Emir Baigazin’s feature debut is a daring, deeply philosophical study of human cruelty through the eyes of a small-town schoolboy loner.
Though he’s not yet 30, Emir Baigazin’s feature debut displays great skill and maturity in balancing narrative audacity with formal restraint. Thirteen-year-old Aslan lives on his grandmother’s farm, travelling into town each day to hear his teachers talk about science and history, war and evolution. He’s soon ostracised and bullied by a gang led by Bolat, who takes money from younger pupils to raise funds for older kids who’ve exchanged school for prison. Meanwhile, loner Aslan conducts experiments and hatches plans. With a storyline which not only takes frequent unpredictable (but wholly plausible) turns, and can be read as a political/philosophical allegory about power, control and violence, the Kazakhstani writer-director has created one of the year’s most intriguing films. While some scenes involving animals and insects may be hard for some to watch, there’s no denying their thematic relevance to this dark, stark, strangely compelling study of human cruelty.
Emir Baigazin was born in 1984 in Kazakhstan. In 2007, he took part in the Asian Film Academy during the Pusan International Film Festival, South Korea, and in February 2008 he participated at the Berlinale Talent Campus. In 2009 he graduated from the Kazakh National Academy of Arts. Harmony Lessons, his debut feature, participated at Locarno Open Doors 2011, and won Spotlight: New Kazakh Cinema – the first all-Kazakhstani national film competition during the Eurasia Film Festival in September 2011. In summer 2012, Harmony Lessons received support from the Berlinale World Cinema Fund. The film also won the main prize at the Work-in-Progress Section of the Sarajevo International Film Festival and was awarded with post-production in-kind support by the German company Post Republic Halle. Harmony Lessons has also received support from Aide aux Cinémas du Monde (CNC, Ministère des affaires Étrangères, Institut Français).
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