“Наши” герои TIFF: режиссер Елизавета Стишова
Elizaveta Stishova – about her film filmed in Kyrgyzstan
MUBI streaming platform releases psychological drama of Russian filmmaker
The clash of a changing life and ancient customs carves sparks of violent feelings in the heroes of the modern psychological drama Suleiman Mountain, filmed in Kyrgyzstan by debut Russian director Elizaveta Stishova.
On August 19, the popular streaming platform MUBI, which specializes in the international art house, will release this tape in the “Debuts” section.
Suleiman Mountain, located not far from Kyrgyzstan, near the city of Osh, is a traditional place of pilgrimage for local residents who hope to achieve health, prosperity and happiness through prayers. For the boy’s family Uluk, these goals are difficult to achieve. His father, nicknamed Karabas, drives around the country in an old truck and tries to sort out his feelings for two rival women. His first wife Zhypara considers herself the mother of Uluk and, under this pretext, takes the boy from the orphanage. The second – is expecting a child from Karabas and uses it as a way to keep him.
&# 171; Suleiman Gora&# 187 ;. Still from the film. Courtesy photo
Director Elizaveta Stishova was born in Moscow. She graduated from the acting department of GITIS, worked in the theater “School of Dramatic Art”. In 2012 she graduated from the Higher Courses for Scriptwriters and Directors (workshop of Vladimir Menshov). In 2010-2013 she worked at “Aytysh-film” (Bishkek), shot a short film “The Seagull” in Kyrgyzstan. “Suleiman Gora” – her full-length debut.
Correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America” spoke on Skype with Elizaveta Stishova.
Elizaveta Stishova: Hello, I am now in Kazan, at the screening of my films.
Oleg Sulkin: You are showing “Suleiman Mountain”?
E.S .: Not only. Also “The Groom”. This is a short film that I shot after “Suleiman Gora” near Pskov, in Pushkinskie Gory.
O.S.: Fiction film?
E.S .: Yes. Marco Muller (Italian filmmaker – OS) and Chinese director Jia Janke ordered it from Russia for a special BRICS almanac project (a group of five countries, including Russia. – OS) when we were with Suleiman Gora “In China, at the Pingyao Festival, headed by Jia Janke.
O.S.: I saw Suleiman Gora at the world premiere in Toronto two years ago. It seems that after her, your painting has traveled the whole world..
E.S .: Yes, I have traveled a lot and continues to travel.
O.S.: Besides the fact that the film is well shot, what else, in your opinion, attracts audiences in different countries?
E.S .: I can not explain. A paradox happens – a good film doesn’t get any attention. Like, for example, Rustam Khamdamov’s “Bottomless Bag”, which for me is absolutely amazing. He never went anywhere. The only thing worth noting is that when you get to such a major festival as Toronto, you will then travel half the world. And we still have a lot of prizes, they move the picture further and further. But this is a completely lottery moment for me.
O.S.: It seems to me that the exotic works here. Kyrgyzstan is a little-known place on Earth, say, for Americans.
E.S .: I’ll argue with you right away. My picture is completely different, not exotic at all. Kyrgyz films attract attention because they are authentic. In our film, the drama is completely different. Usually a Kyrgyz film tells one story, say, the fate of a woman. We have, on the other hand, a combination of an Asian exterior with a rather complex European drama..
O.S.: But you must admit that the exotic is present. Prayer mountain, shamanism, something else like that.
E.S .: Exotics do not always travel the world, but often sit at home. Everyone is already tired of using the same thing. I don’t think there is a huge demand for Kyrgyz cinema. In Russia, they do not want to watch it when they find out that it is a Kyrgyz film. I don’t think it’s exotic. A lot of my friends, both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, do not travel with their films anywhere beyond Bishkek or Bukhara..
O.S.: And where does the story about two rival wives and a child from an orphanage come from? Alisa Khmelnitskaya’s script on what it was based?
E.S .: I shot my graduation film “The Seagull” in Kyrgyzstan. In principle, we observed all this during the filming. We saw a man who had two wives. Everything is assembled from some pieces. Then it is processed into drama. What was needed was taken, what was not needed was thrown away. The shamanic line was formed when we learned that half of the country there go to fortune-tellers. From here, interest arose, and I went to watch how it happens..
O.S.: You came to Kyrgyzstan especially for filming?
E.S .: I worked in Issyk-Kul as the second director in the film crew of my friend and producer Sadyk Sher-Niyaz. He filmed the first Kyrgyz historical blockbuster “Kurmanzhan Datka”. With Sadyk Sher-Niyaz, we traveled all over the country. I got a lot of experience then.
