Kazakh director of award-winning film 'shocked' by fine from Russian state backer

By Kanat Altynbayev


The official film poster for the Kazakh film 'Ayka', which tells the story of a Kyrgyz woman working in Moscow. The movie is based on a statistic from 2010: migrant workers from Kyrgyzstan left behind 248 babies in Moscow maternity wards that year. [Kazakh Embassy in Belgium]

ALMATY -- An acclaimed Kazakh filmmaker said he is "in shock" after a Russian state agency that backed his award-winning movie demanded he reimburse a portion of its funding.

The agency faulted him for releasing the film later than planned.

The Cinema Foundation of Russia (CFR), a government agency focused on financing films made in Russia, demanded that Kazakh director Sergey Dvortsevoy pay €100,000 ($110,000) for releasing his film "Ayka" four years later than the planned deadline, AFP reported January 20.

The filmmakers received 28 million RUB ($454,600) from the CFR, just over a quarter of its budget, AFP said.


Samal Yeslyamova, who stars in 'Ayka', talks to audience members at a screening of the film in Brussels last May 2. [Kazakh Embassy in Belgium]

Dvortsevoy contends that the film was delayed by a lack of natural snow for the movie's winter scenes. The film's "quasi-documentary style does not allow the use of fake snow", he told AFP.

"I'm in shock; this is auteur cinema, and our receipts can't cover such a huge fine," he said.

"Ayka" is a low-budget drama by Dvortsevoy about a Kyrgyz woman who is a migrant worker in Moscow.

In the film, she struggles to survive in Russia and is forced to abandon her newly born child at the hospital but then later seeks to find him again.

The film is based on the statistic that migrant workers from Kyrgyzstan left behind 248 babies in Moscow maternity wards in 2010, AFP said.

Awarded at Cannes

"Ayka" stars Samal Yeslyamova, a Kazakh who won the Palme d'Or for best actress at the 71st Cannes International Film Festival in 2018.

Dvortsevoy, who hails from Shymkent, directed "Tulpan", which clinched the Un Certain Regard Prize at Cannes, along with nine top prizes at international film festivals worldwide.

"Ayka" was the first film he produced.

The movie was not widely distributed in Russia. Slightly more than 8,000 viewers attended screenings, while ticket sales brought in about $39,000, AFP reported, citing official statistics.

Representatives of Kazakhstan's film industry expressed bewilderment at the fine.

Mukhtar Janabai, a former technical director at Sataifilm, a leading Kazakh film studio, said that he is not aware of a similar case in Kazakhstan where a foundation that financed a film demanded a refund.

"When you're making films, you run up against many cases of force majeure that can push back the release date. It's common," Janabay said.

Executives in the Russian film industry are intentionally putting pressure on the creators of a Central Asian film because the movie has won success on the world stage, said Almaty film critic Nurtay Albayev.

"They view professionals from Central Asia as upstarts, and ... they don't like when natives of the region, which the Russians consider their 'backyard', thrive at something," Albayev said.

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There's chauvinism in Russia.


That's too funny for words! Now a movie with a budget of more than two million dollars is officially called low-budget... Four years, Carl! That would be unforgivable anywhere... Yet he is shocked )))


Those who did it have a weak, envious and dirty soul. Give them the money back, let them choke on it. A real talent is immeasurable and, of course, has no price tag. And any Western film festival is a political arena; be careful there.


That is a purely Russian mess and lawlessness


Racism and Nazism are flourishing in Russia nowadays in all their glory