Posts tagged Kelin

What we create vs. what we imitate (part II)

Yesterday I wrote about Speilberg’s 2002 movie A.I. that I just watched for the first time the other night.  Let’s get back to the Kazakh film director, Tursunov and what he wrote about Kazakh cinematography: “I once wrote a comedy but somehow it turned into a drama. Maybe it is because dramas are more engrained in the genes of our people than other genres. We love dramatizing. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to laugh at himself even though it is a sign of good health.” In further defense of his movie he said: “Kelin” was not an attempt to shock people but an effort to return us to ourselves. We have forgotten who we were and who we are. Our society is affected by many illnesses and many of us carry the virus of national exclusiveness. My movie has an element of shock therapy to wake people up.”

Did Speilberg’s movie wake the American people up? I don’t think so, it was too long and drawn out and fantasy-like to be taken seriously. I think the underlying message he wanted to say was: “Be careful what you create that it doesn’t take over who you are.” But who ARE we as Americans? We are supposedly independent, creative, innovative, risk takers and have a tinge of pioneer spirit left in us inherited from our ancestors. We survived as a people because we thought outside the box. Maybe Speilberg meant our huge dependence on computers where we do most of our communication and get our business transactions done. However, if an Ice Age should ever come or if we are flooded out by the oceans, what do we have left? Predictably we would be immobilized and frozen in our communication and means of surviving and no reason for living. I liked the boy actor in A.I., but there was nothing that grabbed my heart, the movie itself did not have soul. The robot boy David in the story did not have a soul or spirit. End of story.

What did film maker Tursunov try to accomplish in “Kelin?” He wants his movie to be known as a parable and not a documentary. He wants the old times of Kazakhstan to be presented in a modern way. “Only then can our views be consecutive. We look at ourselves and our roots and become more unified against outside elements. We will again tell the story of Yer-Tostik to our children and not a fairy tale about Sponge Bob. Our Aldar-Kose will not look like Shrek.”

I like what Tursunov has to say in relation to his movie because it DOES relate to what I’m doing here as a western educator in Kazakhstan. This film maker wrote: “We are often interested in the surface meaning without even trying to understand the original meaning, which was lost a long time ago. This is the reason we are always dashing from one extreme to another. It is also why we become so vulnerable to strangers’ cultural and mythological ideas. We have nothing to oppose them with. We sing strangers’ songs, dance strangers’ dances and think by strangers’ categories. We no longer create but imitate everything: from the manner in which we dress, to the way we speak. The myth, where we saw ourselves as a part of the great populated universe, has been washed out of us.”

Speilberg warns about being careful what we create, Tursunov is concerned about what his fellow countrymen imitate. I’m in the middle of this tug-of-war battle as a westerner wanting to promote what I know works as education for my own country because of our cultural background and heritage. However, to import what worked for us as Americans to a land that has a very rich, deep and proud heritage of their own is a recipe for more drama, more heartache, more soulful derision.

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What we create vs. what we imitate

One might think it strange to link Steven Spielberg’s movie A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) together with education in Kazakhstan but by the end of this writing I hope my dear readers will see what I’m driving at. Writing about the quandary I’m in helps to isolate what I’m feeling intuitively about being an administrator in a westernized institution in the heartland of Kazakhstan.

A.I. is a movie one must watch at least twice to really understand what Spielberg tries to convey in his overall message. Is it like Tom Hank’s insipid “Polar Express” where there is definitely a political agenda to promulgate where it leaves you at the end thinking, “huh?” Either a movie can make you scratch your head with perplexity or it can get you thinking about deeper, philosophical questions. I can’t tell which it is for me yet, maybe the latter. I might have to watch A.I. again to make sure. However, the following are my observations and how I put it together with what I’m trying to uncover about the Kazakh culture while working in Kazakhstan as a western educator.

I picked up and read an article in the latest flight magazine of Air Astana about a Kazakh director of the film “Kelin,” his name is Yermek Tursunov. He has people from his own country scratching their head as well because he brings to light some troubling issues they all are forced to deal with in the Twenty-first century. Spielberg writes a fantasy story which really is about “be careful what you create.” Tursunov apparently has produced a movie the Oscars Academy nominated for a prize with his general theme as “be careful what you imitate.”

I haven’t seen “Kelin” yet and if I did, apparently I don’t need to know or understand Kazakh or Russian because it is without speech. However, it is dealing with some deep, cultural issues that have apparently put the Kazakh people at odds with themselves. Old generation with young, northerners with southerners. According to the article, “Domestic ultranationalists threatened the movie accusing Tursunov of amorality and belittling Kazakhs.” In defending himself against these accusations he is quoted as saying in the article, “Whatever it is, the most important thing is to avoid imitating others experiences, ideas, emotions, misfortunes or achievements. Everyone must search for his or her own way. Failure to find it at least deserves extra credit for trying. I want my films to wake people up; make them think and cause discomfort in their life. I want to produce a piece of work that contrasts with what producers are mass producing in the world…”

Speilberg showed a man named Professor Hobby at the beginning of the film as creator of robots that he planned to mass produce. The philosophical question was, “can humans make robots into something that can respond to pain, feel and touch as a human can?” But even more profound, “Can these robots be loved by humans and love humans in return?” The problem was that humans are mortal but according to Speilberg’s script, robots could live forever.

What happens when a human parent adopts a robot boy but he outlives the parent and yet is programmed to be dependent and love that which is lost? Another issue Speilberg painfully brought out in this futuristic film was that humans had become the minority and that robots were the downtrodden, downcast and victims. If robots had no feelings, what was I supposed to think? However, it showed the seamy side of humans who are vicious and violent yet also capable of deep, abiding mother love. Spoiler #1: Note the human mother’s love for David, she did NOT want to have him destroyed even when it meant it would risk losing her own biological son or husband.

The A.I. movie is amazingly performed by the talented Haley Joel Osment as the young boy named David who is an unblinking robot boy adopted into a needy but wealthy family who had lost their one and only son. Sorry Spoiler #2, in the end the young David does show human emotion, but there are a lot of permutations the plot goes through to get you to that finish. Then again, one is not entirely sure if this is the correct ending or not, so fanciful is it. Maybe my problem is that I prefer historical drama and comedy.

(to be continued in tomorrow’s blog)

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