ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s film industry is still burgeoning on the steppe’s horizons. Almost every year Kazakh movie makers entertain the 17 million nation with new features. The award winning features like The Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (2007) and Myn Bala: Warriors of the Steppe (2011) drew not only local attention but also global recognition. Among the more recent successes Kazakhstan enjoyed were Shal (The Old Man) (2012), and Harmony Lessons (2013). These are only a few to mention among other different genre features released in the past decade. The Hollywood acclaimed Kazakh-born director Timur Bekmambetov (Day Watch, Night Watch, Wanted, etc.) has also contributed to the development of the Kazakh cinema.
With the growing movie industry there is a new emerging niche: acting.
One of the rising stars is an actress and TV host Assel Sagatova.
Sagatova is a talented, modest, down to earth star as she is usually described by her fans, who despite graduating from the university with honors, majoring in international relations, has become a movie star.
“As I enrolled to the faculty of international relations I was shaping my future as contrast and dynamic, where I would be working at an embassy constantly travelling abroad on business trips,” she said in an interview. “Additionally, I really wanted to qualify for the scholarship, at the time I could pass the English language tests without any preparations. During the university years I was active in different castings besides the studies, I tried not to miss the opportunity to work on the side,” she recollected.
The actress believed cinema was eventually her destiny in spite all the casting failures in all those years. “Before getting the positive answer: ‘Yes, this role is yours,’ I had faced a lot of refusals. But probably because of my stubborn nature, the refusals even motivated me to attain new victories.”
The 28-year-old actress was born in Semipalatinsk that she still cherishes with good old memories. “I had a contrast and happy childhood,” the actress remembered. The apartment building we lived in had a lot of stairwell entrances, as [many locals] probably remember, in Soviet times all neighbours were friendly and amicable. I am very glad that I got the chance to experience that,” she said.
Then Sagatova moved to Almaty from her hometown to enroll at the university, the fate that awaits thousands of students who pursue better higher education from regions of Kazakhstan. Her desire to be on television arose then in Almaty. And she started taking the TV host classes that eventually took her to classes for models. That time, according to Assel, her future, successful show business career saw the first glimpses.
“Undoubtedly, my break through role was in perhaps not the most successful – Mother’s Cry over Mankurt (2004). My story in cinema starts with this film.”
Year after another Sagatova starred in low budget films that brought her recognition but not fame. In 2010, she starred in “Irony of Love” that skyrocketed her career in Kazakh cinema where she is among the most wanted leading actresses today.
“To be honest, neither my parents not I thought that my hobby would turn serious and become my favourite job. We considered it more of a hobby for a long time. But my relatives and closed ones are glad to hear about my progress and they watch every project I am a part of. I am eternally grateful to them for their support and I am happy that my family is always close to me.”
Being one of the most sought-after actresses is not easy. It requires a lot of self-improvement, good time management skills, hard work. Sagatova ably manages all the projects she is involved in, according to her manager.
“It is no surprise that Assel graduated with honours from each educational institution she has attended,” her friend and manager Arai Amankulova said. “Her self-discipline, concentration and fantastic memory really impress. But most importantly she manages her time well. Probably this is why she succeeds at everything she does,” Arai said.
In the early 2014, Sagatova participated in the long awaited premiere of a new feature, Hunting the Phantom, where she played the lead female role.
On Sundays, she plays host of the Good Evening Kazakhstan entertainment show on the First channel Eurasia. She also continues cooperation with AVON, a make-up company, ID Net and Kira Plastinina.
Sagatova has plenty of plans for the future, however. She believes that time will sort all her plans out and if she gets an opportunity to conquer Hollywood she wouldn’t miss it.
“To be honest I never aimed [for Hollywood],” she said, “but if an opportunity arrives or an interesting proposal or even a little chance, I will try my best to exploit that chance.”
The actress who admires watching Leonardo Di Caprio, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Meryl Streep on the big screen thinks Kazakh cinematography is actively burgeoning.
Among some of her favourites she also mentioned Russian actors Yevgeny Mironov and Vladimir Mashkov and Zhanna Baizhanbayeva and Farkhat Abdraimov among Kazakh stars.
“You have probably noticed that every season film directors from Kazakhstan release new features. More and more features are filmed on the film sets of different genres, action, children’s features, drama, musical comedies, cartoons, family soap operas… Our films are actively participating in international cinema festivals and receive awards. I am acquainted with many directors, cameramen, screenwriters who have tremendous faith in their projects,” the actress underscored.
“I sincerely wish all my fans an interesting vivid life full of positive emotions, to be healthy and kind and to love from the heart, to dream and treasure every moment! And if your life surprises you with lemons, squeeze them into lemonade!” she said.