ASTANA – Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s “The Owners” will be shown as part of the Contemporary World Cinema lineup at the Toronto Film Festival which will be held from Sept. 4 to 14. “The Owners” is young Kazakh writer and director Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s fifth film.
Films aired under the Contemporary World Cinema heading are ones that traverse uncharted waters and push the limits of modern cinema.
The world premier of “The Owners” was at the Cannes Film Festival under the free-floating special screening category where the film was highly acclaimed by critics. “The Owners” also made the 68th Edinburgh Film Festival.
The movie highlights some of the difficulties related to property ownership. The story is about a tragic situation in which two brothers and their sister are evicted from their home by a neighbour who is backed up by a powerful relative, a police chief. The boys have no relatives to protect them but they do not lose hope or leave the house.
After the Cannes Film Festival, many top film publications gave Yerzhanov’s work good reviews.
One of them, “The Hollywood Reporter” called “The Owners” “a caustic critique of small-town corruption and cronyism in contemporary Kazakhstan. It is also poetic, surreal and visually arresting.”
The Variety said that “This highly stylized, blackly comic low-budget drama is a biting piece of a social criticism that eventually goes over the top and enters Grand Guignol territory.”
According to Yerzhanov himself, “This film is my civil and artistic attempt to give society a chance to see an honest reflection of what routine and ordinary social problems do to ordinary people before they become complacent.”
Yerzhanov was born in Kazakhstan’s Dzhezkazgan in 1982. He graduated from the Kazakh National Academy of Arts in 2009 after studying directing at the Damir Manabay Workshop.
Yerzhanov has shot five films, of which two, “Constructors” and “Realtor,” have already received attention from major international film festivals. He believes in independent cinema evaluation and says that films are not there to entertain people. “Art does not exist in order to divert people from reality, but rather in order to motivate people to change their situation,” he said in an interview with Interfax.
“The Owners” was shot in the Almaty region in 2013. Graduates of the Zhurgenov Kazakh National Academy of Arts play the majority of roles.
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), known originally as “The Festival of Festivals,” was founded in 1976. There are no juries and it is non-competitive. At this festival, there are no customary awards like best actress or best film, which are handed out at similar events. The major prize is the People’s Choice Award given to the feature-length film with the highest ratings according to TIFF goers. Moreover, the Toronto festival is considered a backroomrehearsal before the Oscars, where the Academy Commission takes people’s movie choices into account.