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Powerful migrant drama wins Pingyao festival plaudits

By Cheng Yuezhu and Sun Ruisheng | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-26 07:59
Samal Yeslyamova stars as the eponymous protagonist in Ayka.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"We immerse ourselves in the region and therefore understand the problems much better," Kazak actress Samal Yeslyamova said at the second Pingyao Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon International Film Festival held in Shanxi province in China from Oct 11 to 20.

She won the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

Her film, Ayka, made its Chinese mainland debut at the Pingyao festival under its "best of fest" section that aims to showcase outstanding films from this year's major international film festivals for their Asia or China premieres.

Echoing the feminist focus of this year's Pingyao festival, Ayka tells the story of the eponymous protagonist, a Kyrgyz illegal migrant in Moscow, who abandons her newborn for survival. According to the film's director, Sergey Dvortsevoy, statistics suggest 248 babies were abandoned in Moscow hospitals by Kyrgyz mothers in 2010 alone.

As a Russian born in Kazakhstan, he said he understood the importance of family ties in Central Asian culture, rendering it incomprehensible that women should abandon their babies. But while researching the topic of female migrants, Dvortsevoy says he gradually understood the choices the women make.

"These migrants, especially women, come to Moscow fighting for a living. When they live in such hard life conditions, you see that they can do anything for money," he tells China Daily.

In Ayka, Dvortsevoy presents the dilemma of the protagonist with handheld cameras and long takes. The film is shot chronologically, with two years of preparatory work and four years of actual filming.

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