Red Poppies is about Soviet attempts stop smugglers in Issyk-Kul who terrorize the local population. Thus, there is a struggle for control of the opium trade, but also for control of the people. This major theme of the power that opium has over people is apparent throughout the film, as expressed in the character of the Bolshevik leader, Karabalta, and his struggle with the ‘Father of the Smugglers’, Baidak.
The film is an adaptation of a novella by Aleksandr Sytin, The Smugglers of Tyan-Shan. Director Bolotbek Shamshiev substantially revised the plot by introducing Karabalta, a character directly based on Bakhtygul, the main character of his previous film, A Shot at Karash Pass. In a sense, Red Poppies is a sequel, with its story about the social and class differences that form the root of the conflict between the wealthy Jharasbay and impoverished Bakhtygul. Bakhtygul’s transformation from blind loyalty to Jharasbay to fighting against him symbolizes the social and historical path of the people of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan at the end of 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.
Gulbara Tolomushova / Rotterdam IFF
Born in 1941, in Kyrgystan. He graduated in 1965 from the Moscow Film School with the popular-scientific documentary Manashi (1965). This film received an award at the International Short Film Festival of Oberhausen. His later films also won prizes. In 1976, he was nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival for The White Ship. In 1991, he received the honorary title of People’s Artist of the USSR.
1965 Manashi (short)
1968 Vystrel na perevale Karash / A Shot at the Karash Pass
1972 Czerwone maki znad Issyk-kul / Alye maki Issyk-Kulya / The Red Poppies of Issyk-Kul
1976 Biały statek / Belyy parokhod / The White Ship
1979 Rannie zhuravli / Early Cranes
1985 Snaypery / Sniper