces not only outdoors but also in the decrepit barns and barren offices, and most of all the bizarre conversations and brutal violence – reminds one of Quentin Tarantino. Director Adilkhan Yerzhenov must be a fan. Only his theme here is a little more serious than in most of Tarantino’s work: the greed and corruption that runs rampant through his country, the nonchalance with which so-called officers of the law defy just that same law, and a society under dictatorship and despotism that instills fear in order to control. Yerzhenov has used a similar style, if not necessarily the same themes, in his earlier films, from the 2001 Rieltor (Realtor) to Constructors, The Owners and The Plague at the Karatas Village. In 2018, he had The Gentle Indifference of the World in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival. His newest work premiered at the San Sebastian Film Festival.