And yet director Aktan Arym Kubat smuggles in a bitter truth: that you can get rid of one corrupt oppressor, but be watchful for the next one waiting in the wings. Here it’s buccaneering free-marketer Bekzat (Askat Sulaimanov), a local boy made good, back in his 4x4 to flog land to the Chinese. Director Kubat stars as Mr Light (the rest of the actors are mostly non-pros), giving a performance of profound warmth and humanity.
A beaming Buddha, Mr Light is a dreamer with big plans to bring wind power to his village – and he trusts Bekzat at his word when he promises to help. Mr Light’s friend the mayor is a shrewder judge of character: ‘You pillage our country like jackals and you pose as benefactors.’
A sense of impending calamity ratchets up amid the expected twists of village life: a little boy stuck up a tree; a funeral; a game of ulak tartish, a polo-like sport without mallets that uses a dead goat as a ball. Like fox hunting, the game seems like a remnant from more savage times, but in a final gesture of awful clarity, Kubat proves that our own times can be equally barbarous.
Cast and crew