It is a fact that Kazakh audiences are neglectful of their own Kazakh-made films. Why is this so?
First of all, only in the first decade of the twenty-first century were cinemas beginning to spread throughout the country. Secondly, the mass audience has become accustomed to American blockbusters, blinding them to the merits of talented low-budget films made in Kazakhstan. Thirdly, many talented Kazakh directors are too content to make elite films, which are fine to watch at film festivals but are not suitable for popular cinema. A clear example is the director Darezhan Omirbaev who makes films in Kazakhstan, using money provided by France, which win audiences in Europe yet scarcely so at home. In recognition of his work, Darezhan has even received an Order of Art and Literature from the French Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Serge Smesov; while his film Killer was awarded a prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Among other directors better known in Europe than in Kazakhstan is Amir Karakulov. His recent film Zhilama - shot with technical support from the Danish director Lars von Trier - was awarded a prize for best director at Kinoshok, the film festival of the countries of the CIS. Besides this, a number of his films such as The Rival, Leaves and The Last Holidays have won prizes at European festivals. But the Kazakh cinema-goer hardly ever sees such works. Frustratingly, it remains unprofitable for distributors to screen Kazakh films.
The most important project in Kazakh film since the turn of the century is the film Nomads, adapted from of Esenberlin's novel (see Literature'). The original idea was conceived in the mid '90s, but it only began to be realised in 2002-3. Kazakhfilm, the main film studio in the country, plans to launch this historical epic on world screens by 2004, and it should open a new era in Kazakh cinematography. Involved in the production were the American directors Milos Forman and Ivan Passer, as well as the Russian script writer Rustam Ibragimebekov. The head of Kazakhfilm Sergei Azimov, hoped the film would show Kazakhstan and its people to a world audience: 'Everyone in the World knows about American cowboys, Russian monks, English milords, Nomads will show the world what the Kazakh people are.'
The roots of Kazakhstan's film-making, derive from the 1920s and the film Turksib and the early gems of Almaty's first studio like Rebellion, Jut and Amangeldy. From 1941 to the war's end (1945) the Soviet film industry was evacuated to Almaty where Sergei Eisenstein made his two-part masterpiece Ivan the Terrible, and V. Pudovkin and his brother, Vasilev, were at work. Kazakh film began to bloom in the 1960s with the work of the actor-producer Shaken Aimanov in films like The End of Ataman and Kyz-Jibek.