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Dispatches From the Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Tulpan (2008)

Zeitgeist Films

There are no cross-cultural faux pas involving a clueless newsman who aims to benefit his glorious nation, but the new Kazakh film “Tulpan” is every bit as amusing as “Borat.” Come to think of it, the two films make for a truly fascinating study in contrasts. “Borat,” a faux-Kazakh mockumentary made by Hollywood, was bodacious because of its Candid Camera-esque pranks. “Tulpan,” an authentic import from Kazakhstan, seems miraculous for all the impromptu appearances by Mother Nature herself that constantly upstage an otherwise droll tale about the romantic misadventures of recently discharged Navy serviceman and aspiring herder, Asa (Askhat Kuchinchirekov).

In Sergei Dvortsevoy’s Cannes 2008 Prix Un Certain Regard winner, the unforgiving steppe and the capricious cast of livestock play such huge parts that the film naturally invites comparisons to “The Story of the Weeping Camel.” Although it does seem unfair to categorize “Tulpan” as ethnography, because its central story alone is absorbing and it does not typify a way of life as “Weeping Camel” or “Nanook of the North” did. All those tornadoes, mischievous kids, live sheep births and mating donkeys accidentally caught on film only make “Tulpan” more wondrous to behold. The livestock cast is so especially amazing that two attendees of the New York Film Festival wondered why there was no animal wrangler among the film’s end credits. Indeed, life on Earth is so magical that it requires no special effects.


Opens on April 1 in New York and on Nov. 13 in Britain.

Directed by Sergey Dvortsevoy; written by Mr. Dvortsevoy and Gennady Ostrovskiy; director of photography, Jola Dylewska; edited by Isabel Meier and Petar Markovic; production designer, Roger Martin; produced by Pandora Film (Germany) and Karl Baumgartner; released by Zeitgeist Films (United States) and New Wave Films (Britain). In Kazakh and Russian, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. This film is not rated by M.P.A.A. and rated 12A by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Askhat Kuchinchirekov (Asa), Samal Yeslyamova (Samal), Ondasyn Besikbasov (Ondas) and Tulepbergen Baisakalov (Boni).


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