Festival programmers on the lookout for unusual fare should check out this somber film from Kirghiz in which a well-regarded novel about the destruction of the environment and of traditional lifestyles has been brought respectfully to the screen.
The film focuses on the plight of people who lived on the shores of the Aral Sea, which has now disappeared due to environmental degradation; huge ships that once plied the sea now sit, incongruously, on the sand.
This is the backdrop to a story told in two time frames. In the present (in color), Kasangap, a prominent member of the Saryosek people who inhabit the region, has died; his friend, Edigej, wants to bury him in a traditional cemetery, but this has now been taken over as a military base, and the authorities won’t permit the burial.
During the journey to the cemetery site, Edigej recalls the 1950s (in black-and-white), when the remote region was affected by Stalinism and one of his friends, Abdulschtalip, was executed by the Russians because he’d fought as a partisan in Yugoslavia during the war.
The story unfolds close to a busy railway line that provides an important link between the west and east of the old Soviet Union. But for the Saryosek people, whose lives have been irreversibly changed by events quite out of their control, the railway is an intrusion into a traditional lifestyle.
Despite modest production values and solemn pacing, “Snowstormy Station” casts its spell over the viewer.