The Adopted Son


Kyrgyzstan/France. 1998.
81 min. Black & White/Color
Kyrgyz with English Subtitles
Director: Aktan Abdykalykov
Script: Aktan Abdykalykov, Avtandil
Adikulov, Marat Saroulu
Cinematography: Khassan Kydyraliev
Sound: Bakut Niyazaliev, Gaoukhar Sydykova
Music: Nurlan Nishanov
Editing: Tilek Mambetova
Beshkempir: Mirlan Abdykalykov

Beshkempir is the first post-Soviet feature film produced in Kyrgyzstan and Aktan Abdy-kalykov's first feature film. The director's son acts in the title role of Beshkempir, the adolescent whose path from childhood to manhood comprises the subject of the film.

In the opening scene of this drama set in a rural village of Kyrgyzstan, a ritual is enacted wherein an infant son is given to a childless couple. Beshkempir is a name that literally means "five grand-mothers." The boy's own grandmother tells him that the name was given to him to ward off the evil eye. But the name is also sometimes given to adopted children to mark the role played by a council of old village women in deciding when an "extra" child from one family may be bestowed on another that is infertile.

Beshkempir grows up in a village whose only contact with the wider world is film. He is frightened of his strict, disciplinarian father, but close to his grandmother. He and his friends engage in childish antics, exploring the joys and perils of youth and nature. But Beshkempir's attraction to a pretty girl arouses the jealousy of his friend, and the two fight over her.

In anger, the friend tells Beshkempir that he was adopted as a poor orphan. Beshkempir's grandmother denies it, insisting he is of her blood. His father beats him for causing trouble, while his mother defends her son, remonstrating her husband by reminding him "He's not your wife that you can beat him." Beshkempir leaves home but returns when he learns that his beloved grandmother is ill. When she dies, he is called upon to take a prominent part at her funeral. As he prepares to take his place among the men of the village, his father, who had been horribly strict with him by Western standards explains "I was as strict with you as I would have been with my own son because I wanted you to be a good man."

This visually elegant coming-of-age drama conveys the rhythms of everyday life in a rural community. The film is simply, but not primitively, made. It is shot primarily in black-and-white, but a sparse and effective use of color underscore certain aspects of natural and social life. Human life here is directly in tune with nature. Swaying trees, a trapped bird, angry bees, a cow nursing a calf, a winding stream, the moon—these images are as integral to the narrative as the sparse dialogue and exquisite shots of the human body.

Aktan Abdykalykov

Aktan Abdykalykov was born in 1957 in the village of Kountouou, in the Sakoulou, region of Kyrgyzstan. Abdykalykov makes the following comments about his career: "In my work intuition helps me most of all. I did not have academic directorial training; I came to directing through practice, therefore it is necessary to depend on my innermost feeling." From 1976 until 1980 he studied at the Kyrgyz State School for the Arts. Beginning in 1980 he worked as the art director at Kygyzfilm Studios. In 1990 he made his debut as a filmmaker with the short documentary Le Chien qui court (1990). Abdykalykov has won substantial international recognition (for specific awards refer to the filmography below).

1990 Le Chien qui court
1992 Where's Your Home, Snail? Jury's Prize at the International Film Festival at Ashgabat (Turkmenistan)
1993 La Balançoire (short) Grand Prize in the category of short films at The International Film Festival in Lokarno (Switzerland)
1995 Besh-terek (documentary)


Six public service commercials funded by the Soros Foundation
1997 Hassan-Hussen (short) Grand Prize at the International Festival of Film Shorts in Sienna (Italy)
1998 The Adopted Son (Beshkempir) The "Silver Leopard" at The International Film Festival in Lokarno (Switzerland); The "Don Quixote" prize at the International Association of Film Clubs; Grand Prize at the "Eurasia" International Film Festival in Almati (Kazakhstan)
2001 Assan-Oussen
2000 The Bus Stop Grand Prize at Kinoshok (Russia); 2nd place at The International Film Festival in Kottbus (Germany)
2001 Monkey (Maimyl) Honorable Mention at Cannes
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