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The Fall of Otrar

(Gibel Otrara)
ISSR [Kazakhstan] 1990. Director: Ardak Amirkulov
Cast: Bolot Bejshenaliyev, Dokhdurbek Kydyraliyev, Tungyshbai Dzhamankulov, Sabira Atayeva, Kasym Zhakibayev

Released in North America as a Martin Scorsese presentation, Kazakh director Ardak Amirkulov's 1990 spectacular — produced by Alexei Gherman and co-written by Gherman and wife Svetlana Karmalita — has been called “one of the great unrecognized masterpieces of the Nineties” (Olaf Möller, Film Comment). “Four arduous years in the making, Amirkulov’s historical epic about the intrigue and turmoil preceding Genghis Khan’s systematic destruction of the lost East Asian civilization of Otrar is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The movie that spurred the extraordinary wave of great Kazakh films in the 90s, Amirkulov’s film is at once hallucinatory, visually resplendent, and ferociously energetic, packed with eye-catching (and gouging) detail and B-movie fervour, and traversing an endless variety of parched, epic landscapes, and ornate palaces. But The Fall of Otrar is also one of the most astute historical films ever made, and its high quotient of torture and gore (Italian horror genius Mario Bava would have been envious) is always grounded in the bedrock realities of realpolitik: when the Kharkhan of Otrar is finally brought before the Ruler of the World, he could be facing Stalin — or any number of modern CEOs. Shot in sepia tones but occasionally bursting into colour, Otrar is truly a one-of-a-kind movie experience” (Film Society of Lincoln Center). Colour, 35mm, in Kazakh, Mandarin, and Mongolian with English subtitles. 165 mins.