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Set in the Tadjik village of Asht, this film draws on the Muslim notion that we are born with an angel on each shoulder, and that the angel on the right records the good that we do throughout our lives, and the angel on the left the bad. A man who has served ten years in a Moscow prison is summoned home upon release, to help settle the affairs of his dying mother, but it is soon borne into him that he must settle his own outstanding affairs with the villagers. The nine year old son he never knew about is entrusted by the dying mother with the family heirloom jewellery, tasked with only passing it on to his father if he becomes a good man. Written by
Portrays some realism, from an outsider's perspective
My Central Asian colleagues have not seen this film and perhaps wouldn't be too pleased by the portrayal of criminality in their region's rural areas. Nevertheless, I thought this film gave us a peak at some of the poverty, tradition, and beauty lacing post-Soviet Tajikistan. Jaded Hamro, a "Brat"- inspired apathetic only son (in his late 30's?) returns to his unwelcoming village hoping to pay his last respects to his 'ailing' mother. While few words are exchanged between the two, it's clear that he hasn't learned anything from his 10 years in jail, and that she is at a loss as to how to reform her son and settle all their debts.
The towns folk are filled with many unsavory yet somewhat amicable characters who remind one of greedy extended family members looking out for each other while guarding their own backs. The mayor seems to represent much of the political figures throughout this region, whereas grafts are not uncommon and one wonders what makes Hamro more of a criminal than the other leaders of the community. The role of women in this community seems dismal.
We get only a small glimpse of some of the proud symbols of this country, such as the mountains, pomegranate trees, and craftsmanship. Seeing as the country's recent history has experienced post-communist confusion, war, and an influx of refugees all leading to economic hardship, it's appropriate that these symbols are understated. There is a bleakness in the storyline, cinematography, and music, but the humor and realism makes this less grim than some of the Iranian and Kurdish films from the 90's. People for the most part are able to survive, perhaps because whatever they own comes from remnants of the Soviet days (clothing, property) and because they continue to hold on to their tradition. One of those traditions may be the hope that is placed with the younger generation.
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