Kyrgyzstan, as I know you’re about to tell me, is a former Soviet occupied country in Central Asia neighbouring Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and, of course China! And since independance in 1991 it has suffered much political instability owing to the high levels of corruption and prolific organised crime. Oh come on, you weren’t aware of any of this? Do the names “Jalal-Abad” or the “Andijan Province” not ring any bells? That’s right! There was something about something happening you heard on News24 from a reporter on a crackly phone line who said something about …..no?
If I’m honest I couldn’t even pronounce the name of the country when it was written down in front of me! I had to look it up on a map to find where it was! My ignorance was even surprised to find it had a film industry. So I was quite excited to watch this film as it would take me to a place I didn’t even know existed and introduce me to people I would otherwise never have met. And what an introduction. Because this film, though a simple story, seems heavily symbolic of Kyrgyzstan’s recent troubled history. And I defy anyone not to watch it without wanting to look up information on the country afterwards.
The film was written, directed and indeed stars Aktan Arym Kubat. The story takes place in a small rural village in the country and follows the life of the towns electrician, Svet-Ake (Kubat), whom has been stealing electricty off the State from passing pylons for the poor of his village. The film starts just in time for our hero who has been arrested by the Soviet police, only to be let off as the USSR dissolves and Kyrgystan declares independance. A wealthy businessman takes an interest in the village and recruits the electrician in his plans for modernisation. However, there is quite a shocking dark side to this new development which has just as dark consequences.
The light and dark metaphors play strong in the movie, with frequent powercuts and flickering lights representing the instability of life in the new country as well as the ever present wind (of change) that forever blows quite literally through the village. Our hero, aka Mr Light to his friends, is an eternal optimist ever willing to help others and despite poverty, faces the adversity with a bouyant spirit. His long term project is to use the wind to generate free power for the whole village. This ambition to develop clean, sustainable, pure, clean energy no doubt represents an idealogy, an aspiration to utilize the wind (of change) for the common good. There is also the theme of tradition (both good and bad) and peoples resistance/compliance to it. This contrast heavily suggestive of a country still struggling to find contentment with it mixed identity. Other regular images included donkeys standing about (didn’t get that one).
This film is definately worth watching. The supporting cast are excellent, but what is most impressive is that Kubat not only wrote, but directs and takes lead. The latter two jobs are rarely executed simultaneously without one of them suffering. Kubat however achieves it with excellent results. Also big thumbs up to his cinematographer Khasan Kydyraliyev.
Buy The Light Thief [DVD]