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Yermek Tursunov's Stranger premiers at Toronto Film Festival

21 september 2015, 18:16
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Kazakhstan's movie Stranger (Zhat) directed by Yermek Tursunov has premiered at the 40th International Toronto Film Festival that ran from September 10 until September 20, Tengrinews reports.

Founded in 1976, the Toronto International Film Festival is now one of the most prestigious events of its kind in the world known for generating Oscar buzz, as Oscar's selection committee looks at all the movies presented in the Canadian festival.

The Festival is non-competitive and has no jury panel. Furthermore, the only major award of this Festival is the People's Choice Award given to a feature-length film with the highest ratings voted by the festival's audience.

The Kazakh movie was listed in the Contemporary World Cinema program of the Festival, the one with the broadest global reach, which this year added 56 films, including 26 world premiers.

The film is set in 1930s, one of the most turbulent times in the Kazakh history, when extreme famine and brutal Soviet purges were combing through the Kazakh steppes. 

Yermek Tursunov's Stranger shot in beautiful Almaty valleys and snow-capped mountains tells a true story of a young man, Ilyas, played by Yerzhan Nurymbet, who becomes orphaned when his father falls victim to terrorizing Stalinist repressions. He then escapes the society and its rules and leaves for the mountains to live as a hermit in a pack of wolves.

As time passes, Ilyas finds himself virtually oblivious to everything what is happening outside of his own world, including the World War II, and left battling against the society in an attempt to retain his freedom.

The movie's script is based on a graduate work that Tursunov wrote while studying at VGIK, Moscow’s leading film school.

Trailer to the movie

"Stranger is part western, part religious allegory and part philosophical fable about the clash between tradition and modernity, individual freedom and mass conformity," Stephen Dalton wrote about the Kazakh film for Hollywood Reporter.

He marks "cinematographer Murat Aliyev's ravishing landscape shots and Kuat Shildebayev's score, a vivid blend of folk music instrumentation with modern electronics", yet little explanation is offered about that specific period of time, which makes it difficult for non-local audience to understand the context, Dalton added.

Award Circuit highlights the similarity between Tursunov's Stranger and Russia’s 2014 Academy Awards nominee Leviathan in their "thematic undercurrent", both portraying the suffering of man. 

Besides, this year Kazakhstan selected Stranger as the official entry for the American Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Tursunov indeed is no stranger to Oscar with his Shal (The Old Man) included in the long-list in 2013 and Kelin making it to the shortlist in 2010, the first Kazakh movie to get so far in Oscar race.

By Assel Satubaldina (Aizhan Tugelbayeva contributed to the story)


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