The setting of this modest but evocative black-and-whiter is the vast plains, the steppes, of Kirghizstan where today a railway line parallels the route once taken by the ancient Silk Road. Technically ragged production is strictly for fest programmers looking for unusual fare from seldom-visited countries; commercial possibilities are scant.
Children play near the railway line, the oldest of them a domineering tyke and sensitive soul (Tamlay Imanaliev). On a train speeding by, an artist (Busurman Odurakayev) sketches portraits of his fellow passengers and romances the bored daughter (Kabatai Kyzy Elm) of a train guard (Tinar Abdrasaeva). Fleeting scenes involving other characters on the train (including a plump catering staffer who works as a part-time prostitute and singing peasants) add little. Eventually the artist is thrown off the train and meets the boy, finding a strange affinity with him. It’s a very simple film, with some pleasant touches, but rather obscure in its approach to its characters. The photography is attractive, but the ending frayed and the post-synching distracting. Director Marat Sarulu also had a short film, “The Fly Up,” in the Berlin competition.