During the 1960s, the film industry blossomed in Central Asia. Over the next several decades, Kyrgyzstan, in particular, developed a reputation for producing successful and noteworthy films, so much so that cinema from the country was dubbed the “Kyrgyz Miracle.” However, the collapse of the Soviet Union dealt a major blow the country’s film industry and Kyrgyz film has never fully recovered.
A new generation of filmmakers is hoping to once again bring attention to Kyrgyz film on the international stage. The Song of the Rain, a short film written Aygul Bakanova, a young Kyrgyz film director and a recent graduate of the London Film School, will have a chance to do just that when it premieres at the 64th Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland from August 3–13, 2011. The film—which was produced with support from the London Film School, the Open Society Foundations Arts and Culture Program, and the Aitysh Film Foundation in Kyrgyzstan—focuses on the story of a young Kyrgyz woman living in bleak conditions of rural life, trying to find a way to better herself, and the life of her unborn child.
The first London Film School production to be shot in Central Asia, The Song of the Rain tells the story of a teenage girl, Begaim, living in a small village close to Lake Issyk-Kul. Newly married and pregnant, Begaim’s husband left shortly after the wedding to work as an illegal immigrant in Russia. Now living with her husband’s grandmother, Begaim, like many women in her village, has little contact with her husband other than the money he sends home.
Set against Kyrgyzstan’s mountain landscape, the film raises several of the most persistent problems plaguing the country including labor migration. In a country of just over five million people, recent estimates suggest that as many as 800,000 Kyrgyz have left the country in search of work. The Song of the Rain is a vivid portrayal of the enormous strain that labor migration has on children, women, and the elderly.
Born and raised in Bishkek, Aygul Bakanova developed her interest in television and film production during university and continued her education in Moscow and in London. The foundation in Kyrgyzstan hopes others will follow in Aygul’s footsteps and has partnered with the Open Society Foundations Arts and Culture Program, and the Dutch organization Hivos to help support young cinematographers and film producers.
The Song of the Rain is a personal tribute both to Kyrgyz culture and modern society. The film garnered positive reviews from audiences after its screening in Bishkek and we hope that its international screenings will raise awareness of Kyrgyzstan’s natural beauty, the country’s professional small-scale local film industry, and attract other international film productions to the country.