The Flight of the Bee

[Parvozi zanbur / Полет пчелы]

Tadzhikistan/South Korea. 1998. 90 min. Black & White
Tadzhik (local dialect) with English subtitles
Directed: Dzhamshet Usmonov and Min Biong-Hun
Script: Dzhamshet Usmonov
Camera: Min Biong-Hun
Music: Satyajit Ray
Sound: Svetlana Kudratova
With Muhammadjon Shodi, Mastura Ortik, Taghoymurod Rozik, Beknazar Kabirov, Mardonkul Kulbobo

No discussion of this film seems possible without use of the term parable. The story of the Persian army's rescue from death by thirst thanks to the advice of a socially outcast old man sets the tone for a narrative that might easily have been told with the kind of social analysis more typical of western film narratives. Russian film critic Sergei Anashkin has drawn attention to the similarities that Flight of the Bee bears to European neo-realism, in particular to the portrayal of social antagnoisms by means of an uncomplicated representation of the daily struggles of simple people. While such similarities are clear, this film by Usmonov and Min is as much about the moral lesson of an ancient parable as it is about the struggles of a society that, through the entire time of the work's creation, was engulfed in civil war.

With a mere $40,000 budget, Usmonov and Min have created a film both simple and complex. Daily life in the small Tadzhik village of Ashit is portrayed as simple and monotonous, but the social fabric is revealed to be complex, created out of the multi-faceted history of these people. Usmonov sought out nonprofessionals for most of the roles in the film in order to give it the necessary "voices, intonation, dialect." This attention to the "poetic" side of the film does not obscure the social realism of the story told on the screen. The poverty in which the protagonist and his family live are the result of both objective social causes and personal quirks of the man himself. The schoolteacher exists as if suspended between completely different worlds. His classroom is the locus of both the legacy of Soviet collectivism and ancient folk legend.

Gulnara Abikeeva, noted specialist in Central Asian film, has formulated the notion that the individual in Central Asian society of the 1990s has been forced to exist on no less than four "cultural planes": 1) Soviet mentality, 2) Islamic tradition, 3) the historico-cultural stratum, and 4) the principles of an open civil society. She is clearly correct in claiming that Flight of the Bee depicts all four of these cultural planes. Nevertheless, the uninitiated western viewer might find that the ending of this "socially aware" film is so lacking in verisimilitude that it undermines its own project. Usmonov himself has addressed this issue: "I understood that a tragic ending in this case would have been a more natural conclusion to the sequence of events, but Dovlat Khudonazarov convinced me that, in a country torn apart by war, the most desperately needed thing was a feeling of hope.

The reference to his fellow Tadzhik filmmaker reminds us that Usmonov, like many Central Asian filmmakers, takes his cues from a tradition far removed from western models, whereby the role of Iranian national cinema should not be overlooked. At the same time, the music of Satyajit Ray contributes to an artistic whole that is local without ever becoming provincial.

The Flight of the Bee has been the recipient of several prizes, most notably the "Silver Alexander" at the 1998 Thessaloniki Film Festival.

Jamshed Usmonov

Jamshed Usmonov was born in 1965 in Dushanbe. He studied in Dushanbe at Tadzhikfilm Studios and in Moscow at the State Inistitute of Filmmaking (VGIK), where he completed his studies in directing. Among the directors who influence his style count the Tadzhik director Dovlat Khodonazarov as well as Iranian filmmakers such as Abbas Kiarostami. The Flight of the Bee is his first full-length feature film. It was followed by The Well in 2000. His most recent work has been his acting role in the 2001 film La Route (France–Japan–Kazakhstan).

1998 The Flight of the Bee
2000 The Well
2001 La Route (actor)

Min Biong-Hun

Min Biong-Hun was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. He studied at VGIK in Moscow where majored in camera work and where he met Jamshed Usmonov, with whom he planned to collaborate on a diploma film. This film outgrew the original plan and became the feature film Flight of the Bee, for which Min's credits include the cinematography.

1998 The Flight of the Bee
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.