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Tulpan (Subtitled)
Actors: Askhat Kuchinchirekov, Samal Yeslyamova, Ondasyn Besikbasov
Director: Sergey Dvortsevoy
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2009     1hr 40min

Acclaimed Kazakh documentarian Sergey Dvortsevoy's first narrative feature is a gorgeous melange of tender comedy, ethnographic drama and wildlife extravaganza. Following his Russian naval service, young dreamer Asa return...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Askhat Kuchinchirekov, Samal Yeslyamova, Ondasyn Besikbasov
Director: Sergey Dvortsevoy
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/22/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 40min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Animal husbandry and marriage in this delightful, touching a
Nathan Andersen | Florida | 07/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Asa is a young Kazakh who, having completed his military service, wants to return home and become a sheep farmer. The problem is he must first be married and the only eligible woman within many miles, the shy and elusive Tulpan, is just not interested.

Celebrated Kazakh documentary filmmaker Sergey Dvorsevoy won the Prix Un Certain Regard at Cannes for this, his first dramatic feature. Astonishing in its simplicity and for its intimate depiction of rural life, the film is also surprisingly funny - a simple humor that is far removed from that of the more popular but utterly false portrayal of Kazakhstan in Borat.

The performances, mostly by individuals who had never acted before, are astonishingly genuine. It's hard to believe they are playing a role, and that this is not a documentary. Even more stunning is the authenticity of the scenes. There is, obviously, no CGI here, and nothing is fake, but through patience Dvortsevoy was able to capture some surprising and exciting moments - a twister that appears suddenly in the midst of a confrontation between two characters, an angry camel mother attacking the vet who cares for her son, a sheep giving birth and a genuine performance of Asa's surprise and wonder and helplessness, all in a single take without cuts. Lovers of great films should celebrate this deceptively simple and lovely film."
A Touching Tale with the Feel of a Documentary
Paul E. Richardson | Montpelier, VT | 06/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Dense with the realism and light humor of daily existence, Tulpan at times has the feel of a documentary, yet it is a touching fictional tale about finding one's place in the world.

Asa returns from naval service and has expansive dreams of a free and prosperous life on the Kazakh steppe. For them to come true, his brother-in-law must give him a starter herd, he must find a wife in a desert devoid of humans, and he must earn his stripes as a herder. Asa is impatient, does not fit in, and seems powerless to realize his dreams. When he is pushed to the brink, ready to give up on his dream, he has a transforming experience of life and rebirth. (As reviewed in Russian Life)

Dvortsevoy films with a patient eye (Tulpan took four years to film), turning the gritty landscape into a character in the film, helping to convey the utter isolation (but not hopelessness) of life on the barren steppe. This is a quixotic and delightful tale of self-discovery that offers a vivid look at what life is like in this secluded corner of the world."
Quietly powerful, starkly beautiful and utterly unique
RMurray847 | Albuquerque, NM United States | 09/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was very fortunate to be able to see TULPAN at a small movie theatre (rather than DVD) so that I could enjoy it with a few dozen other folks. But it will play just as well on a wide-screen TV (the bigger the better, though)...because it is in many ways a travelogue. A skewed, touching and somewhat haunting one...taking you to a place you know you don't want to go. Seeing it with a group, I felt as though we were on some kind of slow moving tour bus, allowing us to visit the stark land of Kazakhstan. If you saw it alone, no doubt you'd feel like a lone traveler, beating up your car's suspension and working hard to keep your car on track in the wind. TULPAN is the most tiny and intimate of films...yet has almost deliriously expansive panoramas of a land that is as forbidding as any depicted on screen.

Young Asa has recently returned home from his service in the Navy. He comes from a family of hard-scrabble sheep herders on the Steppes of Kazakhstan. He is a vibrant, easy-going and slightly dimwitted young man. His burning desire is to have his own herd, but this will not be granted to him until he marries. There is pretty much only one eligible young lady in his sparsely populated corner of the world, and even though he has never even seen this girl (named Tulpan), because she holds the key to his happiness, he feels he is in love with her. She declines his offer, ostensibly because she doesn't like his big ears. The real reason may be that she wants a life in the city, perhaps with an education. Asa loves the harsh land that has been his only home, and he yearns to own his own way there. You have no doubt that he would treat this girl well and give her a "traditionally happy" life...because he clearly has no malicious bone in his body.

Asa is undaunted in his efforts. While he schemes to win Tulpan's agreement, he lives with his sister and her family, which includes 3 children and an older, grumpy husband. Asa tries to help out on the farm, but he's so eager to please, he can't help but trip over his own feet, so to speak. He fails to endear himself to his brother-in-law, who also urgently wants Asa out of the house.

And that's about it for the plot. I won't kid you; TULPAN is a slow moving film. Very little that we would think of as earth-shattering happens. Yet the movie accomplishes two very rare things, and thus it continues to resonate with me more than a month after I saw it.

First, Asa and his family feel 100% real. They feel NOTHING like most people you and I are ever likely to know...but we immediately understand and empathize with all of them. Whether it's the dutiful sister & wife, who wants only harmony in her family, and clearly loves all the people in her life with great intensity or the pre-teen daughter whose only distraction is to sing to herself...constantly and loudly. Asa himself is all heart and little brain...yet you'd be hard-pressed to find a more decent, open & sincere a person. And none of them feel like actors (they aren't pros)...we actually feel like we're spending time living with these folks. Seeing and EXPERIENCING their everyday lives of tending to their yurt and their sheep.

