Central Asia-Based Film Awards Announces Short List of Nominees for 2023 

ASTANA — The Alternativa Film Awards, a highlight of the renowned Alternativa Film Project initiated by the global tech company inDrive in 2023, have unveiled their list of nominees. This prestigious shortlist comprises 14 full-length films and seven shorts, representing the cinematic prowess of Central Asia and other Asian nations, as reported by the Alternativa Film Project’s press service.

Snapshot from a movie “Tul” by Sharipa Urazbayeva (Kazakhstan). Photo credit: the Alternativa Film Project’s press service.

The highly anticipated winners will be revealed at the inaugural awards ceremony, scheduled to take place in Almaty on Dec. 2.

The Alternativa Film Project is a “traveling” project that will move from country to country, gradually expanding its geography.

The awards boast a generous total prize fund of $100,000. Distinguishing itself with a non-hierarchical ethos, the Alternativa Film Awards assign equal significance to every accolade, each carrying an identical cash prize of $20,000. 

This substantial sum will be distributed across five distinct categories. The Future Voice category is reserved for a director poised to make a significant impact on the film industry and society. Spotlight recognizes films that shed light on crucial topics previously overlooked by the public, and the Alter category is dedicated to films addressing critical social issues with a compelling call to action for societal change.

Snapshot from a movie “Qoryqpa” by Katerina Suvorova (Kazakhstan). Photo credit: the Alternativa Film Project’s press service.

Other categories include Nativa, celebrating films delving into themes of national or cultural identity, and Short Awards, honoring outstanding short films originating from the central focal region of Central Asia.

A distinctive accolade, called Resonance, will be presented to the film that has garnered notable public acclaim. However, this award is not a monetary reward.

The nominees for the Alternativa Film Awards are carefully selected through the discerning judgment of independent experts and are curated by a committee comprised of festival and cultural center curators, film critics, directors, producers, and cultural journalists from Central Asia and other Asian nations. A staggering 350 films from 25 countries were submitted for consideration in this prestigious competition.

Gulnara Abikeeva, a member of the Alternativa Film Awards selection committee, said that the selected films are, in a sense, an alternative to the cinema mainly shown in movie theaters across Central Asia. “These films prompt us to contemplate, sparking thoughts on social issues and urging us to reconsider our perspectives on reality. In essence, they are transformative, profoundly impacting our lives. We term this phenomenon ‘social impact,’ affecting individuals, society at large, and each of us personally. Themes such as human rights, the transformative power of individuals in shaping reality, challenges related to migration, gender equality, and broader civilizational issues are all vividly portrayed in these works,” she said.

Abikeeva believes that the selection was a success. She noted that this is evidenced not only by the number of applications but also by the quality of the films submitted, which shows that the award is necessary.

Snapshot from a movie “Sary-omir” by Rustem Dastanuly (Kazakhstan). Photo credit: the Alternativa Film Project’s press service.

Lisa Surganova, the head of the Alternativa Film Project, highlighted its significant achievement in garnering applications from 25 countries during its inaugural year. This accomplishment not only bolstered the project’s international standing but also underscored its commitment to nurturing Central Asian cinema.

“Over half of the featured films shortlisted ultimately hail from the focal region. It is particularly noteworthy that there was significant enthusiasm for the award in Kazakhstan, the birthplace and hub of our project. Impressively, out of the 148 films submitted from Kazakhstan, five secured a spot on the shortlist. We hope that our international project will grow and help bring more attention to local talent and give them more growth opportunities,” said Surganova.

The award winners will be determined by an independent international jury comprising filmmakers from Asia and Europe, as well as representatives of public organizations. Filipino film director and Cannes Film Festival winner Brillante Mendoza will head this year’s jury. 

He will be joined by filmmakers Gita Saedi Kili, Udaya Prasanna Vithanage, Rintu Thomas, as well as film producer Bayan Alaguzova, journalist Vyacheslav Abramov, Kyrgyz director Ruslan Akun, Uzbek photographer Umida Akhmedova and Illustrator and stop-motion animation filmmaker Ania Chubinidze. 

The awards selection committee included eight feature films and six documentaries in the list of feature-length finalists. Among them are “Bauyryna Salu” (Parenting) by Askhat Kuchinchirekov (Kazakhstan), “Kidnapping of the Bride” by Mirlan Abdykalykov (the Kyrgyz Republic), “Prisoner of Vakhan” by Zhanyl Zhusupzhan (the Kyrgyz Republic), “100% Cotton” by Mikhail Borodin (Uzbekistan), and “Qoryqpa” (Do not be afraid) by Katerina Suvorova (Kazakhstan).

The list also features “Sunday” by Shokir Kholikov (Uzbekistan), “Tul” (Orphan) by Sharipa Urazbayeva (Kazakhstan), “Who’s Next?” by Nurzhamal Karamoldoeva and Sultana Usuvalieva (Kyrgyzstan), “12 Weeks” by Anna Isabel Matutina (Philippines), “Childless Village” by Reza Jamali (Iran), “Haeil” by Yoojeong No, Eun Lee, Dabin Ahn and Soyeon Kim (South Korea), and “Son of Joseph” by Haobam Paban Kumar (India), among others.

The shortlist of short films from Central Asia included seven films: “What the Birds Sing About” by Tolomush Zhanybekov (the Kyrgyz Republic), “The Stone Bride” by Guzeli Duishenkulova (Kyrgyzstan), “Bazaar” by Tomiris Orozoeva (the Kyrgyz Republic), “Fairy Tale” by Kamila Rustambekova (Uzbekistan), “Sary-omir” by Rustem Dastanuly (Kazakhstan), “Son of His Father” by Dastan Madalbekov (the Kyrgyz Republic) and “Late Wind” by Shugyly Serzhan (Kazakhstan).

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