Image courtesy of TIFF.
The Light Thief
Not being experts on Kyrgyzstani film, it’s difficult for us to say whether The Light Thief is a typical offering or not. IMDB turns up just twenty-three other releases from the country, which shares borders with Kazakhstan and China. As a glimpse into an underexposed culture (underexposed, at least, to most North American eyes), the film is effective. Unfortunately, a loose and underdeveloped story prevents it from ever becoming much more than a moving postcard.
The Light Thief is set in a small, struggling Kyrgyzstani mountain village, where Svet-Ake—translated by the film’s subtitlers as “Mr. Light”—is the town electrician.
Mr. Light, an appealingly affable man-about-town type of main character, dreams of bringing sustainable wind energy to his isolated burg. In the meantime, he makes his living helping fellow impoverished villagers steal juice from Kyrgyzstan’s national utility. Naturally, he’s a popular guy. Things become complicated when Bezkat, a wealthy politico with connections to Kyrgyzstan’s revolutionary government, attempts to enlist Mr. Light’s help in modernizing the village, for reasons that may be less honourable than they first appear.
Breathtaking shots of grassy landscapes, humble interiors, yurts, and homespun horsemanship make the film worth the price of admission (when else are you going to see it?), but a relentless adherence to realism prevents anything of consequence from happening to The Light Thief‘s cast of characters.
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