Sasha, a young Jewish orphan, is sent into exile during a Stalinist purge. Losing his grandfather on the long train journey, Sasha is rescued by a gruff widowed rail worker Kasym (the distinguished Kazakh actor Nurzhuman Ikhtimbaev). Kasym takes the boy to his remote village where Sasha becomes part of a surrogate family of other cast outs. A Muslim living by the tenets of ethnic and religious tolerance, Kasym renames Sasha as Sabyr, meaning "humble of heart" in its Arabic origin, but the older man still preserves the boy's Jewish identity. What Sasha/Sabyr finds on the lovingly-filmed, sweeping Kazakh steppes is more than survival in this lyrical, poignant story told through a child's memories. Film clips in Kazakh and Russian with English subtitles.At noon, the film will be presented at the Library of Congress (Mumford Room,6th Floor, Madison Building), and at the Magen David Sephardic Congregation (Rockville, Maryland) at 7pm.
From the website of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival:
In 1949, railcars holding Jews and other deportees creep eastward into oblivion. Or is it? For young Sasha, salvation comes through a rubric of chance, defiance and love. His enforced rebirth finds him surrounded by a makeshift new clan: his savior and new grandfather, Kasym (veteran actor Nurzhuman Ikhtimbaev), who is Muslim; Verka, the wife of a traitor; Ezhik, a Polish resister; and a gang of orphans—a wilderness family with deep bonds despite habitual harassment from authorities. Rare news comes from Moscow announcing a children’s contest celebrating Stalin’s 70th birthday. If Sasha’s original gift wins, he hopes to achieve his parents’ freedom. Decades pass, and Sasha questions history and his fate: “Who are you in the land of your God if a part of your soul was left behind?” Gift’s allegorical ending will linger long in your heart and mind, likely to raise questions, yet perhaps answer others, such as Kasym’s early query, “Whose flock are you from?"The screening is in cooperation with the European Division and Hebrew Language Table of the LOC with the Washington Jewish Film Festival and the Embassy of Kazakhstan.
The LOC event includes clips of the film and a lecture by producers Boris Cherdabayev and Aliya Uvalzhanova.
The complete film will be screened at Magen David, along with a discussion by the filmmakers.
Both events are free to the public.
Cherdabayev and Uvalzhanova founded Aldongar Productions Kazakhstan in 2006. Their mission is to preserve the cultural and historical legacy of the country, which has a history of tolerance and diversity, as exemplified by its Jewish community with a history of some 2,500 years.