Ancient yet modern Kazakh tale

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Askat Kuchinchirekov stars in "Tulpan," a film by Sergey Dvortsevoy and a Zeitgeist Films release.

In the starkly beautiful Tulpan, a feature shot like an ethnographic documentary, camels stampede across the Kazakh steppe. The big-sky land is so flat and its horizon so infinitely wide that you would have an unobstructed view of the ends of the earth - had the Bactrians not raised dust clouds. Thankfully, Borat is nowhere in sight in this place where you can see the earth's curve - and the weather a time zone away.

The title character is an elusive young woman who resists the marriage proposal of Asa, an eligible bachelor recently returned from a tour of duty as a sailor. Asa hopes to set up his yurt and tend his flock of sheep "under the starry skies of the steppe." Does Tulpan, who hides behind a curtain when Asa comes courting, not like his jug ears? Does she dream of college?

In Sergey Dvortsevoy's elemental film, the winds are fierce, but the winds of change do not blow onto the steppe, where the delivery of a healthy lamb is a sign of spiritual rebirth.

This uncategorizable story, both ancient and modern, is, simply and poetically, about a nomad looking to make his home. For Asa, who speeds across the steppe in a tractor singing "By the Rivers of Babylon," this vast range is his Eden, where he is Adam searching for his Eve.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey

at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com.

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Tulpan

Directed by Sergei Dvortsevoy. With Bereke Turganbayev, Ondas Besikbasov, Tolepbergen Baisakalov, Askhat Kuchencherekov, Samal Esljamova. Distributed by Zeitgeist Films.

Running time: 1 hours, 40 minutes.

Parent's guide: Unrated ().