According to a news bulletin from the Kazakhstani Embassy in Washington -- at last, a (somewhat) nationwide release date for Nomad, the epic film of ancient Kazakh history, is set for
KZBlog has a detailed entry on the film, the book it's based on (The Nomads, by Ilyas Yesenberlin), and the local KZ reactions to the film, written after opening night in Astana. I've got a download of the novel in English (thanks for the link, KZBlogger), and am working my way through it. The translation can be, shall we say, humorous in places, but it paints a vast canvas of life on the pre-Russian steppe. At least I now know who my street in Almaty was named after.
The main storyline is of the rise of a boy named Mansur, who becomes the warrior leader Ablai Khan. Ablai Khan unites the three bickering hordes (Greater, Middle and Lesser) of the steppe into a single Kazakh people, to defend Taraz against the invading Dzhungars (or Jungars, kin to contemporary Uighurs of northwest China).
The story of the making of the film is almost as epic, with starts, stoppages, changes of producers & directors, & financial woes. It was purchased for US distribution after last year's Cannes festival, but nothing happened for ages. And, I can't help but feel the irony in a film heralded as a monument to Kazakh national pride that stars Mexican, Hawaiian-American, and Mexican-American actors.
Still, the majority of players in the film are Kazakh, and the steppe scenery is bound to be stunning as well. Nomad is Kazakhstan's first ever entry for the Academy Award, in the Foreign Language Film category. Maybe it's not the most accurate rendition of Kazakhstan's history, but dubious historical accuracy never stopped anyone from seeing Gone With The Wind or Ben Hur . . .
I hope Nomad comes to a theatre near me very soon.
ps -- lots of "behind-the-scenes" photos are online. See some here.
(2/16/07) Based on early US viewer reviews (here and here), I'm betting that if you're not in New York or LA, you'll be looking for this film on DVD by the end of the summer. Schizo went the same way a couple of years ago -- audience response was so lackluster that the distributor withdrew it, and went to DVD release.