by Darezhan Omirbayev
In Kazakh and Russian with English subtitles, 2012, 90 min, 35mm
NEW YORK THEATRICAL PREMIERE RUN!
STUDENT is co-presented by the Global Film Initiative and is part of the Global Lens 2013 film series. For more information, visit www.globalfilm.org.
Darezhan Omirbayev, one of the greatest of the remarkable wave of filmmakers who emerged from Central Asia in the 1980s and 90s, made his mark with a series of masterful, minimalist, highly trenchant films including KAIRAT (1992), KILLER (1998), and THE ROAD (2001), all deeply perceptive portraits of Kazakh society. More recently he has gravitated towards (free) adaptations of Russian literary classics – his last feature, SHUGA, was based on Tolstoy’s ANNA KARENINA, and his newest, STUDENT, represents his version of Dostoyevsky’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.
Transposing the story to Kazakhstan’s capital, Almaty, a world of brutal, unrestrained economic competition and corruption, STUDENT demonstrates Omirbayev’s sensitivity to the moral, ethical, and emotional toll taken by 21st-century capitalism, a phenomenon he’s well-placed to comment on, given the profound transformations that the free-market economy has wreaked on the societies of Kazakhstan and the other formerly Soviet countries of Central Asia. Ali, the protagonist of STUDENT, inhabits a world in which social Darwinism seems to be the law of the land, and his actions follow from the idea that, “If competition is the principle of life, then logically we come to the conclusion that it’s alright to kill your competitor.” Filmed in Omirbayev’s customarily deadpan, uninflected style, STUDENT is a powerful piece of work, artfully fitting Dostoyevsky’s time-honored narrative to the grim realities of present-day Kazakhstan.
“You cannot look away from Darezhan Omirbaev's STUDENT, as you can't look away from any of the Kazakh director's films, for each and every shot is quietly but powerfully charged. It always seems a minute charge until a simple shot’s condensation of narrative expression and emotional nuance sneaks up on you.” – Daniel Kasman, MUBI
“With its deadpan performances, retro visual style, and crime-story plot, [STUDENT] almost feels like an Aki Kaurismaki movie but without the jokes or rockabilly music, just the despair. […] Omirbayev once again offers a quietly scathing portrait of his homeland, which, on the evidence here, is on the verge of losing its soul in the pursuit of Range Rovers, banal soap operas, and other ephemeral pleasures.” –Leslie Felperin, VARIETY
“Omirbayev puts to rest any notion…that adaptations of Dostoyevsky’s great CRIME AND PUNISHMENT have been exhausted. Not only is his aesthetic singular – lean, pared down to nicely textured basics, excision of extraneous images and sounds – but the overall social, political, and geographical context is so unique that it affords him the opportunity to spin the entire narrative in an uncharted direction.” – Howard Feinstein, SCREEN