You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Light Thief

The failures of post-Soviet Kyrgyz democratization come to roost in a remote village in helmer Aktan Arym Kubat's third feature, "The Light Thief."

With: Aktan Arym Kubat, Taalaikan Abazova, Askat Sulaimanov, Asan Amanov, Stanbek Toichubaev.

The failures of post-Soviet Kyrgyz democratization come to roost in a remote village in helmer Aktan Arym Kubat’s third feature, “The Light Thief.” This slim parable unfolding in short vignettes is stylistically much of a piece with earlier work “The Adopted Son” and “The Chimp” credited to his Russian name, Aktan Abdykalykov. Completed before the April 2010 popular uprising against the deeply corrupt regime of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev (who, with his cronies, looted the country and exploited the people), the tragicomic drama is sure to travel as a fest item but has limited distribution possibilities beyond highly specialized outlets.

Good-natured electrician “Mr. Light” (Arym Kubat) lives with his wife and four daughters in an impoverished burg in the south of the republic and dreams of harnessing wind power to provide cheaper energy. He’s a softie who tampers with meters for pensioners unable to pay their bills and rescues small boys from big trees.

Conflict appears in the form of greedy urban politician Bezkat (Askat Sulaimanov), who wants to sell the villagers’ land to the Chinese. Although the village elders are forewarned, they’re unable to stop him from installing his thuggish relative Mansur (Stanbek Toichubaev) as mayor and sidelining dissenting voices.

Some sequences have a captivating visual beauty, as when the protag’s wife bathes him in a small metal tub, while others, such as the horseback sport of kok boru (goat grabbing) and the erotic performances staged inside a festive yurt for visiting Chinese businessmen, fascinate for their sheer otherness. The various episodes ultimately add up to more than a sum of their parts, even if during the process of unfolding, some are considerably less gripping than others.

While not as hard-hitting as other socially critical films, pic can be read as commentary on the multitude of problems (rampant corruption, nepotism, stagnant economy) Kyrgyzstan faces on its way to democratization. Considering the West’s lack of knowledge about Central Asia, however, this won’t be obvious to every viewer.

Helmer Arym Kubat is aces as the protag, his expressive face and body language making dialogue superfluous. Though Sulaimanov is a tad under-nuanced as the villain, the distaff side of the supporting cast makes a strong impression.

While pic’s pacing is Asian, the tech credits have a Western art-film polish typical of its many Euro co-producing countries.

Popular on Variety

The Light Thief


Production: An Oy Art, Pallas Film, ASAP Films, Volya Films production, with the support of ZDF/Arte, MDM, Fonds Sud Cinema, World Cinema Fund, Hubert Bals Fund, Netherlands Film Fund. (International sales: The Match Factory, Cologne.) Produced by Altynai Kolchumanova, Cedomir Kolar, Thanassis Karanthanos, Marc Baschet, Karl Baumgartner, Denis Vaslin. Directed by Aktan Arym Kubat. Screenplay, Kubat, Talip Ibraimov.

Crew: Camera (color), Hassan Kydyraliyev; editor, Petar Markovic; music, Andre Matthias; production designer, Talgat Asyrankulov; costume designer, Inara Abdieva; sound (Dolby Digital), Bakyt Niyazaliev. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 15, 2010. Running time: 80 MIN.

With: With: Aktan Arym Kubat, Taalaikan Abazova, Askat Sulaimanov, Asan Amanov, Stanbek Toichubaev.(Kyrgyz dialogue)

More Film

  • Alexander Skarsgard in the front rowGiorgio

    Film News Roundup: Alexander Skarsgard Joins 'Passing' With Tessa Thompson

    In today’s film news roundup, Taryn Manning, Shane West and Alexander Skarsgård have new roles, and Warner Bros. unveils a modernized logo. CASTINGS Alexander Skarsgård has signed on to join Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and André Holland in “Passing.” The film marks Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut and is based on a screenplay that Hall adapted [...]

  • Spike Lee

    Spike Lee to Direct Hip-Hop Love Story 'Prince of Cats'

    Spike Lee will direct a big-screen version of the hip-hop love story “Prince of Cats,” based on Ron Wimberly’s graphic novel. Legendary has been developing the project with Janet and Kate Zucker of Zucker Productions. Lee, who won the Academy Award for adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” will also re-write the “Prince of Cats” script with [...]

  • DOLEMITE IS MY NAME!, 2019, DOL_Unit_06284.RAF

    'Dolemite Is My Name' Writer Larry Karaszewski Recalls 10-Year Journey to Make Rudy Ray Moore Biopic

    “Harriet” writer-director Kasi Lemmons was in a reflective mood at Tuesday night’s “Behind the Scene” event at the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood, sponsored by the Writers Guild of America West. The biopic, starring Cynthia Erivo as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, has been receiving buzz since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s Lemmons’ [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Abrams Artists Agency Signs Writers Guild Deal

    In a major triumph for the Writers Guild of America, the Abrams Artists Agency has signed the WGA’s Code of Conduct, allowing the agency to return to representing WGA members again. Chairman Adam Bold made the announcement Wednesday, saying that the agency wants to put its clients back to work. He also noted WGA West [...]

  • Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis

    Holocaust Experts Debate 'Jojo Rabbit' at Museum of Tolerance Screening

    With its comedic, cartoonish portrayal of Nazis, Taika Waititi’s satirical Hitler youth tale “Jojo Rabbit” has polarized critics and audiences alike. And that division continued to be stirred at Tuesday night’s screening of the film at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where Liebe Geft, director of the museum, moderated a heated panel discussion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content