Central Asia



The Little Fish In Love

An impressionistic melodrama. Zhaken, a young suburban man, sells his cow and decides to move to the city. In the city he meets his brother, falls in love with a girl but spends a night with another one. After several days in Alma-Ata and series of adventures, Zhaken decides to return back to his suburban life.

World cinema has many examples of the city as the subject of a narrative film. The city of Alma-Ata, the cultural and political center of Kazakhstan, becomes one of the characters in the film The Little Fish in Love. It is interesting to note that in the film the city of Alma-Ata is not a Soviet city already. It looks like Paris or any other European city – full of lights and nightlife, handsome and joyful faces, none of the Soviet symbols – and the most important it is very multicultural. The black musician Assan, the European girl Natasha, the Kazakh Zhaken and others harmoniously co-exist in this multiethnic city. The characters live and enjoy life in the city, like the characters of the films of Truffau, Godard and Lelouch. The city is endless, constantly changing and open to the world. This image of "another Alma-Ata" is a metaphor for the already transforming Soviet mentality, which was very rigid and closed to any foreign influence.

The city represents the central theme of space; and the film director presents it as the characters’ unity of their intimate "inner"-space (house, apartment) and their common "outer"-space (the city landscape, swimming pools, restaurants, offices, etc.) This image of the city changes the stereotype of a Soviet city.

The Alma-Ata of the film director Abay Karpikov is very permeable. It is expressed in the relationships between various landscapes and between different spaces – the desert and the water reservoir of Zhaken’s suburban town; the tremendous and interconnected city interiors; the snow mountains, where the character of the music composer suffers a car accident; etc. The connection between the inner-space and outer-space is sometimes demonstrated too obviously. In one scene the characters break into an apartment through a window. At the same time a streetcar passes by. The streetcar’s interior is brightly lit with yellow light and contrasted against the dark blue color of the night city. The viewer sees the streetcar come to a stop, while the young people are climbing in the apartment. In the next shot, seen through the apartment window, the streetcar continues its journey. The movement outside and inside is united. One space melts into another one. There are no borders; there are no limits; there are no prohibitions.

The people living in this Alma-Ata are free and easygoing – a minister who seems to be too young for his position; a suburban young man idly wandering the streets;

a beautiful, aging brunette flirting with Zhaken; a blossoming young blond girl spending a night with Zhaken; a composer and his amputee friend, a black musician; a group of street photographers, and many other bizarre characters. They suddenly appear and suddenly disappear and suddenly appear again. It seems that their life is flowing in accordance with a dream-like logic. It is interesting to note that the working title of the film was Dreaming On The Way.

Kazakhstan is a country on the crossroads of many cultures and civilizations. Even geographically we are between Europe and Asia. During the seventy years of its reign, Soviet influence couldn’t destroy our sense of space and mobility: not only physical but also intellectual. Much earlier than their Russian colleagues, the film directors of the Kazakh new wave felt the collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the new era – the period of open borders and cultural exchange. The Little Fish in Love is a very symbolic film, along with The Needle by Rashid Nugmanov and The Final Stop by Serik Aprimov, marking the new era.

The Little Fish in Love

Kazakhstan, 1989, 84 minutes, color

Director: Abay Karpikov

Screenwriters: Boris Ryakhovski and Abay Karpikov

Cinematographer: Georgi Gidt

Production Designers: Alim Sabitov, Alexei Rosenberg and Alexei Zolotukhin

Music by: Igor Kefalidi

Cast: Bopesh Zhandayev, Galina Shatenova, Natalia Novikova, Sattar Dikambayev, Assan Kuyate, Ablay Karpikov


Participation in Film Festivals:

The Tbilisi Film Festival, 1990

The New York Film Festival, 1990 


Gulnara Abikeeva, 2003

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