When you tell people in Denmark you are going to Afghanistan for a week, you are often met with a great deal of scepticism. The media are filled with bad stories about Afghanistan. But in Mission East we know this is not the whole story: There are lots of good stories as well – stories of the many hundreds of thousands of Afghans that Mission East have helped during 10 years of carrying out projects in the remote north-eastern part of the country. When you read about the more than half million people Mission East has helped it is easy to forget that each of them represents a unique person with a unique story, and that each of them would not have had the same opportunities in life, or even be alive, were it not for the work of Mission East and our reach into remote and very difficult-to-reach villages.
Opens on Friday in Manhattan.
Directed by Rustem Abdrashev; written by Pavel Finn; director of photography, Khasanbek Kydyraliev; edited by Gaziz Nasirov; art director, Mr. Abdrashev; costumes by Nyria Kaspakova; produced by Boris Cherdabayev; released by Aldongar Productions. At the Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street, Greenwich Village. In Russian, Kazakh and Hebrew, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes. This film is not rated.
WITH: Dalen Shintemirov (Sasha), Nurzhuman Ykhtymbaev (Kasym), David Markish (Aged Sasha), Yekaterina Rednikova (Vera), Waldemar Szczepaniak (Yezhik), Alexander Bashirov (Major of Ministry of Internal Affairs), Bakhtiar Kozha (Balgabai) and Turakhan Sizdikova (Shaman).
Contact person: Nurgali Arystanov
Tel.: 202-232-5488 ext 115; Fax: 202-232-5845
Immersed in the alien beauty of the Kazakh steppe, “The Gift to Stalin” moves slowly but engages thoroughly. Set in 1949, just before Stalin’s 70th-birthday jubilee, the film centers on Sasha (Dalen Shintemirov), a 9-year-old boy who escapes from a train transporting Jewish refugees from Moscow to Kazakhstan.
Hidden among the shrouded corpses callously dumped on the tracks, Sasha is rescued by an aging railway worker (Nurzhuman Ikhtimbaev) and taken to his tiny village. There, in an ethnic melting pot of other exiles, he is cared for by Vera (Yekaterina Rednikova), an earthy Russian, and Yezhik (Waldemar Szczepaniak), a shy, thoughtful Pole.
Narrated by Sasha as an adult residing in Israel, “The Gift to Stalin” plumbs the struggle to create a family beneath the heel of oppression, here represented by a vile major and a pompous policeman. Ruling the village by fear — and, in the case of the voluptuous Vera, by sexual abuse — these minions of the state herd our sympathies in predictable directions.
But the director, Rustem Abdrashev (working from an economical screenplay by Pavel Finn), shapes a whole world from the barest of elements. As Stalin’s trains snake back and forth across the parched land, their carriages crammed with the victims of his purges, the director of photography, Khasanbek Kydyraliev, squeezes sentiment from vivid close-ups of railway ties and the desperate games of children running wild.
Moving through cycles of tedium and terror, “The Gift to Stalin” takes its title from a national contest to find the best birthday present for that Soviet leader. The title’s dark underbelly becomes apparent only in the film’s indelible final moments, which function as shorthand for the destructiveness of an entire regime.
Inside the Cocoon Film Kazakhstan
“The Liquidator,” the latest offering by hotshot Kazakh director Akan Satayev, hits screens across Kazakhstan on April 7. The $2 million feature, shot on location in Almaty, tells the story of a bodyguard who uncovers foul play in his brother’s untimely death.
Producers snagged British bruiser Vinnie Jones to add a menacing edge to the film and boost its international appeal. The ex-soccer-star-turned-actor plays a mute assassin on assignment in Kazakhstan. Jones brings solid credentials as an on-screen thug with appearances in Guy Ritchie’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch.”
Jones, who has a bad boy reputation in real life thanks to his many bar room brawls over the years, is an ideal fit for Satayev, who came to prominence with his debut 2007 feature “Racketeer,” which told the story in graphic detail of Almaty’s violent 1990s underworld.
Satayev’s last movie, “Strayed,” was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film category in this year’s Oscars. This thriller sees a family stranded overnight on the steppe. In the morning the husband awakes to find his wife and son have mysteriously disappeared.
Satayev is currently working on a $7 million project rumored to star Kevin Costner. A historical epic, “Myn Bala” is a departure for Satayev, focusing on the Kazakhs’ bitter struggle in the 18th century against the Zhungars, rather than a contemporary theme. Nevertheless, expect more blood and gore from Kazakhstan’s very own master of cinematic violence.
Music of Asia: Kazakhstan
Ulara Nakagawa, The Diplomat, April 8, 2011
What happens when a dombra, dutar, and kobyz get together?
