Cannes Film Festival in Rewind: A Strong Year for Kazakhstan


In the weeks since the end of  Cannes film festival, we still reflect on how strong this year was with the New East’ presence. Kazakhstan alone had four film premiers, marking an epic year for both the state and Central Asian cinema. One of the films, Ayka, directed by Sergei Dvortsevoy, was chosen for The Official Selection and left with the Palm D’Or Award for Best Actress received by talented Samal Yeslyamova. 

(Ayka, dir. Sergei Dvortsevoy)

Ayka, dir. Sergei Dvortsevoy (2018)

The Official Selection – Palm D’Or Award for Best Actress

Russian – Kazakhstani film-director Sergei Dvortsevoy returns to Cannes after his film Tulpan (Kazakhstan, 2008), which was a winner of the Prix Un Certain Regard exactly a decade ago. Set in Moscow, Ayka follows its titular character (Samal Yeslamova), a woman who has just given birth, but flees the hospital and leaves her child behind. Dvortsevoy’s camera follows Ayka in the first few days after the events, as she attempts to carry on with her working life, regardless of her postnatal condition. Reflecting on issues of undocumented immigrants in Russia and rough reality of a dark underbelly of Moscow, Ayka’s story meets Dvortsevoy’s background in documentary cinema, creating a naturalisting atmosphere, and Samal Yaslamova’s performance is mesmerizing.

The Gentle Indifference of The World,
dir. Adlikhan Yerzhanov (2018)

Un Certain Regard programme. Running in parallel with Palm d’Or, Un Certain Regard explores various types of nontraditional cinematic visions and styles . 

Produced between Kazakhstan and France, Adlikhan Yerzanov’s latest film is a cinematically crafted and highly stylised story about the clashes between virtue and vice. As much as the static observation of time and space as action-fuelled drama, The Gentle Indifference of The World follows Saltanat (Dinara Baktybayev) in her attempts to prevent the sale of her family home after her indebted father’s suicide.  Ultimately, it is a journey around questions of family, love, traditions, corruption and fate.

       (The Gentle Indifference of The World. dir. Adlikhan Yerzhanov)

Bad Bad Winter, dir. Olga Korotko (2018)

ACID programme (ACID is a film directors association that has been promoting the distribution of independent cinema. The founding principle: the support brought by filmmakers to other filmmakers. Every year, ACID presents 9 films in Cannes during the festival, concentrating on emerging talent).

After the death of her grand-father, a young woman (Tolganay Talgat) returns to her hometown to take care of his house, which she had now inherited. Shortly after, she is visited by some former classmates, but the friendly reunion becomes something more when they ask her for help with a crime they have committed. A chamber drama shot predominantly in one location and constituting of no more than five actors, Bad Bad Winter is the proof that great filmmaking talent does not require loud budgets.

(Bad, Bad Winter, dir. Olga Korotko)


Asan, Dir. Berik Zhakhanov (2018)

Short Film Corner

This coming of age story flows Asan through teenagehood as he learns about the death of his distanced father.


The End of The World, dir. Zhannat Alshanova (2018)

Cannes’ Cinéfondation competition (This program was created to inspire and support the next generation of international filmmakers)

The first Kazakhstani film to be screened as part of this program. It is a story about a woman who, in the middle of mundanity, unexpectedly recalls a forgotten passion.

Hide and Seek, Dir. Venera Kairzhanova (2018)

Short Film Corner

Kairzhanova’s 30-minutes screen space explores the life of two young girls who try to preserve the lightness of childhood in a world where adult worry and darkness surround their daily lives.

Words by Teodosia Dobriyanova