Close Up

7 July 2018: Returnee


Sabit Kurmanbekov
2017 | 95 min | Colour | Digital
Kazakh with English subtitles
Introduced by Jasper Sharp

Oralman, the original title for Sabit Kurmanbekov’s enlightening and emotionally powerful drama, is the official term used to refer to the Kazakh diaspora who have re-immigrated back to the country since its independence in 1991. Saparkul, an ethnic Kazakh who works as a Muezzin in the northernmost Afghan province of Kunduz where he was born and raised, is persuaded by his father to return to a homeland that he has never seen. His father himself had fled Kazakhstan as a child during the Stalinist terror of the 1930s. Saparkul, who fought as a Mujahideen against the Soviets in the 1980s, is reassured by his father that Kazakhstan has changed dramatically since the communist era. When the documents come through that will enable them to return to Kazakhstan, they set out with Saparkul’s wife and young daughter, unable to speak following the trauma of treading on a landmine, on the long and perilous trek through the mountains back to their native land. On the journey, Saparkul and his family encounter a series of trials that severely test their faith, and which endure long after they reach their destination, a country with a very different relationship to religion and recent history than they are familiar with.

Part of Aperture: Asia & Pacific Film Festival