Second, and perhaps most stunningly, we get a true sense of PLACE. The cinematography is simple yet stunning. Kazakhstan, to my eyes, is a stark place with little obvious beauty. But we get to glimpse it through Asa's eyes from time to time, and are able to see how HOME can be a beautiful place to the person who feels at home there...not matter what everyone else sees and feels. And there are long, lingering shots of the land and the people and animals on it. One stunning scene I will try to describe: the shot involves a still camera, which at first shows us the side of a building, some fencing and mostly a path leading out onto the bleak steppes (the land looks like you'd imagine dust-bowl America to have looked). We hear sounds of approaching animals. Sure enough, sheep move into the picture and off into the distance, followed by dogs, donkeys, men, children, poultry and so on. The camera never moves, and nothing really happens except that the various "life forms" pass by us. Yet we get such a clear understanding of their relationships and importance to each other.

TULPAN has moments of GREAT humor (one scene involving a camel is particularly hilarious) and sometimes touching drama (you've never thought the birth of a lamb could be so dramatic). But I'll say isn't a story where the traditional idea of a plot is all that important. Yes, things happen to Asa, and the issue of Tulpan is resolved. But the real pleasures of TULPAN will come if you simply allow yourself to be immersed in the life the film wants to show you. It's a harsh and alien life...but if ever a movie showed an American audience how much more ALIKE we all are than DIFFERENT...TULPAN is it.

When I started to write this review, I was thinking 4-stars. But as I wrote and remembered...I understood that for me, this film really is 5-stars. Perhaps the most quiet, understated 5-star film I've ever reviewed...but it is a movie that I think will always come back to me over the years as being not quite like anything else I've ever seen.
Daniel G. Lebryk | 09/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Sparse, dry, bleak, and alien, describes the location for this film. The words also describe the way Tulpan was filmed - long slow deliberate shots. The film is about a land and people completely foreign from any experience we could even imagine in North America, the steppes of Kazakhstan. The contrast to this harsh environment is a film about Asa who dreams of a different life; his sister Samal who dreams of moving to a different place; and her husband the hard working realist. How these people eek out a life in that arid desolate land is nothing short of incredible.

The film opens with the sounds of fabric blowing in the wind, a heard of camels moves off camera, the dusts settles and the barren landscape is revealed; in the foreground, a post-apocalypse tractor that looks straight out of Road Warrior, and a Yurt in the background. The film cuts to inside of the Yurt. Asa is trying to convince Tulpan's parents that he is the right husband for their daughter. He's supported by his friend, Boni (Mr. Gold Teeth with the big smile), and his brother in law Ondas. The story unfolds very slowly, much like life in this arid land. Asa is an immature dreamer faced with the difficulties of living with his sister, her three children, and her husband. Odan the husband is a sheep farmer faced with the harsh reality of still born sheep. Samal, the sister, wife, and mother wants to move to another location; but is always happy, always caring for those around her. I particularly loved Samal's 2 year old son - there is something universal about children getting in the way and being adorable.

Tulpan reminds me of Himalaya, both films show an incredibly difficult life in an area we can never imagine. Both feel a bit like documentaries, but they are works of fiction and acted. Himilaya has a more exciting back story, but both films are stark. I was also struck by the length of time between cuts, Tulpan is not choreographed as well (the camera movement in Tulpan not as deliberate and poetic), but does have a similar slow long cut rhythm like, The Country Teacher. It is the polar opposite of the funny but fake Borat.

The film has a dry gritty feel to it. I could almost taste the sand in my mouth, feel the cold, and smell the death of the animals. The director has done a remarkable job at conveying those feelings. And yet there was a warmth to the film, Asa's innocence, Samal's caring, and Odan's tough love. Technically the film was done very well for what appears to be a single camera film. Shots are reasonably in focus, exposure in horribly difficult situations is excellent, the ambient sound of wind and animals is well recorded, and the pacing is as expected, very slow. Overall, a wonderful accomplishment.

The film is not rated. Younger viewers could possibly watch this film. There is no violence. However, this is a movie about real life of a sheep herder; life on a farm can be a bit brutal at times. Several lambs are shown still born and dead. There is a fairly graphic birthing of a lamb. And sheep are shown copulating. Nothing in the world unnatural about any of these acts, parents just might like to know. Boni has pictures of naked women decorating his tractor and there is a brief shot of a Playboyesque picture full screen. I don't exactly recall stong language in the subtitles, but there might have been a little bit. Overall, this is a film that a mature young adult would be able to watch.

The DVD is as sparse as the landscape; it is presented with the movie and the trailer. There are no bonus features. The film is presented in Russian or the nomadic language they speak, with English subtitles. Here is a film where I would have liked to know a bit more about the making of and the actors in this film. That unfortunate time where we get hours of garbage about the Wedding Crashers on a DVD, but when it would be useful there's nothing.

To give the film a bit of context, I entered Betpak-Dala Steppe (the filming location) into google maps. Looking at the satellite view it is clear that this area is horribly desolate, there is nothing but flat land for hundreds of miles. The nearest road appears to be 50 to 100 miles away. The people of this film are truly nomads.

I loved this film. It is a beautifully made and beautifully acted movie. The pace is slow, and the story is very simple. It is a lovely hour and forty minutes.