In the 9th Eurasia International Film Festival (September 16-21) everybody is a star. In Almaty, the largest city of Kazakhstan, people go crazy about cinema, and ask anyone, who is somehow related to the festival, for their autographs, or to have their picture taken with them. The screening rooms are full. There are people ready to sit on the floor just to see the latest Kazakh film (The Little Brother, by Serik Aprimov), or a French, or an Iranian one. Some of them are even willing to stand for the duration of the feature, listening to a Russian simultaneous translation in a same flat voice. At the beginning it is quite disturbing but we get use to it.
Often at the middle of a screening, a cameraman for one of the many Kazakh public TV stations would start shooting the audience, blinding us with his lights. But that's because at the Eurasia International Film Festival Everybody is a star, along with the real stars like the New-Zealand director Jane Campion, the Philippine director Brillante Mendoza, the Russian actress Alyona Yakovleva, the French programmer Philippe Jalladeau, who were members of the main jury, or the legendary French chansonnier Charles Aznavour. Campion and Mendoza have kindly offered panoramas of their films as gifts to the Eurasia Film Festival for their hospitality. Absolutely fair.
The Eurasia Festival is huge, with a large audience and screenings in good rooms. It's a rare opportunity to watch Central Asian films, and discover talent from this virtually unknown weekly known cinema. The festival stands for Eurasia as a concept. That's the reason why, in the main competition, they have tried to balance the selection amongst Europe, Asian and the ex-USSR countries. The main jury awarded In Bloom, a Georgian film directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross. In Bloom is a great story, almost perfectly told, and will most likely have a long festival life around the world.
The best director award was given to The Little Brother, by Serik Aprimov, which is a come back of the most experimental Kazak directors nine years after his previous film The Hunter, a touching story for kids, in Kazakh countryside. The FIPRESCI jury, composed by Manoj Barpujari (India), Sadullo Rahimov (Tajikistan) and myself, awarded Wadjda by the first Saudi-Arabian woman director Haifaa Al Mansour, for its "illuminating portrait of life in a hidden world, with layers of meaning, that enormously establish an essence cinema, that is freedom of expression."
In Almaty everything looks big. The red carpet is five times the size of Cannes', the opening and the closing ceremony happen in a huge palace, the main screenings are in the Almaty Towers, amazing skyscrapers, spotlighted with the name of the festival. The Eurasian Film Festival, originally crated in 1998, is growing in step with the city. And is trying to reach the sky... (Manuel Halpern)
Eurasia International Film Festival: www.eurasiaiff.kz