Saratan is a film made in 2005 by the Kyrgyz director Ernest Abdyjaparov, with financial assistance from Germany, and distributed in the West by a German company.
The film was made more than ten years after the demi...展开se of the Soviet Union - when the various socialist republics suddenly found themselves with unexpected independence – which brought with it an economic malaise following the withdrawal of Moscow’s subsidies, and an ideological vacuum which together left Kyrgyzstan and its neighbouring Central Asian republics facing economic hardships and social upheavals.
It centers on the lives of people in one small Kyrgyz village, a snapshot of life with happy and sad elements side by side. It can also be seen, however, as providing a comment on the country’s history, society and culture in the period following independence, “where the average citizen is struggling with a sheer insurmountable number of difficulties.”
Fourteen years into independence, there are several things that just don’t seem to work in this small Kyrgyz village: the farms are not working; the people are poor without prospects for a better future although a few “rich” people have benefited – to the disadvantage of the average villager, employment is virtually non-existant and the little money that is earned is, all too often, spent on vodka.
More than 40 characters populate the film and provide a kaleidoscope of personal stories and relationships. Amongst them are: drunkards, thieves, philanderers, hypocrites, adulterers, layabouts, a malicious jester, a shaman, a cheating wife, a mullah who oversleeps and has to rush to conduct morning prayers in which no-one seems to take an interest, a traffic policeman directing non-existent rush-hour traffic in the village square, the local mayor struggling to cope with an apathetic community in which seems to take him seriously, a Jehovah’s Witness missionary who finds an avid in the Communist die-hard as they share a prison cell, a cattle thief and his family who utter an Islamic prayer fused with nomadic gestures when slaughtering a stolen lamb
The “heroes” of the film, however, are the “Kyrgyz people” – who, despite the trials and tribulations of everyday life in a depressed economy, nevertheless manage to overcome them and find ways to cope with the apparent hopelessness of their situation.
Two phrases used by reviewers in describing it are: ”a happy-sad snapshot” and “tragicomic tales of politics, tradition, modernity, pride and honour”. The humour is underlined by a elements of satire, cynicism, self-mockery, a sense of absurdity and occasional moments of “slapstick”.
It was made on a small budget – just USD120,000 – and has been shown in a number of film festivals in Berlin, California, Cardiff, London and Marakesh – where it was the “Golden Star” prize, and in Russia where it has also won prizes.
Abdyjaparov says: “As far as context is concerned, this film is about difficulties of Kyrgyzstan for the last 10 years after it became independent from the Soviet Union. I showed it [the history of Kyrgyzstan] through a small Kyrgyz village, its history, people, social, economic and even philosophical issues and developments. I tried to show the whole country’s fate by showing one village,” .