SPECIAL:

Central Asia

©GULNARA ABIKEEVA

REVIEW

Flight of the Bee

A wealthy rais (a head of local administration in Tadzhikistan) builds his toilet right next to the house of a teacher in the village. "The aromas" of the toilet disturb the life of the teacherís family; it is very upsetting for them. But the rais is also a new Tadzhik ("new money") and ignores the complaints. Moreover, every time he visits the toilet, he shamelessly stares at the teacherís young wife over the fence. However, the power of the rais is so great that nobody dares to oppose him. The teacher buys cheaply a home right in front of the raisís house from an old man and decides to build a public toilet there. He digs a hole for days and when it is deep enough a miracle occurs Ė the hole becomes a well so necessary for the village.

It seems that the era of fairytales and legends has vanished and it is not possible to make film-parables. However, Jamshed Usmonov creates film-parables. In every one of his films there is a character telling a legend that turns the meaning of the film all around. In The Well it is a legend about an old Chinese wise man; in Angel on the Right Shoulder it is a story about guardian angels; in Flight of the Bee it is a tale about a bee, which saved the life of an army:

"Once upon a time it was a custom to kill old people who reached a certain age. But one of the soldiers of Alexander the Great didnít have the heart to kill his father. He hid him in his traveling trunk and carried it on his back during marches. The army came to a desert and the warriors started to die from thirst. Nobody knew how to find water. The father said to his son: "Catch a bee, tie a white thread to its leg and follow it. It will take you to water." They found water and the army was saved. After that old people were spared because everybody recognized them as a source of wisdom." The village teacher tells this story to his students at the beginning of the film.

However, the teacherís wisdom and dignified behavior disappears when he gets a smelly toilet next to his house. His life turns around because of his silent war with the rais. He quits the school and all day long digs a hole for a public toilet in front of the raisís windows. The hole is deep enough but not for the teacher. He wants the hole be deeper and his revenge greater. The parallel between the legend and the film plot appears unexpectedly. The old man, from whom the teacher buys the house, moves in with the teacherís family. Gradually, the old man brings positive changes into the teacherís house. He wakes up the teacherís son for morning prayers, prepares fruit trees for winter; etc. The wife buys flour for baking at the mill, not at the store, because of the old man. Their life because more harmonious and organic; and as the quintessence of these changes a miracle takes place Ė a hole for waste turns into a prosperous well. The only thing to add Ė it is all in the hands of Allah!

It is interesting to note how in the film Flight of the Bee different mentalities intermingled and co-existed. The old man is a bright example of the traditional and religious mentality: he is wise and tuned into nature; everybody respects him as an elder; in return he shares his wisdom with his surrogate grandson Ė the teacherís son Ė and teaches him rituals and traditions. The teacher is typical of the Soviet intelligentsia: he writes books that nobody publishes; he looks for justice from the government that has never been fair to him. The surroundings of the village are still Soviet: the rais has Leninís portrait in his office; young people are idle and drunk as they always were during the Soviet era. The new capitalists, the new Tadzhiks in the village, do not wear designer jackets and do not talk on cell phones. The new money is presented in the character of the rais. It has almost a feudal quality; it is the power of a local lord.

Jamshed Usmonov says that his film is based on a true story that happened to his great-grandfather one century ago. "At the beginning I wanted to make my main character a perfumer. But after viewing a film by Abbas Kiarostami named "Where My Friendís House Is" I realized that my protagonist should be a schoolteacher. If my protagonist is a perfumer, it is just funny. If my hero is a schoolteacher, a writer, it is from the area of profundity. If one places a toilet in an inconvenient place, it is just a hooliganís action. If one is to shamelessly stare at somebodyís wife, it is an insult, etc."

Jamshed Usmonov has a unique talent to balance the funny and serious, the simple and complicated. He, like nobody else, senses this border, where a simple story turns into a parable and film characters stand out as archetypes of different periods set together in the gap of times.

Flight of the Bee

Tadzhikistan/South Korea

1998, 90 minutes, color

Directors: Jamshed Usmonov and Min Bong Hun

Script by: Jamshed Usmonov

Cinematographer: Min Bong Hun

Production Designer: Svetlana Kidratova

Music by: Satyadzhit Rey

Cast: Mukhamed Shodi, Nastura Orti, Pakhreddin

 

Awards and Participations in Film Festivals:

Award of the Jury at the Kinoshok Film Festival, Anapa, 1998

Competition program at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, 1998


Gulnara Abikeeva, 2003

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