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.

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

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Shines Overseas With $48.5 Million Weekend

    After autobots and aquatic kings have dominated foreign markets over the past few weeks, a different kind of hero has risen to the top of box office charts. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the new champ overseas, pulling in $48.5 million from international territories. The supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2016’s “Split,” debuted [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Lead London Critics' Circle Winners

    After ruling the U.S. critics’ award circuit, “Roma” continued its dominance on the other side of the pond, as the London Film Critics’ Circle announced its winners tonight. A week after landing seven BAFTA nominations, Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexico City memory piece landed film of the year and director of the year honors from the group [...]

  • M. Night Shyamalan Should Stop Writing

    The Big Twist M. Night Shyamalan Needs: He Should Stop Writing His Own Scripts (Column)

    Quick, name the greatest film by each of the following directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, David Lean, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme. Answers will vary (mine would be: “Psycho,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Nashville,” “Chinatown,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), but whatever your taste, odds are that [...]

  • Andy Vajna Dead: 'Rambo' Producer and

    Andy Vajna, 'Rambo' Producer, Dies at 74

    Andy Vajna, executive producer of several “Rambo” films as well as “Total Recall” and several “Terminator” movies, died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74. The Hungarian National Film Fund confirmed his death, calling him a “dominant figure in the Hungarian and international film industry” who was responsible for the development of [...]

  • Glass trailer

    Box Office: 'Glass' Dominates MLK Weekend With $47 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” topped box office charts during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, collecting $40 million over the weekend for a four-day sum of $47 million. If estimates hold, “Glass” will come in behind “American Sniper” ($107 million) and “Ride Along” ($48 million) as the third-best showing for both January and MLK holiday [...]

  • FICG Names Estrella Araiza As New

    Estrella Araiza To Head Up Guadalajara Intl Film Festival

    The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG) has announced that Estrella Araiza, until now the festival’s head of industry and markets and director of the Guadalajara IntL. Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been promoted to the position of general director of the prominent Mexican festival. She replaces Ivan Trujillo, appointed director of TV UNAM. Araiza [...]

  • 'St. Bernard Syndicate' Review: A Quietly

    Film Review: 'St. Bernard Syndicate'

    John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan may have received major award nominations this season for their fine work in “Stan & Ollie,” but there’s arguably a superior Laurel & Hardy tribute act to be found in the droll Danish comedy “St. Bernard Syndicate.” As a pair of bumbling losers who turn an already dubious business [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content