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ONCE IN THE DESERT (aka Palmyra)
Directed by: Andrey Kravchuk
Written by: Arif Aliyev
DOP: Morad Abdel-Fattakh
Produced by: Rock Films
Languages: Russian, Arabic
Budget: USD 8 mln
Based on real events
The films follows a Syrian War Explosive Ordnance Disposal team who are targeted by ISIS militants while they prepare the recently liberated historic site of Palmyra to hold a symbolic concert of the Mariinsky Symphony Orchestra. The peacekeeping event can only be held in Palmyra that has been severely damaged by the terrorists only if the ancient city and the roads leading to it are defused. The EOD team clears the way one kilometer at a time. But the closer they get to the center of Palmyra, the more destructive the explosives. Tension grows between the young team Captain and the most experienced of the EOD experts. And yet, despite their differences, when the team falls into an ambush and the Captain goes missing, it’s the experienced sapper that sets out to search for him.
World premiere: 51st International Film Festival Rotterdam
Directed by: Adilkan Ezhanov
Written by: Adilkan Ezhanov
Cast: Azamat Nigmanov, Aleksandra Revenko,
Music: Galymzhan Moldanazar
Look Film, Forest Film, Shortbrothers, JSC Kazakhfilm, Nomad Stunts
A group of unidentified people who look like terrorists seize a village school in Karatas. They take the children hostage but make no demands. Local police cannot request reinforcements from the city because a snowstorm has disrupted communication.
Meanwhile, the “terrorists” kill the first hostage. TAZSHI – a local teacher – cannot idly wait for help to arrive. He assembles an assault team made up of parents whose children were taken hostage. At night, they must plan their attack and take responsibility for it. The children’s lives depend on a district police officer, an Afghan veteran, an alcoholic, a PE teacher, a school principal, Tazshi and his ex-wife.
Adilkhan Yerzhanov is one of the most renowned Kazakh filmmakers. At 38, he has already made 11 films (including The Owners, The Plague at the Karatas Village and A Dark, Dark Man) that received dozens of awards at various festivals. Assault is his twelfth picture.
The film continues to develop the universe of Karatas village – a miniature allegorical copy of the country and the world at large. It is in Karatas that most of Yerzhanov’s films take place. The plot is centered on a terrorist attack on a school – an attack that, through the fault of a teacher, develops into a hostage situation.
ADILKHAN YERZHANOV, writer and director: “The events of the film happen in an imaginary village called Karatas. Its school is taken over by unidentified masked people. The village is remote, so if the road is blocked by snow, no one can reach it. I do not know such places in Kazakhstan. That space is, of course, completely symbolic and not linked to anything real. Assault should generally not be connected to any real events. It is psychological and not socio-political.
It is also not a standard action movie about freeing hostages. It is not about fighting bad guys; it is about fighting yourself. There is an existential dimension to Assault: a person must make a choice, so the main battle is happening inside – introspectively. I like the trendy term “slow burner”. I think it defines the genre of this film quite adequately".