15 March 2005

From Kazakhstan...

Guka Omarova looks like she'll be making a big name for herself in the cinema world...



San Francisco Premiere

Kazakhstan/Russia 2004 | 86mins | 35mm Color | Kazakh w/E.S.

A slack-jawed teenager and his drunken uncle take on the assorted mafiosos of Central Asia—including the kid’s mother’s boyfriend—in this grungy directorial debut from Kazakhstan’s Guka Omarova, the scriptwriter of Sergey Bodrov’s SISTERS. “Schizo” is blank-faced Mustafa’s nickname, but schizophrenia isn’t exactly his problem; he’s actually rather single-minded in his inability (or unwillingness) to connect with anyone, even after being befriended by his mother’s lover, Sakura. A low-level cog in the local mafia brigade, Sakura schools Mustafa to recruit unemployed men for illegal bare-knuckled boxing fights. Underlining the short, brutish and well-pummelled life that awaits him, these matches also introduce Mustafa to a lonely boxer’s widow, and reintroduce him to his vodka-addled uncle Zhaken. Half everyone else’s size, Zhaken still wants the boxing prize, even if it sets Mustafa against Sakura, and the mob. Blending actors and non-professionals (she discovered lead Olzhas Nusuppaev in an orphanage), Omarova crafts a work colored with the gentle naturalism of a Mahkmalbaf or Kiarostami, yet dominated by a strangeness all its own. Kyrgyz cinematographer Khasanbek Kydryaliyev captures the ghostly beauty of the film’s devastated Central Asian landscape, a post-communist, pre-capitalist realm of abandoned homes and broken-down machines, a voided terrain disowned by every culture, yet—as the mixed-race faces of SCHIZO’s actors attest—created by all.

—Jason Sanders


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