Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
MFF ’13: Baikonur
like their Soviet counterparts used to do, Russian cosmonauts watch the Central
Asian caper movie White Sun of the Desert
before each lift-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Not the surprisingly, the locals have an
ambiguously symbiotic relationship to the Russian space program. One young Kazakh misfit harbors ambitions
regarding love and space travel in Veit Helmer’s Baikonur (trailer
has its Texas premiere this Saturday at the 2013 Marfa Film Festival.
men of Iskander “Gagarin” Orinbekov’s village have only one source of
employment—salvaging metal cast-off from rocket launches. A self taught engineer, Orinbekov usually
gives them an edge over their competition.
They have a saying: “what drops from the sky is a gift from God.” Tragically, falling space debris also killed
Gargarin’s parents when he was young.
Yet, he still dreams of joining the cosmonauts. Then one day, Orinbekov discovers French
space tourist Julie Mahé’s missing space capsule with her strapped inside. When she finally comes to, she has a tempting
case of amnesia. Since she fell from the
sky, Orinbekov wonders if he can really keep her.
on location at Baikonur and Star City outside Moscow, Baikonur captures the grand scale of the Russian space facilities. Helmer really instills a real sense of place
in the film and evokes the idealism many people still feel for the daring pursuit
of space exploration. He and cinematographer
Kolya Kano frame some striking images throughout the film, juxtaposing the
traditional trappings of Orinbekov’s village with the hulking rocket
scraps. Unfortunately, Baikonur eventually runs out of steam,
slumping into a rather standard issue star-crossed love tale down the stretch.
Asia has been a region of fertile inspiration for Helmer, the German helmer,
whose previous film was the likable fable Absurdistan. However, he loses perspective occasionally in
Baikonur. It is hard to imagine most women in the
audience will find the offers to buy Orinbekov’s “fiancée” a funny ha-ha turn
Alexander Asochakov is engagingly earnest as Orinbekov, despite his limited
dialogue. Conversely, Marie de Villepin
(daughter of Sarkozy’s nemesis, Dominique de Villepin) is somewhat vanilla as Mahé. However, Erbulat Toguzakov has some nicely
wry moments as Orinbekov’s grandfather, Rustam.
At one point he tartly laments: “the young are so clever and the world
is so dumb.”
When celebrating stargazers and space travelers,
Baikonur’s innocent spirit of wonder
is genuinely charming. The question of
whether Orinbekov will win back Mahé or possibly start to notice his old
childhood friendemy Nazira is considerably harder to get caught up in. At least the look and the feel of the film
are rather special. Recommended for
space program enthusiasts and boosters, Baikonur
screens this Saturday (6/29) during the 2013 Marfa Film Festival.
Labels: MFF '13, Veit Helmer