Cinéma du Réel, Jerusalem, DocumentaMadrid, Vancouver, Open City Docs
An exploration of the cultural impact of a 1958 Kyrgyz novella and its titular heroine.
Chinghiz Aitmatov captured the attention of Kyrgyz society with his story of a married woman who goes against societal restrictions when she falls in love with a young man while her soldier husband is away during World War II. Here Aminatou Echard asks present-day Kyrgyz women to recount the novella and comment on the actions of its heroine. Their reflections are presented in voiceover while grainy, evocative Super-8 footage shows them – and other women – in various settings and activities, the disconnect and texture of the film suggesting a kind of time displacement. As they discuss the novel, they explicitly or implicitly draw connections to their own lives, and especially to the constraints put upon them as women within a traditional male-dominated society. While the story is well known in Kyrgyzstan, that is not the case outside the region, limiting a general audience’s engagement with that aspect of the film. The women’s candid commentary about their own place in society is certainly more universally resonant, but the experimental approach taken creates a distancing effect over time. It’s an artful approach, but wears thin over its running time, and might have been more successful as a short.