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When their mother died, John, Yerbol and Aliya left Almaty city to move to a remote village where their mother’s ancestral home is situated. Unfortunately when they arrived, it has been illegally occupied by a drunkard named Zhuba, the brother of the district chief police.

It is reflective of the present day realities in Kazakhstan because it mirrors the existence of corruption among authorities and relatives who are placed in a position they do not qualify for which affects the overall justice system. In order for the district police to return the favor to his elder brother who gave him his position he serves and backs him up with his brother’s injudicious acts which is comparable with the Filipino culture of “utang na loob”. Correspondingly, with the incompetence of the people in authority the justice system becomes inefficient and ineffective in its implementations which does not relieve the high rise of unlawful acts such as robbery, violent crimes and murder in the country. Evident in the part where John was beaten up and incarcerated without sufficient evidence.

The film is successful in leaving a mark in the minds of its viewers for its unconventional and peculiar representations of events in the lives of the siblings. People are left confused and curious of the inclusion of certain comical elements such as the dancing supplemented with upbeat music in the most inappropriate occasions possible such as during the death of Aliyah and Yerbol. After the initial reaction of the audience to the film, they deliberate what they first perceive of it as surreal which consequently make them see it from a different perspective and absorbs what Zhurba utters, “We all have nothing left but to dance” which they soon realize as the director’s way of telling the story is through a break from the traditional dramatic way and instead captivate the minds of his audience through an avant-garde technique which makes it distinct from Hollywood films.

It was like a breath of fresh air to witness a foreign film other than the mainstream films of Hollywood. I was informed of the present issues of a 2nd world country which was formerly part of The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (more commonly known as the U.S.S.R. or the Soviet Union). Its significance on the film is that after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the independence of Kazakhstan, some of the new states that transformed into a national minority faced new restrictions in securing their property rights where some may have been displace all over Kazakhstan making it hard for people to find a home. Disproportion in certain areas between the majority of the population and their political representation in government structure was a major problem after declaring independence from the Soviet Union (Arbatov, 1997). The film served as a representation of the difficulties of its people in their ownership claims of their lands due to some people who claim entitlement because of their residency.

Reference:

Arbatov, A. (1997). Managing conflict in the former Soviet Union: Russian and American perspectives. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

[Reviewed by Joselle Janolo]