Diary 3 of the Central Asian Scriptwriting Lab: Story of Aizada

16 August 2021

We continue a series of articles about the work of the Central Asian Scriptwriting Lab (CASL) organised by the UNESCO Office in Almaty as part of the "Strengthening Film Industries in Central Asia" project with the support of the government of the Republic of Korea. This time we will tell the story of Aizada Bekbalayeva is a scriptwriter from Kyrgyzstan and CASL Lab participant.

Even at 25 years old, Aizada already has a wealth of experience as a scriptwriter and editor, as well as teaching scriptwriting and film studies. She wanted to get involved in filmmaking since high school, demonstrating her skill and expertise through essays, treatments and short stories.

After working for some time as a journalist, Aizada decided to try to make her break into the film world by heading to the St Petersburg State University of Film and TV, where she successfully earned her masters degree. She has already completed several projects and is now working with other members of the CASL on her forthcoming trilogy My Husband.

About the cinema in Kyrgyzstan

Aizada explained that one of her main reasons for taking part in CASL was the state of education in film studies in Kyrgyzstan. Earlier in her career, she taught scriptwriting and film studies at the Kyrgyz State University of Culture and Arts, but she had to give up teaching.

I realised that media and film education was very weak. I had been abroad where I studied film like a science, but it was just on a completely different level. There is no school in Kyrgyzstan teaching this art. Even as a qualified expert I cant develop this, because people think Im too young.

Aizada believes that the scriptwriting profession is often undervalued in Kyrgyzstan. Inexperienced directors act as writers themselves, and it destroys the scriptwriters position. There are experienced scriptwriters who can make a good film, a good product, but for some reason the directors and scriptwriters dont work in tandem.

She argues that Kyrgyz cinemas greatest strength is its ability to create good films on a limited budget. Our population is small, compared to Kazakhstan. So if you can make a film in Kazakhstan and it can cover its costs, then in Kyrgyzstan you cannot spend a fortune on a movie, the population is too small. Its a major strength of Kyrgyz cinema that we can make films to enter in festivals at very little cost.

Shooting of the movie "Lake", directed by Emil Atageldiyev

Finding the storys body and soul through CASL

Aizada had not found like-minded colleagues in Kyrgyzstan to work with her on the trilogy. It has been helpful that there are a lot of people [at CASL] with different worldviews, and through their feedback, my script and my idea have improved, Aizada says, explaining that she found the colleagues she needed through CASL. This is the best thing I have gained from this project.

At this point in the course, she realised that she wanted to escape the bounds of genre and try her hand at something different, something more dramatic. Aizada decided to write My Husband.

The trilogys main theme is adapted from real life and tells the story of a conservative and religious man who falls in love with his daughter-in-law after his son dies. I learnt about the story from relatives: somewhere out there in a remote region, exactly this had happened. The girl was strongly criticised, and no one understood why she had stayed with her father-in-law. I was just amazed when I heard the story. How to go on living when the person you loved is gone? But there remains some part of him in his father and his mother. Its a little different, but it is also love.

I sat on this idea for over six months. I didnt even write it I just had it in my head somewhere and kept thinking it over. I was so interested in this topic that is so taboo in our society. The idea always followed me and kept coming back into my head. I decided that I for sure had to do it, she explains. I sent my idea to the programme and said that it didnt have a body and soul yet, in that I didnt have a full plot and storyline. And thats what Im doing now: I have a team, four folks from CASL, and theyre all completely different, which is a big plus. Theyre helping me develop the plot.

With the Russian actor Boris Grigorievich Smolkin, Honoured Artist of the Russian Federation

The profession and the future

Working as a scriptwriter, Aizada feels free, as if she has the chance to learn about the world. She also appreciates the interesting life experience of her filmmaking colleagues. People who work in the film industry directors, artists, and my fellow scriptwriters are really interesting people. Everyone comes to film with some kind of experience, and no one comes without ideas. They all have some kind of pain, trauma suitcases of life experience. And they bring it with them so they can portray it in film. Thats what I love most about my profession.

Asked about her favourite films, Aizada singled out romantic comedies. La La Land (2016) and Love Me If You Dare (2003) are particular favourites. These are the kind of film I like a lot where the main plot revolves around love. I like them dramatic, but somewhat feminine. I also love the films of Timur Bekmambetov, especially the urban fantasies. Denis Villeneuves Arrival (2016) and Sicario (2015) too. Plus, I love Lana Wachowskis Cloud Atlas (2012), where love itself is the main focus.

She also has high hopes for the youth of Kyrgyzstan in regard to film. I think there are great possibilities here if new people step forward and start sharing interesting things, she explains. Things are a bit of a mess right now in film, but I think the younger generation will come through, start to innovate, and everything will be okay.

With the last words of her interview, Aizada gave advice to aspiring writers. Observe life, and live it to the fullest. Have fun, get up into the mountains, and always say yes to things! Help everyone you can and talk to people as much as possible.

The interview was given to Aigerim Mukhametgali, communications intern.

Previous diaries:

Initial Project Participants;

Project Trainers; Diary 1: reviewing Applications and Selecting Participants;
Diary 2: onsultations of Yulia Levitskaya.

Permanent link: http://en.unesco.kz/diary-3-of-the-central-asian-scriptwriting-lab-br-story-of-aizada