SPECIAL:

Central Asia

©GULNARA ABIKEEVA

REVIEW

Siz Kim Siz?

An eccentric comedy. It is the story of three buffoons traveling through the countryside during cotton-picking season. Two of them have fun and hope to reach their destination without any problems until they get into an argument with a highway policeman. As a result, they wind up at the police station. The third one finds them there. The three friends spend night in a cell in the police station. In the morning they are released and continue on their journey in search of new adventures.

The year of 1989. The film Siz Kim Siz? hits the screens right after The Needle by Rashid Nugmanov, Three by Bakhit Kelibayev and Alexander Baranov and The Final Stop by Serik Aprimov. The two years later, Bro by Bakhtiyar Khudoinazarov would be released and one could say confidently that the new wave cover the entire Central Asia.

One explanation is subjective: all the film directors graduated from VGIK at approximately the same time. Another is an objective factor of the period: a new generation arose and felt the approaching collapse of the system of the Soviet Union.

If one tries to retell the plot of Siz Kim Siz? it would sound like an anecdote. An energetic young man, Tima, passes himself off as a reflex-therapy doctor treating the students of the Physical Education Institute during their obligatory student seasonal work – cotton picking. Tima hitches a ride from Uchkumbek, who is either a real instructor at the Polytechnic Institute or a KGB undercover agent overlooking the student cotton picking, which is of government importance. The travelers soon become buddies and hope to get to "Department 17", but they never fully discuss the department of a hospital or police station. They pass a track full of the Soviet boy scouts called pioneers – the children are too in a hurry to participate in the cotton picking. Pausing at a stop sign, the travelers steal a watermelon from a farmer, just for fun. Driving away, one of them drops the watermelon in a window of the car. They stop at the middle of the empty road and savor the cracked-open watermelon. They get into an argument with a traffic policeman and he arrests them. At the police station, their friend Yura, a bookkeeper, finds them. They spend an absurd night, locked up in a cell. In the morning, the policemen return Uchkumbek’s KGB identification card and release the three men. The three buddies continue their journey.

In this film there is the same level of absurdity and ridiculousness as in The Final Stop by Serik Aprimov. Both pictures were forbidden to be screened in Uzbekistan. One may ask: "What was so frightening about this light comedy?"

The frightening element for the government was that we could see the unconcealed, real life of the Uzbek provinces – the dirty roads, the high fences concealing a sad existence, the cotton fields contaminated with chemicals, the cotton storehouses looking like toilets. The close-ups of seemingly accidental Communist portraits, slogans, posters, etc. with a sound track of a Muslim prayer, the headlines of the newspapers covering the walls of the police station – all of it gives a metaphorical quality to the whole film.

Tatyana Moskvina wrote in the Riga magazine "Kino": "The filmmakers turn the stereotypes of the Soviet system inside out, and by doing so, they expose the meaninglessness of it. The soulless, miserable people emerge from the darkness of the ethnic province, like ghosts. This is why the act of taking away an ID card looks like a tragedy. Who is he going to be without an ID?"

These images of ruin and decay: provinces, outskirts of the city, backyards of factories – migrated from the previous work of the film director Jahangir Faziyev, his VGIK short film Kyadya, The Soup Made From Dog. The short contained images of wondering vagabonds, smoking factory pipes and piles of garbage. The final irony of the disintegrating Soviet system was the scene when the vagabonds have supper right on the street, celebrating the anniversary of the October Revolution.

In Siz Kim Siz? an Uzbek, a Russian and a Jew are thrown together by chance. They are not winners but they are not losers – just simple little wheels of the giant machine.

This satirical parody and farce was created when the system formally existed. Tatiana Moskvina continued in her article: "By stripping down the pseudo-heroic and falsely-pompous content of our life, the filmmakers bared the truth of the disorder and the chaos – the image of nonexistence and death. The spiritual death that arrived just ahead of the physical one…"

Jahangir Faziyev, Serik Aprimov, Rashid Nugmanov, Bakhit Kelibayev and Alexander Baranov are the film directors who predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union way before its time. It is interesting to note that films like Siz Kim Siz? were not made in Moscow, the cultural center, but in the outskirts of the empire. Maybe it happened because the political control was looser, or maybe because one can see better from a distance.

Siz Kim Siz?

USSR, 1989, 87 minutes, color

Director: Jahangir Faiziyev

Screenwriters: Yuri Dashevski and Jahangir Faziyev

Cinematographer Hamidulla Hasanov

Music by: Dmitri Yanov-Yanovski

Cast: Bakhtiyar Zakirov, Elier Nasirov, Tulkun Tadzhiyev, Zakir Muminov, Bakhrom Matchanov

ETMO "Studio -5" with participation of SK Uzbekistan, Uzbekfilm Studio and VGIK

 

Awards and Film Festivals

Award for Film Directing at the Debut Film Festival in Moscow, 1990

The Zarechni Film Festival, 1990

The Molodost’ Film Festival in Kiev, 1989


Gulnara Abikeeva, 2003

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