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Elizaveta Stishova Offers Rare Big-Screen Glimpse of Kyrgyzstan in Toronto Film ‘Mountain’

A charismatic con man, his two wives and his long-lost son take an unconventional road-trip across Kyrgyzstan in “Suleiman Mountain,” an offbeat and often comic drama that will world premiere in the Discovery program of the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.

“Suleiman” is the feature debut of Elizaveta Stishova, a Russian helmer who returned to the rugged Central Asian nation where she lensed a short film and worked as first A.D. on Sadyk Sher-Niyaz’s 2014 historical epic “Kurmanjan Datka Queen of the Mountains.”

Their journey takes audiences into a colorful world of folk traditions and shamanistic rituals, offering a rare big-screen spotlight for Kyrgyzstan.

Shooting in the Central Asian nation proved to be a challenge for the Moscow-born helmer who had to hustle to bring pic to completion.

“It’s impossible to get the money to shoot in Kyrgyzstan if you’re Russian,” says Stishova, who struggled to tap European funds and was twice turned down for coin by the Russian government.

Despite the difficulties, she managed to secure private financing to shoot in a country with its own robust filmmaking culture, producing roughly 100 micro-budget movies a year, according to Stishova. The director had to bring in much of her equipment from Moscow but worked with a largely Kyrgyz crew. Pic was cast locally, apart from lead actor Asset Imangaliev, who comes from neighboring Kazakhstan.

Even as she recognizes that the work of a Russian filmmaker will find local critics in Kyrgyzstan, Stishova says she was warmly welcomed in the country, thanks in part to a facility for making herself at home in foreign lands. “I don’t feel any borders between countries,” she says.

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