O.S.: Do you speak Kyrgyz?
E.S .: I speak a little, I understand a lot, especially when I’m immersed in Wednesday.
O.S.: In the story told, it is not clear to me how the boy, who was born in the family of the main character, ended up in the orphanage..
E.S .: I thought it was not so important to explain it. When Karabas went to prison, she began to earn a bribe in order to get him out of there. She had no time to deal with the baby, and for a while she sent him to an orphanage. This is common in Kyrgyzstan. Parents leave to work in Russia, and during this time they sometimes send their children to orphanages.
O.S.: It is also curious that ancient beliefs, which have only an indirect relationship to Islam, largely determine the everyday life of the heroes of your film. You relied on your personal impressions?
E.S .: Here it is very powerfully widespread, practically in every village. The roots of Tengriism are very strong (Tengrianism is a pre-Islamic religion of the Turkic-Mongol nomads with the cult of Tengri, the deified sky. – OS). Plus, mainstream medicine is so bad that people prefer to go to a fortune teller rather than a doctor..
O.S.: When you hear “Katyusha” from the screen, which is being sung by the Kyrgyz, and everyone around them pulls up with enthusiasm, you understand that relics of the Soviet era still exist today..
E.S .: Everything Soviet still works there. The film studio “Kirgizfilm” works, and the artistic council works there. They accept or not accept paintings – as in Soviet times. And so everywhere, in all institutions. If Bishkek develops, the villages have lived as they live. No changes.
O.S.: Lenin streets are not renamed?
E.S .: They have a completely different story about Lenin. Lenin is a hero. They did not demolish a single monument to him. Kyrgyz believe he saved them from genocide.
O.S.: Kyrgyz cinema developed during the Soviet era. Such great masters as Tolomush Okeev and Bolotbek Shamshiev worked at the studio you mentioned. The stories and stories of Chingiz Aitmatov were screened. How are things there today??
E.S .: They had a wonderful writer Talip Ibraimov, he died recently. He has very modern prose, and he wrote scripts. He left several students. The traditions of the national epic are strong in Kyrgyzstan, there are many poets. There is a lot of potential in literature, it can manifest itself very soon.
O.S.: How do you feel about the concepts of post-imperial and imperial consciousness in relation to Kyrgyzstan? And is it legitimate to speak, referring to the past, about the imperial consciousness, having before our eyes such wonderful films shot in Kyrgyzstan as “The First Teacher” by Andrei Konchalovsky and “Heat” by Larisa Shepitko?
E.S .: It means something else. You need to respect someone else’s culture, not try to appropriate it. When they talk about imperialism, they often talk about rudeness, alas, sometimes characteristic of Russians. They come to Kyrgyzstan and act as if this is their land. They don’t behave like that in America..
O.S.: Interesting selection of actors. How did you choose them?
E.S .: Performer of the role of Karabas Aset Imangaliev, an actor from Kazakhstan. I accidentally saw him in the photo and went to Almaty to communicate with him. I approved Perizat Ermanbetova for the role of Zhypara almost immediately. Powerful artist.
O.S.: The film was shown in Kyrgyzstan?
E.S .: Not yet. I am against showing until the Kyrgyz part of the film crew is paid. This situation seems to me incorrect. We hope that someone will help us and we will pay off.
O.S.: And you received Russian state aid?
E.S .: Of course not. The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation refused us twice, or rather, three times.
E.S .: Well, how – a film in the Kyrgyz language, with Kyrgyz actors. Not a single Russian actor. Alien, as they believe, the film. They took away our national film certificate, which gives certain benefits, explaining that too many foreigners had worked on the film. At the same time, the Ministry of Culture certainly includes “Suleiman Mountain” in its reports: here, they say, a Russian film received such and such another prize at such and such a festival.
O.S.: I cannot but ask you about the latest events in Kyrgyzstan – mass unrest and the arrest of former President Almazbek Atambayev. Your reaction?
E.S .: I just hotly discussed all this with my guys. I really liked Atambaev. He fought religious extremism. What he was trying to do seemed interesting to me. What is happening is sad, but I still envy them.
E.S .: They are freer than we are. After the recent events, it became clear that we live in the territory of captivity..
O.S.: You mean the harsh suppression of protests in Moscow?
E.S .: Yes. Everyone is afraid that something will happen. We are cowardly so far. The (protest) part of the population is still very weak, we cannot do anything. But something will happen, that’s for sure.
O.S.: This is why shamans and fortune-tellers are probably needed – so that they tell us everything.
E.S .: Agree.
Journalist, film critic, correspondent for the Russian Service «Voices of America» in New York.