After an unexpected, late-night phone call from the police, a 60-year-old woman faces a difficult night and day searching for her daughter, and is plunged into a world of general indifference.
In a small town in Kazakhstan, a 60-year-old woman sits at home with her grandchildren while her daughter is out celebrating her birthday. Later that night, the woman receives a call from a policeman who informs her that her daughter has not paid her bill at a bar, and somebody needs to pay it.
The worried woman goes to her daughter’s apartment, but no one opens the door. Then she goes to the bar, but it is closed. Then she meets with the policeman who called her. He hands over her daughter′s phone, which was left at the bar, and explains that she should go and check on her daughter, as her daughter lost consciousness and the policeman helped her husband put her in the car and take her home.
The woman goes back to her daughter′s apartment, where she finds her daughter unconscious and bruised. A paramedic informs her that her daughter died an hour earlier. A policeman arrives and writes down the woman′s testimony, asking her to come to the police station later. The woman goes back to the bar to find out what happened that night. But no one says anything. A vagrant shows her a video on his phone of a man beating a woman, and then a police officer helping to put the unconscious woman into a car.
A mess awaits the woman at the police station. The woman testifies yet again to another policeman. The policeman reminds her to pay the bill. The woman goes back to the bar and finally pays the bill.
This script is based on a real and horrific incident that happened in Kazakhstan. A man beat his wife to death during a quarrel while they were celebrating her birthday. The police did not detain the husband. On the contrary, they even helped him put his badly beaten wife into the car. The husband took the injured woman home, where she later died.
I want to touch on two topics in this film. The first topic is the general indifference of our society. The second topic is domestic violence and femicide in Kazakhstan. The Islamization of the country and the traditional, historical neglect of women in our patriarchal society do not contribute to improving the status of women.
This project explores a variety of social problems in Kazakhstan exacerbated by the indifference of the authorities and society. Every year the number of female victims of domestic violence increases in the country. We are looking for co-producers who will be interested in this touching story which reflects reality. Artistically, the project can be improved by an international crew: director of photography, sound, post-production. The project is currently at an early stage, with 10% of the budget secured. We plan to cover part of the budget with a grant from the Kazakh Film Fund and the rest through co-production. First, we are planning a festival circuit, then a theatrical release, followed by release on streaming platforms and TV.
Assel Aushakimova is a Kazakh director, screenwriter, and producer. She is a Berlinale Talents and Busan Asian Film School (IFBA) alumna. Her second feature, Kazakhstan-France-Norway co-production Bikechess, won the Karlovy Vary Works in Progress award at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2023 and is waiting for its world premiere. This film was supported by CNC and Sørfond and developed at Biennale College Cinema, Venice International Film Festival. Her first feature, Welcome to the USA (2019), had its world premiere at AFI Fest 2019 and screened at many international Queer film festivals. It was awarded the Grand Jury Prize for Best International Narrative Feature at NewFest: New York LGBTQ Film Festival 2020. She has written, directed, and produced three short films which participated in Uppsala Short Film Festival, Cottbus Film Festival, PÖFF Shorts, GoEast Film Festival, Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival, and others. Her recent short film, Comrade Policeman (2021), was awarded Special Prize in the Short Film Competition at Cottbus Film Festival 2021.
Assel Yerzhanova is a Kazakh producer. She is CEO and owner of FilmFilmFilm LLP production company, which participated in the production of The Horse Thieves. Roads of Time (Yerlan Nurmukhambetov, Lisa Takeba, 2019); selected as the opening film at Busan International Film Festival 2019.
She is a producer on two recent films by Yerlan Nurmukhambetov, and since 2002 has been a line and executive producer on films by famous Kazakh directors including Sergei Dvortsevoy, Nariman Turebaev, Guka Omarova, Yerlan Nurmukhambetov, Yermek Shinarbayev, and others.