New Hero as a Political Project: Raising the Patriotism (Results of a Focus Group Study)
Zhuldyz Bekbergenovna Galimzhanova*
Social Sciences Faculty, Department of Sociology, Eurasian National University named after L.N. Gumilev, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan
- Corresponding Author:
- Galimzhanova ZB
Social Sciences Faculty, Department of Sociology
Eurasian National University named after L.N.
Republic of Kazakhstan, 010008, Astana
Yanushkevich Str.6, Educational Building #4, Kazakhstan
Tel: +7 717 235 9120
Received date: March 19, 2016; Accepted date: March 29, 2016; Published date: April 06, 2016
Copyright: ©2016 Galimzhanova ZB. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
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Global Media Journal
In present article we analyzed film characters of the modern commercially successful Kazakhstani films. Those images created by the film directors, which find a response from the viewers and which are coherent with the domestic policy agenda, develop the identity through the propaganda of new values and aims. Analysis and interpretation of the discourses raised in the films would help analyzing the process of development and legitimation of Kazakh identity. The focus group method, as a form of group interview, allows revealing interests, values, conscious and subconscious affirmations of the society. Using focus groups in studying the identity development process allows disclosing various opinions during the film discussion in group dynamics.
Film character; Values; Tradition; Identity
Being the most modern, mobile and popular form of art, the
cinema reflects the processes, which happen in the society,
and actively contributes to the development of moral values,
behavior stereotypes, cultural and national identity of the
country citizens. National identity represents not only in the
historical films, but also in the films about the present and
future, because they also appeal to the ethnic and cultural
values of a nation. While creating the images of his characters,
a film director chooses the reality fragments, wraps them into
his representations, fantasies and ideas, thus giving them a
shape by cinematic and social stereotypes. A character in the
Kazakhstani cinema is male in most of the cases. For
Kazakhstan, as for a young country, the process of identity
development through multiplying the image of a strong
character becomes one of the main leverages of influencing
the mass conscience. A film character is an independent,
noble, self-confident and lonely man, who builds his life in
accordance with the honor code and who is ready and capable
to protect the weak character. He opposes the injustice of the
social system by himself or with devoted friends. His life is an
Odyssey full of adventures, danger, fight and victories. A woman is connected to this man through romantic
relationships; she is excluded from his world as a partner .
The state and the society as a whole need such heroes, who
are able to be a support and who can become the examples of
true masculine strong qualities.
Which messages do the characters bring to their spectators?
Which values and ideas do they provoke in the minds and
hearts of the Kazakhstani people?
Analysis of the film images will be conducted among the
most commercially successful films of the 2000s. The choice of
this film-making timeframe is explained by the fact that after
gaining the independence modern Kazakhstani film industry
had to make the way of a rebirth, which mainly happened with
the support from the state. “Kazakhfilm” corporation
produced approximately 100 films of various genres since the
moment of gaining independence. Films “Racketeer”, “The Old
man” and “Myn bala”, which were selected for the analysis,
were produced with the participation of the “Kazakhfilm”
studio, as well as independently by a private cinema company
“Satai film”. The image of a protagonist in the three films may
be attributed to three age groups: young homeland defender
Sartay, Sayan, who departed from the law, and a relatively oldaged
We conducted focus groups for each of the proposed films.
We would like to point out the specific characteristics of each
focus group, which were deliberately selected during the
preparation of the material for the analysis. First of all, two
focus groups were conducted in Astana and one in Almaty.
Focus group on the “Racketeer” film
Selection of the focus groups participants was defined by
three main characteristics: age, place of residence and
language of communication. Participants of the focus groups
on the “Racketeer” film were 9 people (3 females, 6 males).
