Kelin, dir. Ermek Tursunov


Letters to An Angel (Pisma k Angelu)
Director: Ermek Shinarbaev. 2009, 92 min., Russian with English subtitles
Produced by Eurasia Film Production
Blu-Ray courtesy of Eurasia Film Production

Like a modern-day Arabian Nights, Letters to an Angel is a nest of stories haunted by sex and death. One winter night in Almaty, Gulnara seduces a young novelist. When he tells her a story he’s written, she responds with a beguiling tale of her own about a woman, perhaps herself, who has simultaneous affairs with two men. The tale concludes with a haunting twist. One of Kazakhstan’s most accomplished directors, Ermek Shinarbaev, crafts a suspenseful, surprising and beautifully shot film suffused with an aura of erotic melancholy. This film questions the boundaries of truth and fiction, and highlights just how much a narrative depends on the teller; it is never quite clear whether Gulnara's story is itself an invention, and who is really responsible for what unfolds. Ayganim Sadykova delivers a riveting performance as the mysterious Gulnara.
November 14, 7:45 PM $11/$9/$5. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Alfond Auditorium Discussion follows.
November 17, 1 PM $11/$9/$5. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Alfond Auditorium
November 18, 2 PM Free, first-come. Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Q&A and reception follow

Director: Ermek Tursunov. 2009, 84 min.
Produced by KazakhFilm Studios and Mount Helix Films
35 mm print courtesy of Helix Films

Set in the forbidding Altai mountains of Kazakhstan, in a pre-historic society that does not use language, Kelin is a love triangle told without words. Sold by her father to the richer of her suitors, Kelin is sent to live in the yurt of her husband, with his mother and young brother, and discovers the pleasures and challenges of married life. But the other suitor, whom Kelin loves and who has sworn a blood oath to have her, comes looking for her, with fatal results. With subtle acting, poignant gesture, stunning visuals, and an unusual palette of sounds, it is a masterfully orchestrated story of sensuality and survival. The directorial debut of Ermek Tursunov, one of Kazakhstan's leading scriptwriters, this film was short listed in the Best Foreign Language Film category in the 2009 Academy Awards, and was an official selection at numerous festivals, including Toronto.
November 16, 7 PM $11/$9/$5. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Alfond Auditorium Discussion follows
November 17, 7 PM $7/$4. Goethe Institut, Washington DC Discussion follows.

The Gift to Stalin (Podarok Stalinu)
Director: Rustem Abdrashev. 2008, 97 min., in Russian, Kazakh and Hebrew with English subtitles,
Produced by Aldongar Productions in association with KazakhFilm Studios and Tor Films
Screening copy courtesy of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Washington DC

Taking place in 1949, this film tells the story of Sasha, a young boy rescued from a train carrying Russian Jews to Stalin’s relocation camps by an elderly Kazakh veteran. To hide the boy's Jewish identity, the old man adopts him and renames him Sabyr, sheltering him from the suspicion of the authorities in a small Kazakh village where he lives with other victims of forced exile and political repression. Not knowing whether his own parents are alive, when Sasha learns of a campaign soliciting children’s birthday gifts to Stalin, he dreams of giving the best gift and thus earning freedom for his parents. But no one in his new family and community can imagine the gift, or the sacrifice, that the dictator actually wants. Though set against the backdrop of tragedy, this film is an uplifting story of the saving power of love, courage, and tolerance between different people and faiths.
November 9, 8 PM Free, RSVP requested. Goethe Institut, Washington DC Part of evening on communism and fascism

The Dash
Director: Kanagat Mustafin. 2010, 84 min., Russian with English subtitles
Produced by KazakhFilm Studios

A talented basketball player suffers a crippling injury because of an envious teammate and loses his place on the team. Having dreamed of and studied only basketball, he sees his career in ruins, and no future in an unforgiving world. But inspired by a childhood experience, when he once made a dash to reach the top, he rallies his will to overcome the impossible. With the aid of an unorthodox coach, and the example of his idol, Michael Jordan, he rebuilds his body, his game and his life. Writer/Director Kanagat Mustafin's directorial debut explores the American game in the context of life in Kazakhstan.
November 17, 11 AM $8/$7/$5. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Alfond Auditorium

Director: Sabit Kurmanbekov. 2009, 72 min., Kazakh with English subtitles
Produced by KazakhFilm Studios

Country bumpkin Kurmash will do anything to have a child, and follows the tongue-in-cheek advice of the village healer religiously. When his first born is a girl, the healer tells him to raise her as a boy, so he teaches her to ride, to help him with the farm, and to fight for herself and others. But as she nears adolescence, her teacher tells Seker and her father that she must return to school in the fall dressed as a girl. Suddenly they have to come to terms with an aspect of Seker that she they have both ignored completely. Inspired by the experiences of his own mother, director Sabit Kurmanbekov presents a subtle coming-of-age comedy with stunning cinematography of the 'Kazakh Alps'. Directing a cast of mainly non-professionals from an actuall village (his lead was discovered in the local orphanage), and inspired by the art of Andrew Wyeth, Kurmanbekov crafts a beautifully simple and deeply felt film.
Nov 18th, 3:30 PM $11/$9/$5 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Alfond Auditorium

Director: Zhanabek Zhetiruov. 2011, 64 min., Kazakh with English subtitles
Produced by KazakhFilm Studios
Screening copy courtesy of KazakhFilm Studios

Nine-year old Aruzhan lives in harmony with nature on a deserted island, together with her mother and brother. Unwittingly echoing an ancient Kazakh legend, about the creation of the world from the egg of the Sacred White Swan, she tries to protect two abandoned swan eggs. Her brother, meanwhile, seeks opportunity in the city. Neither realizes the price they might pay. Akkyz is a beautiful film about the meeting point, and sometimes conflict, of man and nature, modernity and tradition.
Nov 20th, 4:00 PM Free Kennan Institute, 6th floor, the Wilson Center

Complete Festival Calendar

Flowers of the Steppe is organized by the Ballets Russes Cultural Partnership and co-presented with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington and the Goethe Institut, Washington DC. With additional support from the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan and KazakhFilm Studios.


Alfond Auditorium, Museum of Fine Arts. 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. t. 617.267.9300
Freer Gallery of Art. 200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20013. t. 202.633.1000
Goethe Institut. 812 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. t. 202.289.1200
Kennan Institute. 6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20004. t. 202.691.4100

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