Situated between the Caucasus, Russia, the Middle East, and East Asia, the vast expanse of Central Asia was once occupied by nomadic steppe empires and later inducted into the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991. Placed at the crossroads of tradition and modernity, these newly independent nations represent a complex amalgam of diverse histories and influences that in turn is reflected in their cinema. With a legacy of filmmaking dating back to the 1920s, producing propaganda cinema, to the more gritty social realist films of the 80s and 90s, Central Asian cinema is garnering critical acclaim, having evolved to be a regular presence in international film festivals since the 2000s.
The title of this programme is inspired by Kazakh filmmaker Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s The Owners, in which a group of urbanite youths return to their ancestral home, only to be challenged by village elders. “Whose house is this?” the elders ask as they attempt to dispossess the youths of their rightful place. Here, the house represents a site of contestation between old and new, tradition and modernity.
From narrative features to documentaries and short films, this is a showcase of some of the boldest cinema of the past decade from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan—exploring the negotiations of space and ownership that take place within their respective societies, over issues of culture, gender, nationhood, and identity. First introduced as a fully online programme during the Circuit Breaker period in 2020, Whose House Is This? is now being presented theatrically—with an expanded line-up—at Oldham Theatre from 22 October – 21 November 2021.
The 15 films in the lineup are:
Face the Music (Мен сен емес / Петь свои песни) (2018), dir. Katerina Suvorova
Double Bill: Her Five Lives (2020), dir. Saodat Ismailova + 40 Days of Silence (2014), dir. Saodat Ismailova
Songs of Abdul (Песни Абдула) (2016), dir. Anna Moiseenko
Suleiman Mountain (Suleyman gora) (2017), dir. Elizaveta Stishova
Ayka (Айка) (2018), dir. Sergey Dvortsevoy
Only the Devil Lives Without Hope (2020), dir. Magnus Gertten
Double Bill: Mariam (Мәриям) (2019), dir. Sharipa Urazbayeva + History of Civilisation (2020), dir. Zhannat Alshanova
Double Bill: The Haunted (2017), dir. Saodat Ismailova + Rhythms of Lost Time (2021), dir. Anisa Sabiri
Djamilia (Jamilia) (2018), dir. Aminatou Echard
Aurora (Avrora) (2018), dir. Bekzat Pirmatov
The Owners (Үкілі Камшат / Хозяева) (2014), dir. Adilkhan Yerzhanov
The River (Ozen) (2018), dir. Emir Baigazin
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