Though the opening shot of blue sky and clouds that then pans to a woman singing by the titular tree seemingly confirms the use of ‘musical’ to designate the film, the rest operates more like a Shakespearean play that revolves around several families of a nomadic Kyrgyz village. Interwoven strands of thwarted love, masculinity spurned, and village honour contested come together to make up a distilled and concentrated examination of hubris and the tragic consequences that it inevitably engenders vis-à-vis community.
An Old World patriarch, his rebellious daughter and her outcast sweetheart are at the center of The Song of the Tree, Aibek Daiyrbekov's impressive and involving debut feature. Set amongst a nomadic community in 18th-century Kyrgyzstan, the film is a simple story well told, partly through song — a kind of high-plains Fiddler on the Roof, but with a spare, direct sensibility to match the wind-scrubbed Central Asian landscape. With its folkloric power and affectingly etched characters, the drama, which took its North American bow at Palm Springs and continues its travels to regional festivals including Cambria and Cleveland, could connect with a wider audience in the hands of the right distributor.
“Undersold” might be the best word to describe Kyrgyzstan, which most English-speakers may struggle to spell, much less locate, on a map. This is a pity, as the mountainous central Asian nation possesses immense strategic value (formerly host to an important US airbase for its proximity to Afghanistan) and breathtaking natural beauty. Now, Kyrgyzstan can add an unexpectedly entertaining musical film called The Song of the Tree to its list of “undersold” offerings.
Il regista ha adattato le storie che sua nonna gli raccontava quando era bambino e ha realizzato un film incentrato sull’amore tra due giovani, tra una madre e un figlio e tra un uomo e la sua terra. Gli elementi per un dramma di stampo classico, quasi mitologico, ci sono tutti: un amore ostacolato, l’esilio verso la libertà, la purezza di cuore contro la sete di potere, la perdita, il riscatto, la giustizia e, infine, la rinascita.
“There is no wind without clouds. There is no forest without trees” Non è Song to Song, non è Song of Granite. E non è neppure Under the Tree. È il Kirghizistan del XVIII° secolo quello mostrato nell’autoctono Song of the Tree presentato alla 23ma edizione del sud coreano Busan International Film Festival dopo l’anteprima in patria e poi, ad aprile, alla kermesse cinematografica di Mosca (Russia). In Europa è un’epoca di scontri, caduta di alcune monarchie e splendore di altre, ma in linea di massima ci si sta spostando verso un periodo dove le superstizioni vengono via via abbandonate a favore della scienza, lume che guiderà nei meandri dell’ignoranza. Nel territorio centro-asiatico dove il film è ambientato si è invece ancora legati a tradizioni anacronistiche pure per quegl’anni, dove i problemi all’interno dei villaggi sembrano potersi risolvere con una buona dose di frustate e grazie alla legge del taglione.
Presented at Moscow International Film Festival and Busan International Film Festival in 2018, The Song of the Tree (ДАРАК ЫРЫ) is the debut film of director Aibek Dayyrbekov. Here is the official trailer with English subtitles of this musical film made in Kyrgyzstan.
Llega la hora de las sorpresas agradables. Desde la premiere internacional en el Festival Internacional de cine de Busan (BIFF; del 4 al 13 de octubre) hemos tenido la suerte de ver en la sección Una ventana al cine asiático el filme The Song of the Tree. Largometraje que está dirigido por Aibek Daiyrbekov y escrito por el propio director junto a Sadyk Sher-Niyaz.
A love of the land and its people seem to come part and parcel with the cinematic traditions of Central Asia, with Sadyk Sher-Niyaz’s ‘Queen of the Mountains’ serving as a recent example of this, fuelling a passionate fire for national pride. A public figure with a political history in his home land, Sher-Niyaz also founded the Asian World Film Festival in L.A. to help promote the voices of the sprawling Asian continent underrepresented on the world stage. Making its international premiere at Busan International Film Festival, however, is the Sher-Niyaz co-written venture with director Aibek Daiyrbekov ‘The Song of the Tree’, a vivid retelling of such Kyrgyz folklore through warm and inviting musical numbers against an unforgettable tapestry of the Tien Shan range.
This charmer of a musical may be set in Kyrgyzstan - the first from the country - but its themes of forbidden romance, ancient curses and the importance of honour in the community are universal. Aibek Daiyrbekov's film draws on folklore to tell the story of young villager Esen (Omurbek Izrailov) whose love for village chief Bazarbai's daughter Begimai (Saltanat Bakaeva) and rivalry with the less than honourable Oguz (Jurduzbek Kaseivov) leads to exile. Trouble also brews back in the village when a rash decision is made to chop down a sacred tree.
Depicting a man cast out from his tribe in 18th Century Kyrgyzstan, Aibek Daiyrbekov’s feature is a musical that chronicles the trials Esen (Omurbek Izrailov) must go through to win back his place and lost love Begimai (Saltanat Bakaeva). In all honesty, given my history with musicals, I wasn’t the most probable candidate to like this film. Musicals are a mode of story-telling that has never quite clicked, even if the finer examples of the genre still stand out (and, indeed, LA LA LAND won me over a few years ago). However, after a start which seemed to foreshadow this (“You should leave God’s ears in peace,” says one character), SONG OF THE TREE is a unique feeling mix of storytelling styles, with some fantastic action scenes to boot.