There were 25 to 30 years old, socially active and financially
independent residents of the capital, and therefore, they were
the carriers and the receivers of the most up-to-date and
popular ideas and products. The majority of Kazakhstani films
are released in Russian language and the percentage of Russian-speaking citizens is still significant. According to the
data of the population census in 2009, the most common
language in Kazakhstan is Russian: 94.4% of the country
population stated that they understand spoken Russian, 84.4%
are able to read and write in Russian and 3.4% can only read
. Moreover, we would like to note that the film was released
in 2007. “Racketeer” by Akhan Sataev became the first
commercially successful and paid off film in the modern
Kazakhstani cinema . It is a biography of a young man Sayan
Bekkarimov, who comments the events from the first person
perspective throughout the whole film. The film describes the
activity of people on the other side of the law and the rakish
ways of getting money in the 90s. The “Racketeer” presents
interest to us in many ways for sociologic analysis of the
cinematic representation of masculinity. Firstly, the main
characters here are men, who are set in the conventionallytypical
masculine situations related to violence, overcoming
obstacles, conquering sexuality, achievements and fight for the
leadership. Secondly, the action develops in strictly shaped and
easily recognized space- and time-frames, which allows
analyzing the masculinity image in certain social contexts. And
thirdly, the film is rich in dominant masculine stereotypes,
which allows classifying its image as certain symbolic
messages, aimed at the examples, which are established in the
Focus group on the “Myn bala” film
Participants of the focus group on the “Myn bala” film were
17 to 20 years old (3 females, 6 males). They grew up in the
years of independence and were the capital residents;
therefore, they were the carriers and the receivers of the most
up-to-date and popular ideas and products. The majority of
Kazakhstani films are released in Russian language and the
percentage of Russian-speaking citizens is still significant.
However, the Akhan Sataev’s film “Myn bala” was the first film,
which ran primarily in the Kazakh language . Moreover, the
plot of the film revolves around a group of young people,
whose age is approximately correspondent with the age of the
focus group participants. The main segments of 12-17 and
18-24 years old cover approximately 70% of the cinema
viewers flow, i.e. the representatives of the youth are the main
clients of Kazakhstani cinemas . In the patriotic context of
the youth mentoring the current most successful Kazakhstani
film is Akhan Sataev’s “Myn bala”. “Myn bala” film by Akhan
Sataev tells about historic events, which took place three
centuries ago. Despite the fact that the events, described in
the “Myn bala” film, took place in the Kazakhstan history and
the film culmination, “the battle of Akrakan”, is a historic fact,
it is obvious that the goal of the film is not a thorough
description of a historic fact, but rather a raise of interest
towards the history of Kazakh nation, national culture and
rituals. Such essence is common for the films of epic genre,
when the plot includes mythologizing history. As a part of the
modern culture, cinema reflects the significant challenges of
the time period. Hence, the “Myn bala” film, by telling about
the past, raises the questions of the present. By addressing the
“constant” problems of fathers and sons, friendship and envy, love and betrayal, the film touches upon a significant question
about the unification of Kazakh nation in the face of danger.
In this case the cinema is one of the most efficient tools for
translating the nationwide ideas. It a social-cultural
phenomenon of sorts that sets the models, according to which
the social reality is built in the XX-XXI centuries. The spectator
is inspired by the films plots and motives, learns the behavior
patterns, translated from the screens and reacts to the
political agenda developed by the cinema .
Focus group on “The Old man” film
Modern culture interacts with the antiquity. Through films
we can observe our attitude towards the ancient world and
our thoughts about the ancient world as such . Participants
of the focus group on “The Old man” film were 6 young people
25 to 35 years old (2 females, 4 males). As the residents of
Almaty, they certainly had to have the opportunity to express
their opinion on one of the main films of Kazakhstani cinema.
Almaty still has a separate place on the cultural map of the
country. Presentation of this film was set in the cinema club of
Oleg Boretskiy; he called the film “the reference point and the
beginning of reflectiveness: who are we and where do we
come from” . The choice of Ermek Tursunov’s “The Old
man” film is defined by its major recognition; on the XIII
festival “Choice of the year” in Almaty in 2012, “The Old man”
was called “The film of the year”, and the next year it was
awarded the grand-prix of the Kinoshok film festival. In 2014
the film made the long-list of the Academy awards in the “Best
foreign language film” nomination (E-center.asia). It became
the “national film”; the director combined the story of the
relationships of two generations, intertwining of a man and
the nature, village resident and city resident. The image of an
old man moves the plot of this film. Based on the E.
