The film industry in Kazakhstan has its origins in the production of documentaries in Alma-Ata (now Almaty) in the 1930s, developed to use as instruments for Soviet propaganda. The first Kazakh feature film, Amangeldy (1939), about the leader of the 1916 revolution, Amangeldy Imanov, was however the work of Lenfilm in Leningrad.Filmmaking in Kazakhstan was given a boost by the dislocations caused by World War II, as the main Soviet film studios, Mosfilm and Lenfilm, were both evacuated to Alma-Ata, where they combined with the Alma-Ata Film Studios to produce the Central United Film Studio. As a result, the Central United Film Studio, which continued working in Alma-Ata till 1944, produced 80 percent of all Soviet domestic feature films made during the war. Much of the great Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein's two part epic Ivan the Terrible was filmed in the Kazakh SSR. One of the major Soviet film schools, the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK), was also temporarily relocated to Alma-Ata during the war. This film school became an alma-mater for the most notable Kazakh filmmakers of the 1960s, known as "the new wave". On January 6, 1961, the major Kazakh film company Alma-Ata Film Studios had its name changed to Kazakhfilm by the Ministry of the Culture of the Kazakh SSR.
In the post-war Soviet period, the major figure of Kazakh SSR's film industry was director Shaken Aimanov, in whose honor the Kazakhfilm film studios were renamed in 1984. Notable films of this period include a number of historical epics, such as the love tragic story Kyz-Zhibek (1970), and a trio of action films involving a secret agent, played by Asanali Ashimov, who uses all manner of derring-do to defeat the enemies of communism. The first in the trilogy, The End of the Ataman (1970), was set in 1921 and was directed by Shaken Aimanov. The second, The Trans-Siberian Express (1977), directed by Yeldar Orazbayev and set in 1927, featured a complicated plot involving the defeat of counter-revolutionaries planning to kill a Japanese businessman on a train bound for Moscow, on which our hero was masquerading as a cabaret manager. The third, The Manchurian Variant (1989), was set in 1945 Manchuria. The films, with their central hero played by a Kazakh actor, were, as well as entertainment, part of the efforts of the Soviet establishment to demonstrate that the Kazakh people fully supported communism.
With perestroika in the Soviet Union of the 1980s emerged a new wave of young Kazakh filmmakers, ready to challenge the cinematic establishment. A catalyst for this new movement in Kazakh film was provided by The Needle (1988), the first film directed by Rashid Nugmanov, who cast as his central figure Viktor Tsoi, front-men of the rock group Kino and also hero to disaffected Soviet youth. Kino also contributed a soundtrack. Tsoi's character returns to Alma-Ata to collect money he is owed, only to find out that his former girlfriend has become a drug addict. He decides to fight against the drug pushers and it all ends badly.
1990s-2000s: the post-independence Kazakhstan
In 1993, Nugmanov directed The Wild East, loosily based on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, involves a group of dwarves, runaways from the circus, who brings the magnificent seven to protects them from the predations of motorbike-riding Mongolian hoodlums. Nugmanov moved to Paris in 1993, where he has been associated with Kazakh political opposition groups. Other filmmakers of the post-independence Kazakhstan to have achieved success at international festivals include Satybaldy Narimbetov. His Biography of a Young Accordion Player (1994) is a tale of a small boy growing up in a Kazakh village during World War II.Leila's Prayer (2002) focuses on girl from a village close to the Semipalatinsknuclear test site, whose mother prayer is that her baby son should live to old age.Darezhan Omirbaev's Killer (1998), a Kazakh-Frenchco-production, is a tragic tale highlighting the economic difficulties by Kazakhstanis in the 1990s. A young driver from Almaty causes a minor motor accident when taking his wife and newborn baby back home from the hospital. Unable to pay for the damage, he gets sucked into crime. Amir Karakulov has garnered critical praise for a number of films, including Homewrecker (1991), a tale of two brothers in love with the same girl. Again, it all ends badly. A new arrival on the scene is Rustem Abdrashev. His directorial debut was Renaissance Island (2004), a tale of the first love of an aspiring poet set against the historical backdrop of the desiccation of the Aral Sea.
One problem is that very few of these films have been widely seen by audiences in Kazakhstan. Domestic distributors have preferred to rely an a diet of dubbedHollywoodblockbusters and big-budget Russian movies, with the result that post-independence Kazakh cinema has developed something of a reputation a being more likely to be found in Western art houses and international competitions than on screens in Kazakhstan. However, the big-budget Kazakhstan film has arrived. Nomad: The Warriors (2005), with its international crew and cast, was an officially supported attempt to bring a film based on an exploits of Kazakh warriors of the 18th century onto international screens.Racketeer (2007), directed by Akan Satayev, about as a young Almaty in the tough economic climate of the 1990s, was billed as the first purely commercially oriented film made in the post-independence Kazakhstan, and proved a considerable box-office draw. One Kazakh director, Timur Bekmambetov, has also had success internationally in commercials cinema projects, particularly with the Russian fantasy features Night Watch (2004) and Day Watch (2006). Bekmambetov now directing and producing movies in Hollywood. His notable works made in Hollywood includes Wanted (2008), The Darkest Hour (2011) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012).
Lokomotiv Cinema in Aktobe was built in 1928 during the Soviet period.
Cinemas in Kazakhstan range from draughty Soviet survivals to modern multiplex complexes. The market of cinemas is mainly divided between the KinoPark Multiplex Cinemas, StarCinema, Arman and smaller players. Kazakhstan's new cinemas are usually located in shopping malls and entertainment centers. Ticket prices are lower than those in Western Europe and North America. In 2012, IMAX Corp. opened those two cinemas in Kazakhstan, as the result of the deal signed with KinoPark Multiplex Cinemas in 2010. Films originally made in English are almost invariably dubbed, not subtitled, but there is a little shown in English.