These are hard times for Central Asians. The petro-fueled Kazakh economy is tanking. Migrant workers in Russia not only have lighter pockets, but also have more to fear on the streets as xenophobes crank up the dial on their bluster. Residents of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, whose economies are highly dependent on remittances, face a long, cold winter.
Yes, in these days, Central Asians may well be yearning for a hero. And luckily, they have one coming to them.
Hitting screens across the former Soviet Union this weekend is Mustafa Shokai (Мустафа Шокай), a three-hour biopic of the pan-Turkic leader who stood up to Bolshevik power, escaped to exile in Europe and eventually collaborated with the Third Reich against the Soviet Union in hopes of establishing an independent Turkestan.*
After five years in research, development and production, the film (directed by Satybaldy Narymbetov and starring Aziz Beishaniliev as Mustafa Shokai) has been proclaimed to be a rich portrayal of a unique and contradictory personal and political life, illuminating both the man and his times.
Of course, at moments like these I wish I were in Russia to assess that claim for myself. For now, I can’t even find a trailer online. But I did manage to find the video for a song from the soundtrack with a tasty amount of footage. See for yourself:
(I hope that the romance angle is played up for this video and that the whole movie isn’t just a love-story with political footnotes. But hot song, right? Other than the fact the first few notes sound exactly like they are going to ease into a slowed-down cover of The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.")
*The English-language wikipedia entry on Shokai (or in Russified form Chokaev) is cursory. Those who can read the Russian-language entry will fare better. There’s also a memoir account of Shokai’s struggle for local autonomy following the Bolshevik Revolution available here (in English).