The second annual Kazakh Film Festival took place on August 3 at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles, serving as a wise promotional tool in the expanding horizons of Kazakh culture and politics. Walking into the Film Fest, I had no idea what to expect.
As an American teen, I felt out of my element, thinking “what did I get myself into?” My knowledge of Kazakh culture was, at best, minimal; however, despite my lack of familiarity, I had been left with a warm impression during my few encounters with Kazakh people. After my initial hit with culture shock, I found myself drawn in by the cultural displays around me, from the people to the jewelry to the movie posters and the clothing. My eagerness to learn more about Kazakhstan, however, was further enhanced after the screening of the documentary, Dialogue from the Steppes, by American actor Armand Assante.
The short documentary emphasized the hospitability of the Kazakh people as well as their will to survive despite facing natural and political struggles, alluding to Stalin’s reign of terror and how Kazakhs welcomed political refugees that were transported to their country in the dead of winter, providing them with food and shelter. The film also portrayed Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has served as the nation’s leader since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, in a very positive light. In the documentary, we learn of Nazarbayev’s removal of the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal from the nation, as well as his peace initiatives, mission to rid the world of nuclear weapons and to promote tolerance. 10 minutes into the film, however, I couldn’t help but think of the documentary as a political promotion of sorts, attracting foreigners to the culture and country of Kazakhstan.
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