Hemingway’s novel “The Old Man and the Sea”, Ermek
Tursunov directed his own version of this story. This image is
very well-written and created by all rules of stage art. It has a
goal and obstacles, which he overcomes on the way to that
goal. A wrinkled old man, whose spirit is so strong that you
begin to forget his age.
The “Racketeer” film, 2007
The protagonist of the film is a young man, and the name of
the picture itself is his characteristic, because it contains
multiple connotations with the social paradigm of masculinity.
In the 90s racket had its own implicit honor code and implied
certain behavior models, which controlled the whole life
(social circle, type of occupation, relationships with women,
The beginning of the film describes the childhood of a
common Soviet boy, who grew up in a family of intelligent and
ordinary people. Growing up and searching for a place in the
social world happens on the background of the Soviet Union
dissolution. And at this moment the main storyline begins,
“the gangster theme”.
Social world changes with the dissolution of the Soviet
Union. Values, aims and social structure change, which is
shown in the film. The young protagonist is no longer satisfied
by being a decent student, a good athlete and a diligent son.
By the laws of the genre, love enters his life – a girl, who he
can get only by breaking the law and betraying the old
principles (honest work, good education, modesty, good
behavior with the parents). We see how the film director
builds the situations; he presents Sayan with a choice. In order
to gain the love it is necessary to be successful and rich.
Moreover, the protagonist wants it all, and he wants is fast and
in large quantity.
Apart from showing the reality of the crisis years of post-
Soviet period, the film reflects the process of traditionalism
popularization. One of the significant moments is the death of
a child, the news of whose birth could have reconciled the
character with his parents. However, according to the plot,
Sayan is deprived of the joy of parenthood. Can we talk about
retribution in this case? It is more of a caution for the
spectator: continuation of the generation is impossible for a
criminal authority. Family, as a value, is posed higher than
Sayan’s moral appearance. His relationship with Asel is not
traditional for Kazakhs; they live together, expect their child
but are not legally married. Therefore, the authors define the
key values of the society: family, parents and children.
Patriotic message is represented in addressing the various
plots: we can see that, apart from the criminal path, there is
another one, more lawful but longer way to success. Sayan’s
classmates become bankers and talk enthusiastically about
their education, lifestyle and work. This scene shows how the
access to social lift changes in Kazakhstan; however, these
transformations are still not appealing to Sayan and, it seems,
are already unavailable. Criminal world absorbed him
completely; he has almost no communication with his parents.
The character spends all of his time in the company of a friend
and a head of the criminal group Ruslan. Even the romantic
relationships develop due to the girl’s choice to move in with
him. This moment, like many other things in Sayan’s life is an
external influence. The character does not control his future;
he just reacts to the challenges of the present. Such model
appears as a response to the dissolution of the Soviet order,
when the country changed in a moment.
However, the protagonist’s problem is in the lack of
reflectiveness. By mechanically executed whatever he is told to
do, he rarely thinks about the reasons and the consequences
of his actions. Despite Sayan’s criminal image, he does not
provoke negative feeling in the spectators, but rather the
contrary. In spite of everything, the participants of the focus
group note the qualities in the protagonist’s personality, which
are necessary in the times of change: devotion, friendship,
commitment to the words and principles, responsibility for his
words and actions. However, apart from the positive
categories in the protagonist’s characteristic, the participants also noted the negative ones- the connection to the criminal
world (Table 1).
||Number of mentions
|Sense of purpose
|Person, who keeps his word
|Attitude towards the parents
|*P:Positive Evaluation; N:Negative Evaluation
Table 1: The protagonist’s characteristics.
