The Toronto-based sales agent has racked up its first sales on Akan Satayev’s Myn Bala – Warriors Of The Steppe.

108 Media racks up first sales on Kazakh Oscar entry Myn Bala, new generation of Kazakh film-makers show diversity and dynamism

Speaking exclusively to Screen Daily at this week’s Eurasia International Film Festival where Myn Bala was shown as a special event, 108 Media’s chairman Jeff Rayman revealed that video and DVD rights to the historical drama have been sold to such territories as Germany, France, Middle East, the UK and the Netherlands since acquiring the film at the Cannes Marché du Film in May.

“Our plan in North America is to do a theatrical release in collaboration with Paladin Films and, while the film is in the theatres, do a day-and-date release on video-on-demand so that we can advertise ‘as seen in theatres’,” Rayman said.

“Initially, we will launch the film with subtitles in a platform release with one theatre in New York to start with to let the critics see it and attract an audience slowly, and then do the same with a second theatre in Los Angeles, and follow with Boston, Chicago and so on.”

Since the film has now been entered as an entry for the foreign language film categories of both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes, 108 Media will coordinate its North American release to come before the end of the year, Rayman said, adding that “if it gets a nomination for Golden Globe, of course we will expand.”

He continued: “It’s a stunningly visual film, with spectacular locations and great attention to detail in the costumes. It is about coming of age, it involves disparate groups of people coming together for a common cause, and it’s the David and Goliath story against a stunning background. One of the things we want do is to see if we can get some travel sections of newspapers to do features on Kazakhstan because I think no-one knows this country – it’s a hidden gem.“

Myn Bala opened in Kazakhstan in May and took $2m at the box office to become the most successful local film of all time. Eurasia IFF’s international jury president Wolfgang Petersen is an admirer and spoke warmly at the festival’s opening ceremony about the film and its young protagonists “with such beautiful faces.” Petersen suggested that the film should receive wider circulation around the world and enthused about the “freshness, energy and inspiration” he had felt since arriving in Kazakhstan.

The diversity and dynamism of the young generation of Kazakh film-makers was clearly in evidence during a marathon eight-hour pitching session of eight “works in progress” and the presentation of 18 short film-maker. Foreign guests included CNC’s Magalie Armand, Benjamin Illos from Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, Francesco de Casare of Venice’s La Biennale and producers Pierre Spengler and Natalia Ivanova.

In an opening address, Kazakhfilm president Ermek Amanshayev observed that this new generation of film-makers “calls itself the Storm or the New New Wave, The main thing is that they are out there and they are very active.”

In their presentation producer Anna Katchko and director Emir Baigazin showed excerpts from the latter’s feature debut The Lessons Of Harmony, which had won a production award from Kazakhfilm Studios at Eurasia IFF last year and the German post-production house Post Republic’s prize at Sarajevo’s CineLink this July.

Katchko revealed that the production, which received backing from the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund this summer, has also attracted Berlin-based Rohfilm, co-producer of the Locarno Audience Award winner Lore, as a German production partner.

Baigazin’s film is the second co-production Rohfilm has co-produced with Kazakhstan following Marat Sarulu’s Song From The Southern Sea.

Other projects included Elya Gilman’s feature Milk, Sour Cream, Cottage Cheese, which premiered in the festival’s sidebar Dynamic Kazakh Cinema, Alexey Gorkov’s second full-length film, the tragi-comic documentary The Story Of One Woman shot in one take and financed by independent sources.

Meanwhile, the short filmmakers gave an idea of what kind of debut features could be expected from them in the future.

A group of Kazakh and Kirghiz film-makers – Azat Khakimov, Erke Zhumakmatova, Chingiz Narynov and Pavel Potashov – are developing projects as diverse as a teenage urban drama and a horror “auteur popcorn” film, while Anton Mitnev explained that Kazakhfilm was interested in making a feature version of his short comedy The Village Doctor and Olzhas Isayev said that he has received a scholarship from the national studios to make the first genuine Kazakh thriller.