Dirs: Ivan Passer/Sergei Bodrov/Talgat Temenov. Kazakh. 2006. 112mins.
A sprawling spectacle that took its three directorsmore than three years to usher it to Locarno's PiazzaGrande, Nomad is a larger-than-lifehistorical epic replete with stunning landscapes and authentic productionvalues.
While hardly afestival gem, it should still be something of a crowd pleaser among sympatheticaudiences and generate healthy sales for Wild Bunch: already The WeinsteinCompany has taken rights for North America, UK, Australia, New Zealand andSouth Africa.
Ivan Passer beganshooting Nomad in 2003 but productionstalled after several months because of financial difficulties. It waseventually continued and finished by Sergei Bodrov, along with contributions from local director Taigat Temenov.
Set in thecentral Asian region of Kazakhstan, Nomadis a patriotic tale of resistance that wears its heart very much on its sleeve.It begins with the prophecy by Oraz (Jason ScottLee), the sort of wise old sage common in legend, thata warrior will be born to defend the area from Mongolian Jungarinvaders.
Hearing theprediction, Galdan (DoshkanZholzhaxynov), the Jungarking, orders his ruthless general Sharish (Mark Dascascos) to locate the child and kill him.
As with all talesof folklore, from Greek mythology to StarWars, the boy is rescued and grows into Mansur (Kuno Becker), a valiant young man, who saves his homelandafter many tribulations - including a duel against his best friend, Erali (Jay Hernandez).
Nomad is a work whose troubled passage to screen does not allow either of itsmain directors, Passer or Bodrov, to leave much of apersonal imprint on the finished piece. But despite discrepancies in continuityand a few unnecessary sentimental flashbacks, it nevertheless has the breadth,depth and impact of an authentic epic.
Rustam Ibragimbekov'sscript, the epic's weakest element, wastes little time in character-building orcareful plotting and often leaving threads hanging in the air: rather its dutyis to rush the audience from one spectacular scene to another.
Productionvalues, from the widescreen camerawork to design and costumes, are highlyprofessional, opting for historical accuracy over stylisedglamour. Battle scenes are energetically directed, although consist of brutishand bloody face-to-face conflict redolent of the medieval era rather than themore sophisticated engagements seen in broadly equivalent Asian features like Temptress Moon, The Emperor And The Assassin and Hero.
Performances relymostly on the personality of the well chosen cast. Both KunoBecker, as Mansur, and Jay Hernandez, as Erali, possess the necessary physique and screen presencerequired for their heroic exploits , although are hardly called on to do thatmuch acting.
In contrast JasonScott Lee offers quiet authority, coming over as some Central Asian take on Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi. Meanwhile Ayana Yesmagambetova, whosewinsome charm bowls over both the hero and his best friend, should go far ifshe is cast judiciously in future.
Despite obviousparallels between the Mongolian invasion of the region and the occupation ofthe Russians centuries later, the film avoids making any pointed politicalreferences.
Miljen 'Kreka' Kljakovic
Jason Scott Lee