Films & Schedules

  • Native Dancer

  • Guka Omarova

Kazakhstan/Russia/France/ Germany
Russian, Kazakh
87 minutes

Production Company:
CTB Film Company/Studio Kazakhfilm/Les Petites Lumières/Kinofabrika GmbH
Executive Producer:
Saule Kagarova
Sergei Bodrov, Sergey Selyanov, Sergey Azimov, Natacha Devillers
Guka Omarova, Sergei Bodrov
Production Designer:
Menlibaeva Almagul
Rafeek Galev
Darya Danilova
Olivier Dandre
Principal Cast: Nesipkul Omarbekova, Farkhat Amankulov, Tolepbergen Baisakalov, Almat Ayanov, Asel Abutova

International Sales Agent:
Fortissimo Films

Friday September 0507:30PM VARSITY 1 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Monday September 0802:15PM AMC 5 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Friday September 1211:30AM VARSITY 1 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Guka Omarova's fiery new feature sets witchcraft and the mob against each other on the dusty plains of Kazakhstan. Aidai (Nesipkul Omarbekova) is an elderly spiritual healer, a “Kazakh Baksy” who has the power to find a person's lost soul, heal the crippled and locate stolen cattle. For years, Aidai has been serving her local Kazakh community and living off the land of a rich businessman, Batyr (Farkhat Amankulov), who feels indebted to her because she helped his wife to conceive.

When local gangsters decide that Batyr's land would be a prime location for a petrol station and a motel, Aidai puts up a fight, as the land is what connects her to her spiritual powers. Ignoring threats from the gangsters, Batyr goes away on vacation, but when he returns Aidai has disappeared and his land has been excavated. He is furious, so when the petrol station burns down in a freak accident, it seems like just revenge – until his son is kidnapped. Devastated and at a loss, Batyr goes looking for Aidai's help.

Co-written and produced by the great Russian director Sergei Bodrov (Mongol), Native Dancer evokes the mysticism of fantasy and the thrills of a gangster film. Featuring strong, naturalistic performances, especially from Omarbekova (a real-life witch doctor), Native Dancer recalls the earthy visual style of Omarova's last film, Schizo, which played at the Festival in 2004. But with its hybridized genres, Native Dancer is far more epic in its scope.

In this highly accomplished work, Omarova has crafted a captivating story that astutely highlights the clash between old Kazakh customs and the new Kazakhstan. Aida Begic's Snow, also playing at the Festival this year, touches on similar issues. As capitalist forces begin to encroach on tradition, the first casualty is often a culture's most fundamental inheritance – land.

Dimitri Eipides

Guka Omarova was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and studied journalism at the University of the Republic of Kazakhstan and documentary production at the Institute of Cinema and Theatre, Almaty. She directed the short film That Heart of Mine (98) and the short documentary Captain Kat (98). Her feature films are Schizo (04), which screened at the Festival, and Native Dancer (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award