Presented by Media Resource Centre and Adelaide Festival Centre
Sulieman Mountain is a potently comic, gritty, gripping cinematic metaphor exploring experiences of profound dislocation between authentic local Kyrgyzstan culture and overbearing demands of modern globalism.
Taking the road film genre as a foundation, Director Elizaveta Stishova offers the tale of estranged couple mystic shaman con artist Zhipara and charming, shambolic boozy ex husband Karabas who reunite on finding their lost son Uluk. Karabas’ second wife Turganbu joins them.
Stishova’s screenplay is a captivating blend of old communist Russian influences, infused with resilient Muslim Kyrgyzstan religious practices, played on perfectly by the conning couple in a world that despite all these past things, is now fiercely capitalist.
Their long journey in a battered East German house truck is complicated by one overhanging complication. Uluk himself. Karabas doubts Uluk really is his son. Uluk needs the father he barely remembers. Zhipara loves the child deeply, despite suspicion hinted at he’s not hers, while Turganbu, deeply suspicious, jealously wants him gone given she is pregnant with Karabas’ child.
Uluk himself proves the uniting pivot to film, along with the sacred mountains the journey focuses on. The innocent child, seen as a foundation and promise of certainty, identity by adults of lesser values longs for the same from the adults. All these rely, in sentiment or deep belief, on Sulieman Mountain for hope and certainty.
Cinematographer Tudor Vladimir Panduru uses a number of techniques not seen much in late 20th Century cinema, particularly soft focus shots of Uluk which provide perfect poetic symbolic value to Uluk’s sadness in his new found situation, reflecting on the world of the film as a whole. Panduru’s overall lightly out of kilter framing, raw, earthy use of light and subtle use of panning shots creates the perfect atmosphere and tension to support the screenplay.
The cast are uniformly brilliant, most especially Daniel Daiyrbekov as Uluk. A brilliant performance in execution, perfectly in tune with giving up the deeper layers of this excellent directorial debut by Stishova.
Reviewed by David O’Brien
Rating: 9 stars out of 10