Zhannat Alshanova is an award-winning writer/director and producer from Kazakhstan with a background in business administration and marketing. After working in the corporate sector for a couple of years, in 2011 Zhannat shifted to filmmaking, entering the film industry as a set photographer. Her first short film, The White Orchid Hotel (2016), screened at various international film festivals, including the prestigious International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography EnergaCAMERIMAGE 2016. Her graduation film, End of Season (2018), premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 2018 (Cinefondation). The film, co-starring renowned Russian actress Rosa Khairullina and Kazakh actor Dulyga Akmolda, won the Most Promising Director Award at the Tel-Aviv International Student Film Festival 2019, Best Cinematography Award at FilmschoolFest Munich 2018, and is currently on the festival circuit. In 2019, Zhannat participated in Bela Tarr’s directing residency, where she developed and shot short film Paola Makes a Wish (2019), which premiered at Locarno Film Festival 2019 as part of collective film Under the God, produced by Locarno Film Festival, CISA (International Academy of Audiovisual Sciences), and Ticino Film Commission. Her most recent short film, History of Civilizations (2019), is currently in post-production. Zhannat holds a master’s degree in Filmmaking from the London Film School and she is a Berlinale Talents Alumnus.
Originally from Kazakhstan, Julia Kim is a Paris based producer. She was a line producer on films Student (Darezhan Omirbayev, 2012), nominated for the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes Film Festival 2012, winner of the NETPAC Award at Eurasia International Film Festival 2012, and screened at Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) 2012, Tokyo International Film Festival 2012, Haifa International Film Festival 2012, etc.; Walnut Tree (Yerlan Nurmukhambetov, 2015), winner of the New Currents Award at BIFF 2015, Special Mention of the International Jury Prize and Critics Jury Award Special Mention at Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema 2016, Best Asian Film Prize at Fajr International Film Festival 2016, the Audience Prize at International Film Festival Innsbruck 2016, and screened at Warsaw International Film Festival 2015, Focus on Asia International Film Festival Fukuoka 2016, Sao Paulo International Film Festival 2016, and Hanoi International Film Festival 2016; Stranger (Ermek Tursunov, 2015), screened at Toronto International Film Festival 2015, winner of the Best Actor Award at Eurasia International Film Festival 2015, nominated for Best Asian Film and winner of a NETPAC award at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 2015, and nominated for Best Director at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2015. She was also a producer on films The Secret of a Leader (Farkhat Sharipov, 2018), which screened at BIFF 2018 and won the Golden St. George Award at Moscow International Film Festival 2019; and The Horse Thieves. Roads of Time (Yerlan Nurmukhambetov, Liza Takeba, 2019), which will enjoy its world premiere at Busan International Film Festival 2019.
A sleeping sickness has hit a small town in Kazakhstan. People are falling asleep at random, some for hours, days or even weeks. Sanjar, a British journalist, goes there to explore the phenomenon, but also to see the land of his birth for the first time. While there are multiple different theories and explanations about the case, including secret government operations and conspiracy theories, Sanjar prefers to focus on a scientific point of view. However, when he is drawn to the epicenter of the events, he starts to believe in a spiritual reason for the sickness. In the midst of chaos, he begins to feel a great sense of connection to those around him. However, later, when he returns to London, he discovers to his devastation that nothing of what he thought was happening in Kazakhstan actually happened. Trying to regain his previous state of euphoria, he immerses himself in drug abuse. But, when his friend discovers the photos Sanjar took in Kazakhstan, he decides to organize a photo exhibition. On the day of the opening, Sanjar is finally sober, and his life is back on track again. Roaming the gallery, with very little interest in his own work, he suddenly sees a photo that he hasn’t seen before, which will again change his perspective of his time in Kazakhstan and lead him to embark on a new journey.