Film Review: A cinematic exploration of the human instinct to defy and disobey

A still from ‘The River.’ (Image supplied)
Updated 28 October 2018
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Film Review: A cinematic exploration of the human instinct to defy and disobey

TOKYO: The final movie in Emir Baigazin’s Asian trilogy after “Harmony Lessons” and “The Wounded Angel” is a compelling study of authority and rebelliousness, sparingly narrated. Screened at the 31st edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival last week, “The River” from Kazakhstan is far removed from the kind of cinema that modern generations are used to. Set in a remote Kazakh village, it is a powerful story about generational conflicts and the natural human instinct to defy and disobey.

In “The River,” or “Ozen,” the line of control is crystal clear, with the father standing tall and intolerant of even the slightest dissent from his five sons, who live in a dry, dusty landscape. The father (Kuandyk Kystykbayev) demands and receives unquestioning obedience from his children and he makes them slog, forcing them to sleep on hard wooden beds. They are hit hard if they err in their duties and he does all this to keep them safe from the wicked world outside their little gated existence.

But the sons see this as worse than slavery, crueler than the harshest of prisons. The father grooms his eldest son, Aslan (Zhalgas Klanov), to take over the reins of the family. Hidden behind Aslan’s almost emotionless face is a rebel — he takes his siblings to the river, a place strictly forbidden by his father, and the youngsters build a cross and hang a scarecrow in one of a few Biblical references in the film.

Then the monotony is broken by the visit of a mysterious distant cousin, Kanat (Eric Tazabekov), whose jazzy clothes — jolting against the bleached landscape of the boys’ village, created by thoughtful cinematography on Baigazin’s part — and electronic tablet imply that there is more to the world than the young boys previously believed.

Kanat’s technology brings with it conflicting news from the world beyond the village, which leads to shifting familial relations, tensions between the bothers and quickly dissolves the sibling’s warped sense of paradise in this raw exploration of freedom, family and dissent.


‘Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses’ tells heart-wrenching story of Syria’s lost artists

Updated 15 November 2018
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‘Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses’ tells heart-wrenching story of Syria’s lost artists

  • The 93-minute film follows six Syrian artists as they narrate their stories of displacement

BEIRUT: Filmmaker Nigol Bezjian premiered his latest movie “Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses” with an intimate screening in Beirut on Wednesday night.
The 93-minute film — which features dialogue in Arabic, Armenian, German and English with English-language subtitles — follows six Syrian artists as they narrate their stories of displacement.
Bezjian, an Armenian born in Aleppo, Syria, spoke to Arab News about the experience of making the powerful film and said it was inspired by one of his previous works, “Thank You, Ladies and Gentlemen.”
“The movie is about Syrian refugees in the camps of Lebanon and it stayed with me,” he said about his previous film. “But I wanted to make a film about people in our region who had to depart their homeland, from the time of the end of World War I until today.”
That sparked the idea for his latest venture.
Bezjian chose six characters and honed in on their past experiences in what turned out to be an insightful peek through the keyhole into the lives of those who have been affected by the strife in Syria.
“The characters in the film are artists who work in different disciplines of art,” he explained.

“The film is something of a documentary, as the characters’ stories are all real, yet the concept that ties them all together was created by me,” the filmmaker continued.
Making an appearance are filmmaker Vartan Meguerditchian, actor Ayham Majid Agha, musician Abo Gabi, dancer Yara Al-Hasbani, painter Diala Brisly and photographer Ammar Abd Rabbo.
The film explores the inner feelings and reflections of people who had to leave their homes and be transported to a new environment, facing many challenges along the way.
Despite the sometimes heart-wrenching subject matter, Bezjian noted that the main challenges he faced while producing the film were budget and timeframe.
“The movie took two-and-a-half years (to make), so the main challenge was not to give up and keep the same spirit and momentum throughout this time,” he said.

At the screening, an eager crowd listened as the filmmaker gave his introductory speech.

“There are a lot of faces I don’t recognize, and that’s a good thing,” Nigol said. 

The movie is filled with tense moments, artistic shots and captivating characters, that succeeded to show the reality of artists’ lives in environments marked by conflict and refuge.