NUR-SULTAN – The Kazakh feature film “The Crying Steppe” directed by Marina Kunarova has been included in the long list as Kazakhstan’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards scheduled for April 25 this year.
The film tells the story behind real events that happened in Kazakhstan in 1931-33, when at least 1.5 million of Kazakhs died of famine, a result of forced collectivization, a Stalinist Soviet policy aimed at breaking existing social structures, and collectivizing farms from wealthier peasants to create large state farms. In Kazakhstan it was dramatically aggravated by the decision to enforce in parallel a violent campaign of sedentarisation of nomadic cattle-breeders, to whom the majority of the Kazakhs belonged before 1930s, which resulted in the mass cattle losses.
The story centers around an eagle hunter Turar and his wife Nuriya who try to save their family and other village residents from hunger. Kazakh actors Akylkhan Almassov and Saazhan Kulymambetov, who are also theatre performers, star in the movie.
Kunarova believes that the imposed policies of the Soviet Union resulted in the “death of spirituality.”
“The crackdown on free thinking and the annihilation of ethnic culture and human values led to spiritual starvation and the killing of the soul,” Kunarova said, as quoted by goldenglobes.com.
“The film raises the question of ‘why?’ Why did our forefathers have had to pay such a terrible price? And why, up until now, have we been afraid to admit what really happened and, instead, conceal our tragic history from the rest of the world?” she said.
Kunarova is the first female director from Kazakhstan nominated for the prestigious award.
This is her third feature after “999” (2010) and “Hunting the Phantom” (2014).
Premiering in November 2020 in Los-Angeles, the film also participates in the the Golden Globe competition for Best Foreign Language Film Award.
“(It is) the history of our people, our ancestors who died innocently. In percentage terms, Kazakhs lost more than 70 percent of the population. It all took us five years and two years of preparations. We rewrote the script nine times. We are now on the long list. Now, the shortlist will be announced at the end of February. Everything will take place in an online format,” said film producer Yernar Malikov.
Kazakhstan has had 14 Oscar submissions since 1991. Sergei Bodrov’s “Mongol” that depicted Genghis Khan’s life received Kazakhstan’s first Oscar nomination in 2008.
“Ayka” directed by Sergey Dvortsevoy and starring Samal Yeslyamova was shortlisted in 2019, as was Yermek Tursunov’s “Kelin” (Bride) in 2010.