Consumption becomes the main unifying quality of all film
characters. In the opinion of all focus group participants, such
quality might represent “swag”. A wish to demonstrate one’s
own material well-being; it is also the motivation for the
Through Aman’s monologue in the final part of the film the
character comes to thinking about his actions and the actions
of his friends. Remorse does not reach him; he merely acted as
he saw necessary. However, after this encounter between
Sayan and Aman, and also being affected by the death of his
mentor and friend Ruslan, the protagonist thinks about his
future life. Revenge for Ruslan’s murder becomes his main
goal, but after catching the main person, responsible for the
death of his friend, Sayan leaves him alive. He makes this
decision after some consideration; he has thoughts that Ruslan
the example of masculinity and the concentration of all main
qualities, for which Sayan strived could be wrong, that he
could not completely understand all of the specifics of leading
the business. This revelation gives the protagonist a chance to
become somebody else, to change his lifestyle and act more
Therefore, the film authors lead the plot to the new stage in
the history of Kazakhstan. The chaos is changed to the market,
where, despite the murder of Ruslan, new rules of the game
are established. The agreement may be cancelled if it is better
for the business. However, “his goblet is already full”, and in
the last scene of the film he remains to lie with knife stabs, ready to meet his death, as well as the responsibility for all his
The “Myn bala” film, 2012
“Myn bala” is an example of creating an epic image in the
national cinema. The film significantly expanded the audience
by raising the top threshold form 24 to 50 years. The linguistic
structure of the film release, in case of “Myn bala”, changes in
favor of the Kazakh language. The film premiered at the same
time as the Hollywood blockbuster “The avengers” and
exceeded it in the release . Like many Hollywood films, the
Akhan Sataev’s film protagonist is a young man called Sartay.
Like the characters of Hollywood films (“Battle of Titans” with
the protagonist Perseus, the Percy Jackson franchise and films
about Harry Potter), he is a young man, who, for some
reasons, does not completely understand how he should build
his identity. In case of Sartay the inner struggle happens
between the positions of the national rescuer and a regular
warrior. All of them are on that stage of adolescent
development of a mature personality, which addresses a
young man - the target audience of the films. Considering that
currently young men think of ways to find their place in the
social world, these images might act as the examples to follow.
These films show how young men fight during the settlement
of personality and, even more importantly, they give the
spectators an example of how to fight their problems on their
own during a period of social changes . Despite the fact that
frequently our attitude towards the epic genre films is
characterized as an attitude towards entertainment, in reality,
films like “Myn bala” help young generation building a system
of values, awaken the interest towards the past and
experience the respect towards the history of their country.
In this context Akhan Sataev’s film about three friends
completely reached the aim. The focus group analysis
presented below will help understanding how successful was
the image of Sartay and two of his friends and how it affected
the audience of very young spectators in Kazakhstan. All of the
studied characters are at that stage of adolescent
development of a mature identity, which addresses young
men the key audience of the films.
This analysis will also continue to unravel the subject of
masculinity in Kazakstani cinema through the description of
the protagonists. Akhan Sataev’s film, which is based on a
story of young people’s life destinies settlement, owes its
success mainly to the high-quality actors performance and
thorough choice of each image: the protagonist is a young man
called Sartay, who has the inner struggle between the
positions of the national rescuer and a regular warrior.
During the film discussion in the focus group, the questions
of selfishness and a wish to be a sole leader were raised (Table
2). It was difficult for the focus group participants to separate
one main character, because in the film the destinies of three
friends- Sartay, Taymas and Korlan – are tightly linked. Despite
the fact that, according to the plot, the role of national rescuer
goes to Sartay, the focus group participants saw this character
as too ideal, while Taymas, the second leader of the people’s army of adolescents against Dzhungar, seemed more
||Number of mentions
||Attached to his family
||Was equal to men
||Support each other in any situation
|* P – positive evaluation; N – negative evaluation
Table 2: The protagonists’ characteristics.
