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The historical documentary 'Turksib' (Turkestan-Siberia Railroad), produced in 1929, is one of the first films ever shot in Kazakhstan and one which has survived until this day.
This unique film tells the story of the creation of a monumental Soviet construction project – a railway that connected Central Asia and Siberia. The film subsequently had a significant impact on American and British documentary production. In the West, the documentary received high praise for its use of modernist techniques and the uniqueness of the visual material. As a result, it quickly became recognized as a classic of world documentary films.
The film was a breakthrough project of its time with use of new equipment, technology and extensive application of constructivism, stop-motion and animation techniques. The culmination of these techniques is the legendary scene of a traveling train and the nomads following along on horses and camels.
Turksib was banned across the Soviet Union at the time. Soviet film critics saw problems in the poetry of the picture, in the use of excessive imagery and in the artistic approach to an ideologically charged topic.
Director Victor Turin worked for a long time in Hollywood and was influenced by the American movie genre. He was averse to the production methods commonly used by Soviet documentary film makers at the time. In contrast, Turksib was evocative and full of vivid images: the sculptural beauty of Asian deserts, large shots of the inhabitants of the steppe, their complex life and silent mountains.
The idea to show Turksib in Kazakhstan belongs to Bauyrzhan and Nargiz Shukenov. As a result of long searches, they stumbled upon its tracks in the archives of the United Kingdom. It turned out that in the 90s the movie was purchased by the British. The British Film Institute has carried out a careful frame-by-stage restoration of the documentary. So the rights to this film now belong to BFI, and it is gaining its global recognition as a piece of the world documentary classics.
Turksib was originally conceived as a silent movie. Once restored, a soundtrack was added by the British which, however, was not genuinely Kazakh and did not quite respond to the spirit of the film. Therefore, the Shukenovs applied to an outstanding Kazakh composer Kuat Shildebayev, who supported their project and wrote an inspirational and authentic soundtrack. The soundtrack is unique in that it is performed live by the State 'Kamerata-Kazakhstan' Orchestra under the direction of Gaukhar Murzabekova, while the film is being shown on the screen. As a result, the Turksib project has eventually become a reincarnation of the world documentary classics, which finds a new life in its historic land in combination of electronic music and national instruments.
Today, Turksib is regarded as an example of a Soviet avant-garde documentary and reflects an endless belief in humanity's victory over nature. For the creators of the Turksib project, the importance of the film lies in the fact that it represents the first scenes of Soviet life in Central Asia recorded on film. Turksib presents an authentic way of life and offers a window into the face and the landscape of Kazakhstan at the beginning of the 20th century.
What you will see and hear is unique. A unique film. Live, authentic sound of Kazakh national instruments in combination with classical performance by the chamber orchestra of 'Kamerata-Kazakhstan'. If you want to better understand the heart and soul of Kazakhstan and Central Asia, you should not miss the one and only opportunity to watch Turksib and enjoy its live soundtrack!
Date: 22 May 2018
Venue: Central Hall Westminster, Storey's Gate, London, SW1H 9NH
Tickets are at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/turksib-london-tickets