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Aidai the baksy, or witch doctor, lives in the mountains and helps people. She uses mysterious actions to cure the sick and to give infertile couples children. As capitalist forces begin to encroach on tradition, the first casualty is any culture's most fundamental inheritance - land. The healer has to leave her land because the mob thinks the location is suitable for a filling station. A harsh battle between supernatural good and earthly evil ensues. Native Dancer evokes the mysticism of fantasy and the thrills of a gangster film. Featuring Neisipkul Omarbekova, a real-life Kazakh witch doctor, in the title role. Written by
Warsaw Film Festival
Generally, I avoid a movie that puts 'fantasy' as its genre. So, what caught me about this pleasant romp through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is just that: a chance to see parts of those little-known countries that were once part of the old Soviet empire.
And, I'm glad I did. Because, yes, it is a mite fanciful to see an old crone dancing around hapless people, chanting, dripping blood upon some, coating others in mud and so on in order to cure them of some sickness, but the world is a strange place and strange practices do occur for example, sending electric current through a person's brain in a misguided attempt to cure some psychological problem, as happens still in some so-called modern hospitals. Putting asides both types of absurdities, I instead concentrated upon the story...
Which concerns a recent widower, Batir (Farkad Amankulov), with a young son, Asan (Almat Ayanov), who is approached by some hustlers from the big smoke, and pressured into selling to them the land upon which the, er, old witch, Aidai (Neisipkul Omarbekova) carries out her healing practices. Naturally, the old one is incensed because the widower had given the land to her. And so, the trouble begins, for her as well as Batir and Asan.
What follows is fairly standard good guy versus bad guy fare, when Asan is kidnapped because Batir is wrongly accused of destroying the gas station built on the land the 'mob' has taken over: they want a big money ransom to pay for the destruction. Hence, Batir sets off to find his son and make the bad guys pay, big time.
Fortunately, he has the help of some of his own tough guys and, for good measure, the old crone...
How it all turns out is well worth getting the DVD and seeing it. There are moments of comic relief, and the music is soothingly evocative of dreams and distant lands, all beautifully assisted by the photography of the almost treeless, dusty and serene landscape. Interestingly, most of the actors were new to filming; so the director did an excellent job to get such great, natural performances from them all especially the old crone: she is an absolute delight to watch. Or, maybe Karzaks are just naturally well-endowed for acting?
Be aware of the opening sequence: there is much sheep blood which, if not actually real, still manages to make one watch in amazement. Not good for the squeamish to see, though, especially adolescents.
Recommended for adults, young and old.
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