Films & Schedules
  • Kelin

  • Ermek Tursunov

Country: Kazakhstan
No dialogue
84 minutes

Friday September 1101:30PM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4 Buy Now
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Unlike the modest Kazakhstani productions doing festival rounds in the past few years (such as Renaissance Island, Ulzhanand Tulpan), Kelindoesn't just fall back on tradition – it exploits it to maximum rock-star effect.

Looking like a cross between a goth goddess and a fairy-tale queen, Kelin (Gulsharat Zhubayeva) is about to be married. High in the Altai Mountains, her father bargains with two suitors who are each vying for her hand. Unfortunately, her true love, Mergyen (Kuandyk Kystykbaev), loses out to the richer bachelor, Baktashi (Erzhan Nurymbet). Before losing the competition, however, Mergyen takes a blood oath to eventually claim Kelin for his own. In this prehistoric time, women are a valuable commodity; Kelin is the most precious thing in their community, and the most beautiful.

Kelin is delivered to her new husband's family home, a leather-bound tent inhabited by his ancient mother, Ene (Turakhan Sadykova), and his pixie-like brother Kaini (Nurzhan Turganbaev). The young wife soon abandons herself to her husband's caresses, and learns that married life – even to someone you didn't actually choose – has its rewards. Mesmerized by the power of her own sexuality, she comes to enjoy the nightly routine, and smiles through her day – at least until her old beau, Mergyen, comes back into her life.

Kelin's story is as old as the hills and as wild as the ocean. It's a tale of love, betrayal, battle and victory, set in a sprawling, icy landscape ruled by spirit gods and the forces of nature. Relying solely on imagery to relay his message, director Ermek Tursunov abandons language and substitutes texture. The only verbalizations are battle cries and wails, but once the damage is done, there is only silence.

The characters in Kelin are neither mean nor virtuous, neither right nor wrong – they are merely determined. Tursunov's set pieces are central to the film's logic, and Kelin dominates each scene with an easy grace. She is the family asset, the jewel in their crown, and they're all willing to fight to keep her there. That is, unless she decides otherwise.

Dimitri Eipides

Ermek Tursunov has worked as a journalist, editor-in-chief and television producer. He has written numerous screenplays, including Kurak Korpe (07), Blizhniy Boy (07), Mustafa Shokay (07) and Tsvetochnyk (09). Kelin (09) is his directorial debut.

Cadillac People's Choice Award