We would like to note that, despite the fact that the main
goal of the film was to raise the patriotism, during the focus
group we revealed that, apart from the feeling of pride for
their country, the spectators saw importance in the truth of
the story. Preference of the less significant and heroic, but
more realistic Taymas shows that the spectators are interested
in the image of a character, which is not ideal, but which can
be judged, understood, accepted, forgiven and praised during
the film. The selfishness of the protagonists, which was
discussed during the focus group, is not a negative quality for
the generation of the Kazakhstan independence peers. On the
contrary, to some extent it is even a positive personality trait.
And here we encounter the influence of globalization, of
endless information flow, which appeared with the expansion
of Internet and which became an everyday practice for the
young citizens of the country. The postmodern society is a
society of consumption and a society of hedonists. It is society,
in which personal comfort becomes the main value. Let us
note that the personality of such human is distorted: the
depth and the inner content are lost. After that comes a mentality crisis, loss of the sense of citizenship, individualism,
egocentricity and indifference towards the common gain,
concern solely about one’s own private interests . It is
obvious that such affirmations are not widely common;
however, the unanimous agreement with the loyal
interpretation of selfishness is quite curious. It becomes more
intriguing as it occurs during the discussion of a film, which has
fostering the selfless love towards the Homeland as one of its
main goals. The protagonist dies, having set the flag of his
One of the main tasks of the film was propaganda of Kazakh
values among the youth. Identity development is not only the
integration by a single goal, but also the acceptance of
common values, views and affirmations. The table presented
below lists the Kazakh values, which were noted by the focus
group participants during the discussion of the “Myn bala” film
|The Kazakh values
|Respect to the senior
|Respect to the guests
|Nauryz, the fest really unified
|Young woman’s attitude towards her loved one
|Kazakh’s spiritual richness
|Sartay forgave Tayma’s betrayal
|Kazakhs were able to unify
|Kazakhs kept their traditions
Table 3: The Kazakh values.
As the table demonstrates, apart from the values tradition
for Kazakhs, “gender equality” was also noted. In the film it
was shown on the example of the heroic image of Korlan-ladywarrior,
who is equal to the men in courage and battle craft.
“The Old man” film, 2012
The protagonist, old man Kasym, lives in a small village
surrounded by the endless prairie. He lives with his daughterin-
law (supposedly, his son’s wife) and his grandson, who he
kindly calls Shaytanbek (Little devil). In the beginning of the
film the image of the protagonist completely lacks masculinity.
An old man, already beat by the life, a little unserious and
grumpy, does not evoke admiration or even respect. From the
first scene E. Tursunov shows that the name of the film is not
random. The protagonist is the representation of the word
“Shal” (Old man), which sounds not as respectable and major
as, for example, Aksakal (Elder) or Ata (Grandfather).
It is important to note that in the first part of the film the
author also demonstrates the arrival of hunters, who make an
impression of real men, who drive an expensive car, have weapons and neglect the protagonist because, in their
opinion, he leads a modest lifestyle.
The old man goes to the prairie to lead the sheep and
suddenly becomes caught in the fog and then the snowstorm.
Despite the grandson’s efforts to send the neighbors to help
the old man Kasym, nobody responds to the boy’s requests.
From this moment the challenges start; and Kasym, regardless
of his old age, passes them with dignity and without losing
faith. The old man demonstrates the willpower, which is much
stronger than the fog and the wolves, which follow him. He is
stronger and more enduring than the hunters, who, despite
having weapons, cars and machinery, could not survive in the
prairie. Only one of them is left alive because of the help from
the old man Kasym.
