Kazakh documentary filmmakers share their stories through films

Audience at the screening event. Photo credit: Meruert Zhakiyanova
Audience at the screening event. Photo credit: Meruert Zhakiyanova

Cinema is an art that allows transmitting cultural values, stories and experiences. Kazakh documentary filmmaker and producer Meruert Zhakiyanova reveals unique aspects of Kazakh culture through her films “Dears” and “Surfactant,” reports Kazinform News Agency correspondent.

The screening, hosted at the Maqsut Narikbayev University in Astana on March 29, featured a selection of documentaries that offered attendees a deep dive into the lives of ordinary people in Kazakhstan.

The film “Dears” reveals to viewers the story of Ari, a woman who survived domestic violence and found healing through the music and creativity of the famous Kazakh singer Dimash Kudaibergen.

“There was such a wild desire to tell the whole world about our Kazakhstan,” said Zhakiyanova.

It was this story that became the key to revealing Kazakh culture and the strength of the human spirit.

Audience at the screening event. Photo credit: Meruert Zhakiyanova
Meruert Zhakiyanova. Photo credit: Zhakiyanova's archive

In her other film, “Surfactant,” Zhakiyanova explores the theme of developing new cultures and places of residence through the prism of her own experience. As a student abroad, she understood the difficulties of adapting to a new place and strives to show how this topic is reflected in the lives and experiences of ordinary people.

The main character of the film tells his story about moving to Kazakhstan to avoid mobilization in Russia and about the path of finding himself in times of uncertainty through the art of dance, experiencing separation from his family and the unknown danger that he avoided by escaping from his homeland.

Zhakiyanova, however, not only creates films but is also a strong advocate for the development of documentary cinema in Kazakhstan. She notes that many people in the country do not yet fully understand the importance of this format and do not see its potential. In her mission to spread the idea of documentary filmmaking, Zhakiyanova calls for change and talks about the need to bring new ideas and formats to Kazakh cinema.

The stories told by Zhakiyanova intertwine with the diversity of Kazakh culture and arouse interest in it among viewers both within the country and abroad. Her films are not only informative, but also fascinating, which helps to attract the attention of a wide audience and show Kazakhstan in all its beauty and diversity.

Her film “Dears” was included in the official program of the 2023 Qara Film Festival, a documentary film festival in Kazakhstan. She also submitted her second film, “Surfactant,” to the Student Academy Awards at the Academy of Awards, where it was one of 17 semi-finalists out of more than 2,000 entries worldwide.

The international premiere of “Surfactant” took place at the international ArtDocFest in Riga on March 3.

The audience included film enthusiasts, and students. Photo credit: Meruert Zhakiyanova
The audience included film enthusiasts, and students. Photo credit: Meruert Zhakiyanova

Another film screened at the event is “Segiz,” created by Kazakh documentarian and producer Ilyas Otan, which embodies a unique combination of cultural diversity and the sincerity of human experiences.

For Otan, the documentary is not just a format but also a way to convey honest, relevant and meaningful stories.

“Segiz” is a story about the roads people choose, about meetings and separations, about what makes them human. It took him three years to prepare the film, and every frame reflects a carefully crafted plot and genuine emotions. The film was a collaboration with eight different countries, giving it a unique international flavor.

“Segiz” won the Audience Award at the 2021 International Road Movie Festival in Toronto, highlighting its significance and recognition outside the country.

Otan highlights that documentary filmmaking is a way to forget about the camera and simply live in peace with the surrounding world. He strives to reflect not only great events but also simple life moments that make our lives brighter and richer.

He continues to explore various aspects of Kazakh life through the lens of his camera. In his works, one can find not only success stories but also stories about the lives of ordinary people. A film about the legendary coach Felix Tikhonovich, who inspired generations of athletes, or the story of the hydraulic engineer Mukan, who fights drought, demonstrate the importance and relevance of documentary filmmaking.

Otan discusses his philosophy of creating documentaries, saying, “Documentary filmmaking is about honesty, first of all.” He sees his mission as showing the lives of real people and their stories that can inspire and change the world around them. Through his films, he continues to raise the standards of Kazakh documentary cinema, demonstrating its significance and influence on the global level.

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