Kazakh Film Finding Success Overseas

The Kazakh film “Myn Bala,” or “Warriors of the Steppe,” in its English translation, has been released in the U.S. to generally favourable reviews.

Myn Bala’s $12 million budget was some of the most money ever spent on a film in Kazakhstan.

The epic film by Akan Satayev is now available in North America via Video on Demand.

“This is the biggest release of Kazakhfilm in North America for VOD [Video on Demand]. The movie can be obtained through Amazon, Google Play/YouTube, iTunes, PlayStation, Rovi, VUDU, Charter,” Kazakhfilm Director for Development Ilyas Ahmed said.

The feature film was released in Kazakh theatres in May 2012 and earned about $2 million in its first two weeks.

Immediately after the premiere of the film at the Cannes festival, it went to the KAZCAN Film Festival, a not-for-profit film event associated with the Kazakhstan Society in Canada, the purpose of which is to enlighten Canadian audiences about Kazakhstan by showcasing Kazakhstan’s filmmakers.

After the KAZCAN festival, the Toronto-based sales and distribution company 108 media acquired the international rights to “Myn Bala.” In addition to the U.S., countries including France, Germany, the U.K., Japan, South Korea and Australia have been confirmed for distribution.

The action in the film occurs in the first half of the 18th century, a pivotal era in Kazakh history when in a bloody war with Dzhungars, the unity of the Kazakh people became a decisive force in their fight for freedom. The film tells the epic story of young warriors led by the protagonist, Sartay, as he helps the regular army protect their homeland. His resistance, also known as the Myn Bala, enters into an unequal battle with the enemy and changes the course of the war.

According to one Hollywood reporter, “a kind of Central Asian hybrid of ‘Braveheart’ and ‘300,’ Kazakhstan’s official entry in the best foreign-language Oscar race is a sabre-rattling, chest-beating, flag-waving celebration of a mythic warrior hero from the early 18th century. The title translates as ‘the thousand boys,’ an exaggerated reference to a few hundred young guerilla fighters who fought back against occupation by the Dzungars. … The definitive victory against these invaders came at the Battle of Anyrakay in 1729, a landmark date in Kazakh independence.”

Some critics have suggested that the movie draws a parallel to modern times. The film was released to mark the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence and freedom from the Soviet Union. Whether or not Satayev intended this is not clear.