At the Eurasia International Film Festival, a Boost to Kazakh Cinema
The Eurasia International Film Festival (EIFF), taking place from June 30 to July 7 in Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), the capital city of the Republic of Kazakhstan, is the largest competition film event in Central Asia.
The venue for EIFF could not be better chosen. Kazakhstan is a former Soviet republic which gained its independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union disappeared from the map. It is rich with mineral resources and has an educated population of approximately 18 million. Nur-Sultan was basically built from scratch in the middle of the vast Kazakh steppes. The city is a totally modern creation with a great many public structures like concert halls, an opera theater, shopping malls with multiplexes and original skyscrapers designed by world-renowned architects.
Previous editions (this was the 15th edition) had a strong element of glamour with many famous Hollywood and international stars attending, this year’s feel was more businesslike. The new president of the festival, Ermek Tursunov, a famous Kazakh film director and the Chairman of the Union of Kazakhstan’s filmmakers, worked to position the festival as a showcase for the Kazakh film industry. Kazakh film has a long tradition and the country is attempting to incentivize filmmaking through rebate initiatives and a newly favorable fiscal environment for foreign productions.
The festival also affords local audiences a window on some of the best films of the year from many countries. As an example, in the feature competition, the prize for best direction was given to the director of South Korean film Parasite which also won the Palme d’Or in Cannes in May. Instead of Hollywood stars, a delegation of American producers and other specialists from the movie and TV production companies and from TV networks were invited to Kazakhstan by Andrei Hazbulatov, Chairman of the Board of the State Center for the Support of the National Cinema. Besides participating in festival events like press conferences, American film professionals were given an extensive tour to see the country and scout locations for possible film projects, including co-productions.
But of course, the Film Festival is mainly about films. The Feature films International Jury chaired by Hungarian director Tamash Tot awarded the Grand Prix to the film from Kazakhstan The Secret of a Leader. The picture is an interesting take on the effects of globalization on the country’s growing middle class.
As for international Jury of shorts and animation (which this reporter was honored to chair) it awarded the Grand Prix to the film from China Brighter Days which tells the story of a family belonging to the Kazakh minority in China. The prize was given for the interesting mixture of local subject and general humanistic values reflected in a very cinematic manner.