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Astana, Kazakhstan • 20 December, 2022 | 10:05

Behind the Scenes: Kazakh Dubbing of Avatar Sequel

James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water premieres in Kazakhstan on December 15

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Instagram: @shekhnaza_k, Collider
Instagram: @shekhnaza_k, Collider

The long-awaited sequel of James Cameron’s epic sci-fi blockbuster Avatar: the Way of Water premiers in Kazakhstan today, QazMonitor reports.

What makes the premiere special is the fact that the over 3-hour long motion picture was dubbed in Kazakh by local voice actors, continuing the successful streak of translations following the Black Panther sequel, which premiered in November.

A pre-screening of the new movie took place a day before the official release. The event was attended by voice actors and the dubbing director of Aray Media Group. QazMonitor talked to the creative team to find out what made the translation project challenging and unique for the dubbing industry of Kazakhstan.

The director of the dubbing team Shakh-Murat Ordabayev noted that the scale and length of James Cameron’s movie were particularly challenging.

“For me, it’s certainly the responsibility before such a large-scale project. I fell infinitely in love with the first picture – we were working on it in August [of this year] and the memories of it are still fresh. Much work was done by the translator and the lip sync specialist; without them, we simply wouldn’t have succeeded,” the director noted.

What was the most challenging part about dubbing Avatar: the Way of Water?

Shakh-Murat Ordabayev, voice-over director of Aray Media Group:

The hardest part is, no doubt, the movie length. It’s very very long and if I were to compare it to any Marvel movie, 20% of the film at the end are plain action scenes that don’t require much dubbing. There are action scenes [in Avatar] as well, but, cinematically, everything is so coolly laid out that we don't get a break.

There are a lot of characters who got enough screen time to really shine. Our task was to do the same thing in Kazakh.

Shakh-Murat Ordabayev, the voice-over director

Also, the Na'vi language needs to be pronounced clearly. Recently we did [the same with] Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. There were the languages of Talokan and Xhosa, and a few others, including French.

Our lip-sync specialist, Gulzhan Saurtayeva, has a lot of experience, thank God. This is the 24th voice-over project and I have worked alongside her on more than 20. The most important thing here is that the translator gets everything right. After that, Gulzhan works her magic to perfectly match the lip sync.

Shekhnaza Kyzyhanova, Kazakh voice of Neytiri:

I tried to immerse in the role and play it like Zoë [Saldana] but in Kazakh.

A lot of people think that dubbing is about altering the voice. But voice over is acting. The voice will come out the way it should only if the actor truly lives out the role.

Shekhnaza Kyzykhanova, an actress at the Zhastar theater and the voice of Neytiri

I tried to feel in the studio what Zoë felt on the movie set – and that’s the difficulty of dubbing. There was an emotionally heavy scene, where I almost lost my voice. I didn't think about it, I was immersed in [the moment].

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