Foreign Film Submissions, 2015: Stranger (Kazakhstan)
Part of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s mission is to foster greater understanding through world cinema. This year 72 Foreign Language films were submitted for Golden Globes consideration. Here is an overview of one of them.
The story of Stranger begins in the steppes of 1930s Kazakhstan, where a little boy, Ilyas, (Kuandyk Kystykbayev) lives with his father amidst the ravages of famine resulting from the terrorizing collectivization of Kazakh peasants imposed by the communist rulers of the Soviet Union, which Kazakhstan is a part of.
Orphaned by the political purges that his father falls victim to, Ilyas escapes to the mountains. There he lives as a savage, befriending a pack of wolves and choosing to live according to primitive ancestral ways. But he (played as an adult by Yerzhan Nurymbet) remains watchful of the changes occurring down below with his oppressed people. His chosen way of life, his ever-growing longing for beautiful villager Kamshut (Elina Abay Kyzy) and the rising dominance of an imposed Soviet “proletarian modernity” will prove to be the sources of Ilyas’ lifelong struggle.
The film also touches, albeit briefly, on the sensitive issue of deportation during WWII of Soviet Germans of the Volga river region to remote villages of Kazakhstan, as well as the political banishment to Kazakhstan of the members of Russian intelligentsia. In Stranger, writer-director Yermek Tursunov, known for his acclaimed debut film Kelin, juxtaposes magnificent views of the rich natural beauty of his country with the horrors, which in the recent history were brought upon Kazakh people by the cruel Soviet communist regime.
Some of the film’s narrative ideas have roots not only in the nation’s more recent political history but also in rich Kazakh folklore. The picture has obvious pantheistic overtones when presenting eternal themes of the collision of freedom of choice and fate. Stranger, produced by Kanat Torebay can also be read as a philosophical parable about the power of the human spirit.