- Golden Globe Awards
The Lake: (Kyrgyz Republic) (Kyrgyzstan)
There is no way around learning about Kyrgyzstan without learning about Issyk-Kul, the largest lake in this Central Asian country. Surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of Tian Shan, it never freezes, that is why it was named “warm lake” by Kyrgyz ancestors. It became not only a home to people but also a source of artistic creation. There are different legends related to this lake. Kyrgyz culture is filled with outlandish tales that still feed the imagination of those who came afterward. One of these legends is about the souls of ancestors taking the physical forms of fish in the sacred lake and it is the story told in this simply named film.
The Lake tells the story of a little girl named Jyldys who lives with her family in a village by the Issyk-Kul. Her life is harsh. Her peers make fun of her because she rarely talks and often stays in her own world. The only comfort she finds is in the company of an old wise man, Temirkul, who once was her father’s teacher. Ever since Temirkul’s own daughter drowned in the lake he holds onto the old legend about fish that embody the souls of those who are gone. The lake is truly sacred to him. When his wife dies, he has the idea to lay her body in the lake instead of burying her in the ground. Jyldys’ father on the contrary is dedicated to old traditions and calls his former teacher’s ideas insane. He believes the only way to help him is to pledge his own land to organize a proper funeral for his deceased wife.
The directorial debut of Emil Atageldijev, the film is dedicated to his teachers, and Artykpai Suiundukov, who plays wise old Temirkul is one of them. The film feels like a tribute to Kyrgyz cinema which has roots in such movies as The White Ship, (1976) by Bolotbek Shamshiyev, an adaptation of the Chingiz Aitmatov novel of the same name. It is hard to ignore parallels with the story in The Lake. In fact, it’s hard to find any Kyrgyz movie without any references to this magnificent lake.
Without a doubt, the lake is the movie’s main character. Not only do lives start and end, they feel with it. It becomes an eternal cradle that needs to be guarded. Cinematically rich, the movie is an endeavor to reflect its beauty. Having a background as a professional musician, Emil Atageldijev underlines his visual content with the powerful instrumental score where traditional motifs resonate with the restless narration.
The world premiere of The Lake took place at the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2020 where the film was selected for the official program of the Asian New Talent Award.