One of the key moments of the film is the contradiction of
the protagonist and the hunter, as contradiction of two
different generations of Kazakhs, which was shown in the
scene in the debris of the space ship. Under the symbol of the
Soviet Union and its former power- a space object, we
understand the difference between the old man Kasym and
the hunter. The generation of people, who, like the hunter,
came to the age over forty years old in the new millennium,
experienced the change of values and morals. They had to
adapt to the new conditions, however, in the chase after the
material gain they lost their moral image. The tragedy of this
generation is that they already haven’t been “Soviet citizens”
and their youth happened during the period of liberation and
dissolution of the USSR. The sociology calls this generation
“the generation X”. In the 70-90s the young generation
rejected the values of their parents but they could not acquire
their own because the crisis of integrity happened. The
essence of life, as the youth of that time was told by the
Western liberal model, is gaining personal success and wellbeing.
Difficult life conditions taught the kids to be
uncharacteristically cynical for their age. Somebody grew past
it, while somebody was left with it .
According to many cultural scientists, one of the main
cultural values is respect to the senior, admiration of the
ancestors, love and respect to the domestic cattle . During
the discussion of “The Old man” film the focus group
participants noted not only the traditional values of the Kazakh
people, which were stated above. The modern society has new
values, which initially have universalistic meaning; however, at
present they become a part of the cultural code of Kazakh
people. In the opinion of all focus group participants, such
quality is an urge to demonstrate one’s material well-being
(“swag”) (Table 4).
|The Kazakh Values
|The connection between the elderly and the youth
|To show the way to a traveler, respect, to come out and act
|Diploma is several sheep
|A “who cares” attitude, which is common for us
|The men all sit on that winter hut, women pour tea.
|Succession of generations
|A tree with ropes
|It is prohibited to swear in the mazar
|Caring attitude towards his horse Orlik
|To fry the bread each Friday
|Swag, people take credits to drive the jeeps and demonstrate how cool they are
Table 4: The Kazakh values.
Attitude towards the animals, especially towards the horse,
is a significant part of Kazakh traditions: “…a horse played an
important part in the mass people migration, which became
the basis for its idolization; the transition from matriarchy to
patriarchy became related to the shepherd activities and
nomadism. Because of the nomadism the mass intrusions of
Indo-Europeans began at the end of the third millennium B.C.
in Europe, at the beginning of the second millennium B.C. – in
Iran and India and at its end – in China. A horse gained even
more independent sacral significance. From its solar and
chthonic, triumphal and funeral essence it transfer to the
sacral sense, idolization, which, however, is accompanied with
its diabolical sense, by the laws of dialectics” . Respect to
the older generation also has a sacral meaning to the Kazakhs.
Kazakh people consider their debt to know all of their
ancestors seven generation back. This tradition comes from
Tengrism. According to the ancient beliefs, a human has a soul,
which does not need physical food; its food is rather the spirit
of the ancestors Aruakh. If a person commits a bad action,
betrays the honest name of his ancestors, by this offends the
Aruakh spirits, and therefore, Tengri. Because of this the
person had a strong understanding that his actions would
reflect on his seven future generations. And if a person lived a
respectful life, the spirits would be kind to his successors
(Web-site on the rituals and traditions of the Kazakh people http://www.bilu.kz/obychay.php).
The “Racketeer” film, interpretation of trauma
Certainly, the first commercial Kazakh film is a rich field for
the analysis of the ideas and symbols of the modern society.
Identity, as an essential value, is reflected in the unity of the
opinions of the focus group participants in their evaluation of
the plot, the separation of good and bad, their understanding
of the traits common for all of the characters.
By tracing the discussion we can say that the image of the
new hero, on the example of the “Racketeer” film, is a person,
who demonstrates positive qualities, as well as the negative
ones. Certainly, it is necessary to account for the context of the
film and the time, during which the protagonist lives. From the
beginning of the 90s Kazakhstan entered the stage of social disintegration, dissolution of the former social structure,
destruction of the core of the intra-strata connections and loss
of individuals’ social self-identification. Because of this the
amplified sense of loyalty and responsibility for his actions
became Sayan’s specific traits. During the time of global
changes and unstable environment it is important to remain
true to one’s own principles and to have one’s own “anchor”.
