Although Soviet film-makers produced films in other parts of central Asia as fin back as the 1920s, the first feature film to come out of Kyrgyzstan itself was in 1955, when Vasily Pronin directed Saltanat, although this was essentially a Russian production featuring a local subject.
The first home-grown Kyrgyz film to appear was My Mistake, which appeared two years later in 1957. Larissa Shepitko and Andrei Konchalovsky adapted a work by Chingiz Aitmatov, Shepitko Heat, in 1963 and this and The First Teacher by Andrei Konchalovsky (1965) paved the way for later Kyrgyzstan cinema by turning poor production values and a documentary tradition to aesthetic advantage.
Another film maker to emerge during this period was Tolomush Okeyev who, like the Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov, told his stories through the landscapes they were set in, producing minimalist works with eco-political themes like The Fierce One (1973), scripted by Andrei Konachalovsky, There Are Horses (1965), a beautiful, ten-minute documentary that captures the life-cycle of horses, and The Snow Leopard's Descendant (1984).
Since independence, the best known film to come out of Kyrgyzstan up until now is Aktan Abdykalykov's 1998 Beshkempir (Five Grandmothers), titled The Adopted Son in Anglophone countries, which concerns the life of a foundling adopted by five old women in a Kyrgyz village. It won the Silver Leopard Prize at the Locarno Film Festival of that year. The film was shot in black and white with occasional short colour sequences, and documents several Kyrgyz customs such as funerals and engagement ceremonies.
Another contemporary Kyrgyz director is Marat Saralu, whose 2001 debut, My Brother Silk Road, is an evocative modern-day journey through Kyrgyzstan that has two young boys and a girl boarding a train to cross the territory of the old Silk Road: a slow, bittersweet journey that is tinged with nostalgia and longing as it examines both the future and past of the country of their birth.