Spotlight: New Kazakh cinema awards two features top prize

Kazakhs back new films after success of Berlinale Silver Bear winner, "Harmony Lessons" seen here

New projects by up-and-coming directors to get full production support from state studio Kazakhfilm.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Spotlight: New Kazakh Cinema, the talent competition held during the 9th Eurasia Film Festival in Almaty, awarded its top prize Thursday to two feature projects by talented young Kazakh directors.

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In the second edition of the talent contest last held in 2011 -- when it backed Harmony Lessons by Emir Baigaizan, whichwent on to win a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival last February -- a jury of international producers, fund managers and experts picked Serik Abishev's Ademoka and Adilkhan Yershanov's Aliyushka for a joint award.

It will be a first feature for Abishev, 27, whose film is a road movie about a 30-year old-loser who by mischance finds himself caring for an abandoned eight-year-old girl whose mother has stolen $10,000 from him.

Yershanov, 31, has a feature track record. His last feature, Real Estate Agents, won a raft of international awards after its 2011 release.

His new project is about a bright 10-year-old girl, who after being orphaned lives in an abandoned chemical plant. There, she teaches other children --  a ragtag army of drug addicts -- to read and write and understand the beauty of life.

The story is based upon a true character the director observed himself as a child.

The comedy Country Doctor by actor-turned-director Anton Mitnev won support to take his project to the Tallinn Film Festival’s industry sidebar, the Baltic Event, in December.

Spotlight New Kazakh Cinema, which held its first edition two years ago, helps support the new wave of Kazakh directors with full production support from KazakhFilm, which enables shooting in the country.

Foreign co-producers may also come on board to add value, as they did with controversial film Harmony Lessons, which exposed a systematic and  endemic regime of brutality at a provincial school.

Ermek Amanshayev, president of Kazakhfilm, said: "We are happy to witness how the international success of Harmony Lessons stimulated new contenders."

by Nick Holdsworth