The Cinema of Soviet Kazakhstan 1925 – 1991: An Uneasy Legacy
This monograph by Peter Rollberg, Elliott School Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and Research Initiatives and Professor of Slavic Languages, Film Studies and International Affairs, traces the history of Kazakh filmmaking from its conception as a Soviet cultural construction project to its peak as fully-fledged national cinema to its eventual re-imagining as an art-house phenomenon. The author’s analysis places leading directors—Shaken Aimanov, Abdulla Karsakbaev, Sultan-Akhmet Khodzhikov, Mazhit Begalin—in their sociopolitical and cultural context.
Ludmila Pruner, one of the first American scholars to deal with the cinema of Kazakhstan, once wrote: “One of the most tragic consequences of the socialist regime had been the catastrophic loss of the republics’ individual cultural heritage, traditions, diversity, imagination and creativity.” This is only partially true for the cinema of Kazakhstan, as will be shown on a number of examples. The national aspect of cinema was one that Soviet- Kazakhstani filmmakers had to struggle with for a long time. They were fully aware of their mentee role vis-à-vis the Russian professionals sent to Central Asia to build national film industries. Especially in times of crises (and there were several such periods in Kazakhstani cinema), directors from other studios came to realize their projects at Kazakhfilm studio, which often caused subliminal or open frictions. Closely connected with the national question is the dichotomy center/periphery, which is applied to the Soviet paradigm of film production and is important for the explanation of certain decisions made in Moscow or Almaty.