Japan-Kazakh co-production The First Rains Of Spring was awarded best film at the Eurasia International Film Festival, which took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan (Sep 19-24).

Directed by Kazakh filmmaker Erlan Nurmukhambetov and Japan’s Sano Shinju, the film follows a family of shepherds who are tasked with taking their shaman grandmother back to her native land after her death. It was co-produced by Japan’s Studio-D and Kazakhstan’s Assau Art-films and SKIF.

Another Kazakh film, Nariman Turebaev’s Sunny Days, took the best director prize at the Eurasia fest. The film premiered at this year’s Locarno film festival and was financed after taking the top prize in Locarno’s Open Doors programme in 2010.

Best actor went to Theodor Juliusson for his role in Icelandic drama Volcano, directed by Runar Runarsson, while best actress went to Olga Simonova for Russian filmmaker Igor Voloshin’s The Bedouin. The FIPRESCI prize was awarded to Auraeus Solito’s Busong, the first film in the Palawan language from the Philippines, which premiered at Cannes this year. The NETPAC jury gave their award to Uzbek drama Lead, directed by Zulfikar Mussakov.

This year’s  jury was headed by Korean director Kim Ki-duk, whose latest film Arirang was screened at the festival, and also included Japanese director Yoichi Sai, Russian director Vladimir Khotinenko, Kazakh director Rustem Abdrashov and French actor, director and composer Gilles Marchand.

Now in its seventh edition, the festival changed the programming policy for its international competition this year. In recent years, the competition focused on films from Central Asia and the Turkic world, but from this year was broadened to encompass films from Europe, Asia and the CIS countries.  

Eurasia artistic director Gulnara Abikeyeva said the decision was taken because although it had been a strong year for Kazakh cinema, with around 25 films produced, there were only a handful of films from other Central Asian countries, so the competition would have been heavily skewed towards Kazakh films.

“At the same time we received a lot of applications from Europe, Asia, Iran so we decided to go back to having an international competition as we did between 2005 and 2007,” said Abikeyeva.

In addition to the international competition, festival sections also included Dynamic Kazakh Cinema, presenting Kazakh films from late 2010 and 2011; a selection of films from Venice called Echoes of Venice; A Virtual West and Changing East; US Documentary Showcase, and special screenings.

The festival opened with Kazakh war drama Return To The A directed by Egor Konchalovsky based on the true story of a Kazakh soldier fighting in Afghanistan. Stars attending the festival included John Cusack, Nastassja Kinski and Sigourney Weaver.