Kairat: Darezhan Omirabev’s Coming of Age Tale

In his second outing, writer-director Darezhan Omirabev explores the effects of Big City life on a youngster from a small village, focusing on the intertwined issues of disillusionment and maturity.

Shot in a distinguished b&w cinematography, this poetic film illuminates a coming of age tale that is at once particular and universal.

Determined to continue his studies at a university, Kairat (Kairat Mahmetov), a handsome 20 year old boy, jumps on a train that takes him to the city of Alma-Ata. However, during an exam, he gets caught trying to pass on a note to a classmate and is subsequently expelled from school.

Not much is happening by way of plot. The narrative consists of episodes in the assimilation of Kairat to the Big City and their impact on his inner life and identity. Pic also toys with the philosophical idea of how random, totally unforseen events can dramatically change a person’s life. Indeed, at the center of the lyrical tale center is a sweet-sour first romance, launched when Kairat accidentally meets Indira (Indira Jeksembaeva), an intriguing young woman, on a bus. A few days later, Kairat sees her again at a moviehouse that screens Herzog’s version of the classic Buchner drama Woyzeck. As expected, the story draws parallels between the Herzog movie and the romance unfolding between the two youngsters.

A good deal of Kairat is set on a train, where Indira works as a railway stewardess and later engages in a passionate affair with a waiter. Souleev’s lensing is so precise and economical that he makes each and every long take consequential. In one of the film’s visual highlights, Kairat dreams that he returns to his village and goes to an amusement park, where all alone on a roller coaster, he is suspended in the air while his mother is watching him from below. In another urban nightmare, Kairat dreams he is arrested in an empty and desolate train station.

In the title role, the stunningly photogenic Kairat Mahmetov lends a strong screen presence that enhances the effectiveness of Omirabev’s personal and expressive film. Using minimal dialogue, Kairat exemplifies the kind of art films that gives festivals their raison d’etre and good name.


(Kazakhstan drama B&W)

A Kazakfilm Studio production. Produced by Saida Toursunova. Directed, written by Darezhan Omirabev. Camera (B&W), Aubakir Souleev. Reviewed at Toronto Festival of Festivals, Sep 18, 1992. Running time: 68 min.

Kairat…….Kairat Mahmetov
Indira…….Indira Jeksembaeva