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Astana, Kazakhstan • 12 October, 2022 | 13:00

Why Kazakh Films Win Festivals Abroad But Don't Get To Cinemas Here?

Kazakh award-winning directors answered the question

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Photo credit: Polla-Ilariya Kozino; Adilkhan Yerzhanov; Anne-Christine Poujoulat
Photo credit: Polla-Ilariya Kozino; Adilkhan Yerzhanov; Anne-Christine Poujoulat

What will Kazakhs watch this summer? Blockbuster hits like the Marvel franchise (Thor: Love and Thunder, anyone?) definitely make the top of the bucket list. Superhero movies are a safe bet. But what about our superheroes—Kazakh directors who win awards at foreign film festivals? In Europe, their works are always sure to get thundering claps of approval and the love of high-brow film critics. Yet, our local movie theaters are not so keen on showing the latest Kazakh indie projects (commercial movies aside).

QazMonitor asked international festival winners from Kazakhstan why the awards do not guarantee commercial success.

Let's ask a film director

Adilkhan Yerzhanov (photo credit: kaznai.kz)
Adilkhan Yerzhanov (photo credit: kaznai.kz)

Adilkhan Yerzhanov is a seasoned Kazakh movie director. His latest work Assault won the grand prize at the film festival in France, and the director’s Yellow Cat was put forward by the Oscar committee of Kazakhstan to represent the country.

“This is an age-old subject, and it's not a problem at all. Festival films are not often successful at the box office and are unlikely to be seen by the critical mass required to rent the theaters. Independent films are not very liked by distribution everywhere, not just in our country. France solves this problem by opening many small cinemas outside of multiplexes, where even Kazakh arthouse is shown. But we only have Caesar [a cinema in Almaty that regularly hosts national movie weeks]," Yerzhanov said.

How to solve this problem? Apparently, in the same way. [Establish] cinemas, where you could go. Where they can show a cult classic four years in a row.

Adilkhan Yerzhanov

What does an animation director think?

Polla-Ilariya Kozino
Polla-Ilariya Kozino

Polla-Ilariya Kozino is an animation director and producer based in Taiwan. Her animation film The Ribbon had over 50 awards and nominations, including the Los Angeles Film Awards. She was born and raised in Almaty, and also agreed to give her commentary on the issue.

“Compared to other countries, Kazakhstan has a small market (although it is growing) and the culture of watching domestic and foreign films is underdeveloped. In addition, works of the "independent film" format win festivals more often compared to commercial films. The audience size for this [independent] genre is even smaller here.

Now there is a lot of talk in our country about a new program for the development of creative industries. It would be nice if the strategy for supporting culture and all its aspects was reasonable and actually worked rather than just being a loud statement. Supporting culture is a priority for the state in all developed countries. It is important that we adopt this idea, too.

Polla-Ilariya Kozino
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