April 5, 2013  Tulpan  (2008, Kazakhstan/Russia/Germany/Poland/Switzerland/Italy, directed by Sergey Dvortsevoy, 100 min.)

This was Kazakhstan’s 2009 submission to the Academy awards for Best Foreign Language Film. Welcome to a totally different world, so unfamiliar that one critic wrote it might as well be Mars.  The Hunger Steppe of Kazakhstan is a place where the horizon is a straight line against the sky in every direction, where nothing much grows and where it is dusty, cold and very windy.  A battery-operated radio brings news of the world.  Main character Asa (Askhat Kuchinchirekov) has just been discharged from the Russian Navy and comes to live with his sister Samal (Samal Yeslyamova), her husband Ondas (Ondasyn Besikbasov) and their three children in a one-room yurt.  He helps with tending the sheep, but his real dream is to win Tulpan, the only eligible girl in the area, to be his wife so he can set up his own household.  He is rejected time after time (he never really sees Tulpan but is told she thinks his ears are too big).  Despite the disappointments and the harsh reality of everyday life for these people, the film presents humor and tenderness as we get a glimpse into a lifestyle that is so very much unlike ours. (#341)