Top prize goes to 'Farewell, Gulsary!'

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Local films took the majority of prizes at the Kazakh festival Eurasia, which ended Sept. 13 in the country’s administrative capital, Astana.

The top prize went to “Farewell, Gulsary!” by Ardak Amirkulov, an emotional version of a story by Chingiz Aitmatov about a man’s love for his prize stallion.

Pic was a classic example of Kazakh film, exploiting the territory’s unique landscapes and folklore traditions to the full.

Director prize went to another Kazakh, Adilkhan Yerzhanov for “Bakhytzhamal.” The lead acting prize was shared between Kazakhs Dias Rakhmatov for “Small People” and Bakhytzhan Alpeisov for “Together With Father.”

“Song of Southern Sea” thesp Irina Ageykina took the lead actress prize.

Yank producer Michael Fitzgerald, who was the jury prexy, and Kyrgyzstan’s Bolotbek Shamshiyev shared the kudo for their contributions to the development of world cinema.

Kyrgyzstan’s Temir Birnazarov won the special jury prize for his “Unknown Route.”

For its fifth edition, Eurasia moved from its traditional base in business capital Almata to Astana, built on the steppes in just 10 years. Fest opened Sept. 7 with Cannes Un Certain Regard winner “Tulpan.”

Event also repositioned itself on the international market, making dominant programming devoted to the cinema of Central Asia, namely Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, drawing a number of Euro bizzers.

Among those attending were helmer Bruce Beresford and thesps Richard Dreyfuss, Jeremy Irons and Isabel Adjani.

Fest relocation to Astana appears to be final, given a closing ceremeony announcement from Kazakh culture minister Mukhtar Kul-Mukhammed, which must have surprised organizers who had been expecting, and announcing, a return next year to Almata.

Organization was occasionally patchy, especially on the translation front, but audiences were strong, most notably in the short film sidebar program. Best short award went to “113th” by young Kazakh helmer Talgat Bektyrsynov.

On the home front, Kazakhstan is the dominant player in the region, with a healthily developing film infrastructure, and number of cinema admissions in 2007 up by more than 50%, to around 6.5 million, over the previous year.

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