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The Red Poppies of Issyk-Kul

Bolotbek Shamshiyev
Alye maki Issyk-Kulya
USSR 1972 / 99’
USSR: Central Asian Films

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

Bolotbek Shamshiyev

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.

Selected filmography

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

Cast & Crew

director Bolotbek Shamshiyev
screenplay Yuri Sokol, Vasili Sokol, Ashim Dzhakypbekov, based on a short story by Aleksandr Sytin
cinematography Viktor Osennikov
music Mikhail Marutayev
cast Suimenkul Chokmorov, Sovetbek Dzhumadylov, Boris Khimichev
production Filmstudio Kyrgyzfilm
sales Filmstudio Kyrgyzfilm
source of print Cineteca di Bologna – Archivio Film
language Russian
colouration colour