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Poignant Kazakh film shocks Berlin audience

14 february 2014, 16:35
Film crew. Photo from the private archive of the Director
Film crew. Photo from the private archive of the Director
Zhanna Issabayeva’s fourth feature film Nagima is not just a story of loneliness. The feature embraces the poignant reality of loneliness becoming an epitome of helplessness and anguish. Issabayeva’s film engulfed the viewers at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival with its grim reality.

Fans of Asian films gathered at the Potsdamer Platz an hour before the screening of the Kazakh feature. The director Zhanna Issabayeva and the lead actress Dina Tukubayeva were present in the packed theater. The screening started with applause of the excited public.

The reactions of the public varied, but nonetheless were very emotional. Some emphasized with the protagonist holding back their tears, while others were clearly stricken with the hopelessness of the orphans’ life. The final shocked the audience and left them in a commotion long after the credits were off the screen.

Nagima is a story of two girls who graduate from an orphanage and struggle to survive. The protagonist Nagima works in a café and makes only barely enough to pay the rent of the shabby house they live in and help her pregnant roommate Anya. Nagima steals leftovers from her work and tries to keep her little world together.

When Anya dies in childbirth, Nagima despite her stubborn desire to keep the newborn baby girl away from the same fate, witnesses her taken away to an orphanage. Left all alone, she tries to find her mother. Her mother rejects her once again and the circle of hopelessness seems to tighten around Nagima.

“The idea was important to me. I have read that all orphanage graduates get the information about their biological parents. I used to think that it is a secret, but in fact it is the children’s constitutional right to know who their parents are. Most of the children try to find them afterwards,” Issabayeva said.

It was a cinema debut for Dina Tukubayeva. “I tormented my casting assistants because I had not given them any clear description of the girl we were looking for. I told them that I do not know what the main character should look like. She could be overweight, thin, or tall. Her looks did not matter. The most important thing was for her to have sad eyes. That is why I started looking through photos of real orphanage graduates and when I saw Dina for the first time I knew it was her we needed, ” the Director added.

The film crew was on a tight budged and consisted of only 12 people. It took 11 days to film Nagima.

The premier of Issabayeva’s feature took place during the 15th Busan International Film Festival.

By Gyuzel Kamalova

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