The positive traits include: ability to keep the given promise,
devotion to friendship, ability to be responsible for one’s own
actions and the ability to go “until the end”.
The film was produced in 2007, when Kazakhstan has
already overcome the difficulties of the 90s of the last century.
On the wave of economic stabilization there is an opportunity
to look back and remember the time at the dawn of
independence. Moreover, there is a need for analysis of the
past events. Dissolution of the Soviet Union definitely has
become a traumatic event for all of the former USSR nations.
In the opinion of P. Sztomka, a social change, related to
traumatic events, has four characteristics: 1. It has a time
characteristic of being sudden and fast. 2. It has certain
content and scale – radical, deep, integrated and reaching the
bases. 3. It has sources – it is perceived as external, coming
from the outside, as something that we ourselves did not
affect, or if we did affect it, then it was subconscious (we
“suffer” from traumas, traumas “happen to us”, we
“encounter” traumas). 4. It is perceived in a certain cognitive
context – as something unexpected, unpredictable, surprising,
shocking and repulsive .
Depending on the quantity and quality of the social capital,
social groups have different levels of sensitivity towards
cultural trauma and the ability to make their perception allaccepted
and all-significant. Because of the cinema cultural
trauma is actualized and the perception of its consequences
might be reflected in the cinematic images. Akhan Sataev’s
film gained a response of the audience because of the precise
representation of the period of traumatic changes in the
society and the opportunity to look back and remember the
times of the significant processes in the country.
Well-thought plot of the film, thoroughly selected character
types, attention to details, vividness and familiar surroundings
of the events on the screen attract the spectator to the film
and tell a story of a young man, who got caught up in the
whirlpool of a new life and who tried to stay on his feet in the
storm of the changes that happened in the country. Through
the events of the film we return to the post-Soviet past, and in
this sense the film, produced in 2007, is definitely not a
belated nostalgic message, but rather a well-timed analysis of
The “Myn bala” film, a political project of a
The film by Akhan Sataev tells a story of Sartay, who took
responsibility for his homeland. This message has to be
understood and accepted. Cinema is the reflection of ideas,
which are not only the products of ideology, but also a
reflection of really happening social processes.
Through the plot of the film history mythologizing happens.
The film, produced upon the request from the Ministry of
Culture and Information of Republic of Kazakhstan, the first
minutes of which quote the words of the country’s president,
is a product of ideology, but not of a historic narrative about
the past events of the Kazakh nation. However, creative
approach of the film director Arkhan Sartaev and his
understanding of the Kazakhstani cinema audience and its
expectations brought a significant profit to the film creators,
while also fulfilling the main task set by the government –
increase of patriotism and interest towards history .
Despite the fact that the “Myn bala” film is perceived by the
Kazakhstani cinema audience as solely national product, which
tells about a historic event that became the beginning of the
liberation struggle of the Kazakh people, the techniques, used
in the film, are common for the global cinema production
market. Moreover, we often see the epic genre films as
entertainment, while in reality films, like “Myn bala”, help the
young generation to build a system of values, raise the interest
towards the past and feel respect towards the history of their
One of the main goals of the film was creating new myths
and actualization of memory narratives about the Kazakh
nation as ancient and having rich and heroic past. Social unity
finds certain ancestors in history and selects historic events
and periods, which are fundamentally significant for the
group’s identification. A special place among these events and
periods goes to the “sources” and the image of the generation
of the social-cultural unity. Changing the depth of reaching
into history can change the images of ancestors, significant
events or periods, as well as the ideas about the sources.
Currently the government uses the cinema and film characters
as images, which shape the collective past by establishing the
lines of succession .
Changing the level of the historic past’s remoteness, with
which the group relates its identity, might mean the change of
the identity itself. Upon gaining the independence, the state
had to find support in the pre-Soviet past; the nomadic image
of the migrating nation with all its romantic attributes
appeared on the screens, stages and pictures.
