Zhanash, a small village in the Kazakh steppe, 400 km from the capital Almaty and three kilometres from the nearest paved road, is where Mariam lives with four young children in a hovel without electricity or running water. To earn some money, the family tends cattle for other farmers. One day her husband disappears without a trace and is nowhere to be found. An arduous battle with the authorities begins, for without a body he cannot be declared dead and Mariam cannot apply for benefits. But in her reserved way Mariam perseveres, navigating her way through the thoroughly patriarchal bureaucratic system so as to get justice for herself and her children. The experience has a visible impact on Mariam: her appearance and manner undergo subtle changes as she gains more confidence and self-awareness. This emancipation continues even after her husband reappears, tacitly expecting to pick up where he left off.
Sharipa Urazbayeva’s debut film builds on the experiences of Meruert Sabbusinova, a young Kazakh woman who Urazbayeva met when working for a local TV station and who inspired in her enough confidence to cast Sabbusinova as herself in Mariam. The director skilfully condenses Sabbusinova’s story down to the salient points, composing a calm, documentary-style backdrop for this allegorical character study of a woman.
Sharipa Urazbayeva graduated in 2010 with a degree in TV and film production from T.K. Zhurgenov Kazakh National Academy of Arts, following up in 2013 with a masterclass in film directing with the Georgian director I.M. Kvirikadze. Her feature debut comes after a series of international award-winning short films.
Films by Sharipa Urazbayeva
The Potato Eaters 2016 | Ego 2014 | Mimi 2013 | Boomerang 2013 | Source 2012