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Central Asia

©GULNARA ABIKEEVA

REVIEW

Beket (Bus Stop)

A short film. Winter. Four people are waiting at a bus stop for a bus: a man, a woman, an old man and a boy. A drunk approaches them. First he starts to harass the woman, then the boy, and finally he sits down next to the old man. The old man pulls out his pocket-watch with music to check the time. The drunk grabs the watch and throws it in a snow bank. Everybody else starts looking for it. The boy finds it – the incident is finished. Everybody returns to his place, waiting for a bus…

This short film Beket by Aktan Abdikalikov and Ernest Abdizhaparov received the Grand Prize at the Kinoshok Film Festival in Anapa (2000), in the short-film program. The board of film critics voted Beket the critics’ choice. What is the secret of this film?

"This strange and graphic film makes viewers break through the common cinematic space. We find ourselves in a different universe. It reminds me of The Prayer by Tengiz Abuladze in its black-and-white esthetics. Nevertheless, it is something extraordinary. Beket is a big discovery of the film festival," Irina Shilova, the Kinoshok press conferences mediator and a film critic, said.

Victor Matizen, a Novie Izvestiya newspaper journalist, wrote: "It is a little masterpiece. Several elements astounded me. First was the difference between the actual time and the viewer’s sense of time. The film runs 22 minutes, but we felt that the bus waiting lasted much longer. Second, the dialog serves purely as background noise. We cannot make out anything of the conversations, and even if we can it is the Kyrgyz language – at the same time everything is understandable. The film is effective without dialog and captions. Great work!"

Vida Johnson, a professor of Tufts University, USA, wrote: "When the film starts, one thinks, "How long is this static scene with people waiting for a bus going to last?" Then one becomes bored. But after a few minutes, one realizes that it is a brilliant film. The impression of the film depends on the stage one is in."

Beket starts with a long shot: a winter bus stop; an old man sits on a bench; a young man and a twelve year old boy stand around. In a way it is hard to recognize the age of the people. The shot is static and doesn’t move in on the faces. The picture is not very clear; the image looks like a shadow theater. After the viewer examines the image, polyphony of sounds plays – cars passing by; the old man coughing; the boy kicking a tin can. The man comes to the old man and asks something. The old man pulls out his pocket watch and pleasant music plays. The man kicks a tin can – cut to the next shot. A bus stops on the road but it’s a different bus, not the one they expected. In this shot the sound predominates over the picture. Then the attention of the viewer returns to the action again.

There are only two points of view in the film. One is the point of view of the filmmakers of the people at the bus stop. The other one is the point of view of the people at the bus stop, waiting for a bus.

If not for the hooligan action of the drunk throwing the watch away, the people would continue to idly stand by at the bus stop. However, the extended observation of the people gives an additional meaning to the scene.

The group of strangers looks like a family: the man and the woman are one generation; the old man is like a grandfather; the boy could’ve been their son. Any family has a fool and in this case it is the drunk. The role functions are clearly defined: everybody pays respect to the old man; the men look interested in the woman; the boy is under a certain protection; and even the drunk is taken care of despite of his disrespectful behavior – the woman picks him from the snow and everybody helps her to sit him up on the bench, so he won’t freeze to death. The Kyrgyz family is waiting for a bus…or the nation is waiting for change.

During the press conference for Beket, Ernest Abdizhaparov, one of the authors of the film, verified my conclusion: "In our film we wanted to show all of our country. The progress, the dynamic life, is represented by the noisy road. The action passes by and we just stand on a side of it and wait for something. Of course, there is a feeling of being stuck; in the film the bus doesn’t come and maybe never will. But the most important thing is that the people at the bus stop are all right and have each other. They preserved their humanity."

It is symbolic that the people at the bus stop are repeatedly asking about time and only the old man has a watch. The time of the bus stop is old fashioned – accompanied by pleasant music, and it is contrasted with the real time of the noisy highway. Nobody at the bus stop has a cell phone or steps out on the road and tries to hitchhike a ride, like the inhabitants of the remote village of Aksuat, a film by Serik Aprimov. At the bus stop, the people are inactive, still waiting for something. It is truly a Waiting for Godot. Absurdity is mixed with reality. The viewer arrives at a complex conclusion through a simple form.

The Kyrgyz filmmakers created a little philosophical parable in the language of cinema, using only two points of view and a few silent characters. The filmmakers of Dogma would sign their names to this film. Despite of scarcity of resources, this is a masterpiece portraying the country through a very specific real situation.

Beket (Bus Stop)

Kyrgyzstan, 2000, 22 minutes, black and white

Directed and Written by: Aktan Abdikalikov and Ernest Abdizhaparov

Cinematographer: Khasan Kadiraliyev

Cast: M. Maniyazov, E. Abdizhaparov, T. Avazova, E. Ebragimov, M. Abdikalikov

Producers: Aktan Abdikalikov and Ernest Abdizhaparov

Umay Studio

 

Awards and Participation in Film Festivals

The Grand Prize of the Kinoshok Film Festival of CIS and Baltic Countries, 2000

The Second Prize at the Kottabus Film Festival in Germany, 2001


Gulnara Abikeeva, 2003

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