Films like “Myn bala” create a cinematic base, with regard to
which the acquisition of the unified past images occurs.
Through the epos the community gains the feeling of sacred,
which affects the society and supports people’s feeling of
solidarity and common identity.
“The Old man”, nomadic past and Tengri as a
new national idea
Ermek Tursunov’s film “The Old man” took a special place in
the cinema of the past 10 years. Ermek Tursunov took the text
of Hemingway’s novel “The Old Man and the Sea” as a basis
and was able to subtly integrate it in the ethnic and cultural
context of the Kazakh prairie.
As a cinematic creation, “The Old man” is an example of
Kazakh stoicism. Based on the Tengrian ground (mystics of the earth), it can become, or already has, a moral code and cypher
of the nation. The fog becomes one of the main characters of
the film. It is both a background and a metaphor of the
present time, when the society has difficulties in seeing the
directions. Despite all of trouble, which the protagonist faces,
he remains human and stays true to his principles.
The film shows how strong the connection between people,
earth, sky and everything living is. “My God is the prairie,” –
says Kasym. This prairie has mazar and the sacred tree, and
also a lot of useless garbage like the junk of industrial
civilization, which leads away from the aim and the essence.
But the star-filled sky of Tengri is over the head and the moral
law of Aruakh is inside.
Development of a group’s cultural memory is built in
coherence with the principles of historic succession and
continuality. To achieve this various narrative strategies might
be used. It may use the references to the unchanging places,
spaces, material objects, monuments and relics, the
connection to which is pronounced natural, unbreakable and
in need of constant maintaining and restoration (in case of a
threat of being broken) for this group. The history of a country
will be put together in such way that there will be no “breaks
in the consistency” and that it will be “the same country”, “the
same nation on the different historic stages” .
Reference to Tengrism in the film makes in well-balanced,
close and clear for the spectator. The protagonist cannot exist
outside the time context. Prairie is his God and nature is his
mother. The film certainly provides all that is necessary for
defining the national pride. It is the pride for one’s nature,
one’s elders and children. The film also refers to the Soviet
past- debris of the space ships are a metaphor. Technological
breakthrough of the Soviet Union turned into a pile of
garbage. The author raises the topic of westernization; the
symbols of the influence of the West in the hands of little
Shaytanbek, Western car and a mobile phone of the hunters,
at first glance, show how the old man has fallen behind, how
comic and vulnerable he is. However, during the true combat
wins only the one who remains true to himself and Tengri. The
film is thinking not only about where are we from, but also
about where are we going. Because of this, the role of the boy,
who finds the old man despite his selfishness and detachment
from the traditional beliefs, is also significant. Therefore, not
everything is bad, and the life lessons have been learnt
With the increase of social freedom the cinema, which
possesses the magic power to destroy various taboos, might
be the most efficient in helping the “liberation” and recreation
of the society, its cleanse from the past nightmares and
phantoms. As a certain social institution, cinema shapes the
spectator and influences the society by promoting the
expansion of conscience; in turn, the society, raised by the
cinema, becomes more experienced in this field and requires
new achievements, technical as well as creative, from the
cinema. In other words, there is a constant and parity ambivalent connection between the society and the cinema,
created by it. The cinema becomes even more social, as its
protagonist frequently becomes a separate individual,
independent human personality, whose balanced life is the
insurance of health of the society as a whole.
A film-maker expresses an opinion, a world-view, and an
ideology, which, in turn, exists in a certain social context. At
the same time, it is difficult to deny that, if the cinema is a
governmental corporation and stays in the government’s
control, openly or not, it shapes the ideology of the state and
society, which it strives to represent.
In the Kazakhstani cinema any ideological connection
between the government and the cinema can be traced
through the propaganda of masculine images of the new
heroes. The films analyzed in present study, which found
success among the Kazakhstani audience, are the symbols of
the gained independence, through the plots of which the state
gets, invents and creates new values, analyzes the past and
strengthens the faith in the future.
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