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Sundance On The Steppe

Timur Bekmambetov, director of "Wanted," is surrounded by his fans in Astana.

The Eurasian Film Festival wrapped up last weekend in the Kazakh capital, Astana, after a week of screenings and events devoted to the reemergence of Central Asian cinema.

As "The Guardian" wrote in a September 15 piece on the festival, filmmaking in the region is just beginning to recover from the collapse of the Soviet Union, which brought the financial and human infrastructure of the film industry down with it, along with everything else.

But the current crop of directors has begun to earn notice beyond the region. Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov appeared at the festival as a celebrity guest after breaking into the Hollywood establishment this spring with the U.S. blockbuster "Wanted," and the showcase film on opening night was "Tulpan," a Kazakh prize-winner in Cannes this year.

But according to "The Guardian," the Eurasian Film Festival is not quite ready for prime time. The opening film was screened to an audience of foreign journalists and industry professionals in the original Kazakh, without subtitles, while the celebration of Central Asian cinema failed to draw in the Central Asians themselves, as evidenced by nearly empty screening rooms.

That left the festival looking a bit like the newly built city of Astana itself -- a declaration of Kazakhstan's wealth and modernity that doesn't yet live up to its promise.

-- Margot Buff

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