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Central Asia

©GULNARA ABIKEEVA

REVIEW

Rovayat (Legend)

A film-parable. At the seaside a father gathers together his seven sons and one daughter. The father breaks a sword and makes his sons to take an oath that they will never fight. The father demands that the sons will stop a war and settle down for a peaceful life. At the place, where a river widens its stream, the family establishes its house. The father assigns to everybody an occupation. All the sons want to be hunters because they don’t have any other craft. The father chooses one son to plant wheat, another one to domesticate wild sheep, another one to make shoes, another one to tailor clothing, his daughter to cook for the family, two sons to help him with house construction and only one to hunt and fish. Their life soon becomes stabilized. A ruler of a nomadic tribe appears. He is torturing his nomadic people by making them move from one place to another in the search of the mythical mountain of the world. The nomads themselves suffer greatly and destroy the life of the family – one by one they kill all the members.

During Soviet times filmmakers spoke the language of Isopods (???) – nothing was conveyed directly, but everybody understood about whom and about what a film was made. During independence, the filmmakers of those Central Asian Republics, where totalitarian regime took place – primarily Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, returned to the allegorical films: parables and legends. One of these pictures is Rovayat ("Legend" in Turkmen) by Kerim Annanov.

The film director created his film with the most basic archetypes: the image of the World Mountain as the house of God, the ocean as the original chaos, the earth as the proto-nature, the family as the proto-family, etc. For example, the father of the seven sons and one daughter is the proto-father, the original father who is represented as a cultural hero. As well as the first emperor of China named Huan Di was supposed to assign the key roles to his people, the father orders his sons become men of peaceful occupation: craftsman, farmer, etc. And only one of them is allowed to remain in the primitive trade of hunting. The proto-father represents the original order of life. A nomadic tribe is put to contrast with this family. The nomads represent the chaotic existence. A cruel ruled commands the nomads. He forces people to wonder in the desert for many years in the search of the World Mountain. The film demonstrates that the people of the nomadic tribe are exhausted and desire to settle down for a peaceful and productive life instead of searching for a mythical happiness. The ruler of the nomadic tribe represents the original evil.

One can easily see, that legends of various cultures are mixed in the film Rovoyat. The main theme of these legends is the transition from wild to cultured – the origin of the civilization. The film is an artificial construction of a myth. The implications are pretty transparent and the only question that remains: Why did the author of the film choose this style of storytelling?

Frederic Jameson, a theoretic of third world literature, writes: "The Third World text – even those which are seemingly private and invested with libidinal dynamics – is necessarily a project with a political dimension in the form of national allegory: the story of a private individual destiny is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third world culture and society."

Why did the filmmakers returned to the beginning of the beginning, to the zero point? Why did they decide to tell the story on the basic category level: good versus evil; create verses destroy? Obviously, the filmmakers walked a fine line of oversimplification and even primitivism. But this is what the film about – the primitive fallback of the society to the feudal epoch from the current times of computers and space exploration – what a horrifying tendency! This is comes from the category of things that are impossible to accept or even comprehend. As well as it is impossible to accept that the whole family (translate as "the entire nation") gets destroyed. There is no hope left for survival.

The answer is the existence of the so-called consolidating idea, which forces the entire country to waist all of its time and energy in a chimerical pursuit. In our history we already experienced "the building of the enlightened future for all" and "the opposing to the enemy of people". In the film it is the search for the World Mountain. Moreover, everybody is obligated to look for it under the rule of a single person.

This is the national allegory of modern Turkmenistan.

Rovayat (Legend)

Turkmenistan, 1999, 90 minutes, color

Director: Kerim Annanov

 

Awards and Participation in Film Festivals:

Award for the Best Artistic Vision at the Kinoshok Film Festival in Anapa, 1999

 


Gulnara Abikeeva, 2003

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