I received an email this morning from the Asia Society, about an interesting event they recently held as part of their ongoing Music of Asia Series. Late last month, the society’s Washington, DC Center and the Embassy of Kazakhstan co-hosted a Central Asian music festival at the Kazakhstan Embassy.
Producer Shreeya Sinha told me that among performances featuring the region’s traditionally popular instruments, such as the dombra and dutar (long-necked lutes popular in Central Asia), the one ‘most likely to go viral’ is that of Yerbolat Myrzaliev, a well-known Central Asian musician, who stole the show with his unique skills on the kobyz, an ancient Kazakh instrument with strings made from horse hair. You can watch Myrzaliev’s riveting and crowd-winning performance in the short video clip below: http://the-diplomat.com/new-emissary/2011/04/08/music-of-asia-kazakhstan/
Paul Bartlett, Eurasianet, April 5, 2011
ALMATY, — Kazakhstan plans to cement its place as the world’s largest uranium producer by increasing output and boosting reserves by 50 percent, enough to last for more than a century, the head of the state nuclear company said.
Vladimir Shkolnik, a former energy minister who now heads Kazatomprom, said Kazakhstan would increase its uranium reserves to as much as 2.5 million tons. Kazatomprom data show current reserves at 1.7 million tons.
“This means our reserves will be enough for more than 100 years, even given the higher output scenario,” Shkolnik said in an interview. He declined to specify when reserves would reach this new level.
Kazakhstan, which holds more than 15 percent of global uranium reserves, produced 17,803 tons of the metal in 2010 after surpassing Canada a year earlier as the world’s largest producer. This year, it plans to raise output to 19,600 tons.
Shkolnik said Kazakhstan planned to raise output further.
“We are now approaching the output plateau, which we had anyway forecast in our long-term program. It will be in the neighborhood of 20,000 tons, maybe 25,000 tons,” he said, referring to annual uranium production.
Shkolnik, who has also served as industry minister, said Kazakhstan’s plans to produce more uranium had not been affected by Japan’s nuclear crisis. Damage to the Fukushima Daiichi plant caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan has stirred fears that worldwide uranium demand could fall.
“Our supplies to those reactors which have now been halted — six blocks of the Fukushima station — comprise around 400 tons [in uranium equivalent], which is 2 percent of 20,000 tons,” he said.
“But the company has another 12 blocks that are operational, so this will have no effect, or impact will be minimal.”
He added, “The countries which have nuclear reactors, or those planning to build them … have not announced that they will stop their nuclear programs.”
Shkolnik replaced Mukhtar Dzhakishev last year as head of Kazatomprom after his predecessor was jailed for 14 years on corruption and embezzlement charges, a case that alarmed foreign investors working in the former Soviet republic.
Kazatomprom operates its own uranium mines in Kazakhstan as well as several joint ventures with foreign investors, including Cameco, Areva, Toshiba and Russian state nuclear company Rosatom.
Shkolnik said demand for uranium was set to rise sharply in China and that Kazakhstan had every chance of becoming the largest supplier of uranium to its giant neighbor.
He said that, by 2030, China would be operating 150 nuclear reactors.
“Multiply this by 20 tons and you get 3,000 tons of fuel, which means they will need 30,000 tons of uranium a year,” Shkolnik said.
German railway companies to invest in Kazakhstan
People’s Daily, April 07, 2011
German railway companies were considering investing in a number of projects in Kazakhstan, Kaznex Invest, the National Agency for Export and Investment, said Wednesday.
A Kaznex Invest statement said the investment “may exceed 200 million euro (286 million U.S. dollars).”
During a recent visit to Kazakhstan, representatives from 28 German companies met with members of the government and the national railway company Temir Zholy (KTZ), and examined several railway industry manufacturing plants.
Potential projects include the manufacture of contact temperature sensors and the modernization of railway infrastructure, as well as a joint venture for the production of wheels and assembly of wheelsets for KTZ needs, the agency said.
Kaznex Invest, dedicated to promoting non-resource exports and aiding foreign investors, has been working to attract German investment since last year. Successful partnerships could substantially reduce Kazakhstan’s dependence on railway-related imports, the statement said.
KTZ buys 2,800 items of railway-related products yearly — 80 percent of them imported, the agency said.
Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Kazakhstan voiced protest over burning of Quran by a religious leader in the US on 20 March 2011.
PM Karim Massimov: ‘Long-term Measures Have Put Us Firmly on Course’
Charles van der Leeuw, the International Herald Tribune, March 28, 2011
Karim Massimov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, recently spoke about the country’s economic progress and its increasing focus on developing the middle class.