Tulpan (2008), a film from Kazakhstan that won international accolades when it came out. The whole film happens inside two nomadic tents called Yurts, and the outside barren land surrounding them. The story is of a young man, Asa, a recently discharged Russian sailor who lives with his sister Samal and her family. Ondas is the husband of Samal, a local herdsman, he manages a herd of sheeps for an owner. Ondas and Samal have 3 children, and life in the small yurt and hosting Asa, who has little experience as a herdsman doesn’t make it any easy. Asa dreams of owning his own ranch, but for him to get a flock of sheeps from the owner, he needs to get married – only a married man with a family is considered to be trustworthy. Along with his friend, a tractor driver and his brother-in-law Ondas, Asa goes to a family which is nearby – a couple of hours drive – to ask them to marry their daughter Tulpan. Asa’s relationship with Ondas is not smooth, he tries to get away – but his sister Samal’s affection towards him makes Asa come back to the yurt every time.
Life in the remote part of Kazakhstan is not easy, sandstorms brewing all the time and spewing sand everywhere, livestock is the only asset, and they get sick and people living there lead a simple life with grounded dreams. The beauty of the film is how true it stays to the location and the people living there – the act of butter churning by Samal, the singing by her daughter, the young boy residing from memory the day’s news without missing a word, the frustrations of Asa in not able to find a bride, the dancing of the truck driver to tunes of “Boney M”, the veterinarian showing off his camel bite marks – every small thing has been captured as realistically as possible. There is a live scene where Asa delivers a lamp for a pregnant sheep.
When the film ended, I got up and dusted off the sands of Kazakhstan from my shirt. A fine way to end this year of movie watching!