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The Light Thief
Svet-Ake
Directed by Aktam Arym Kubat
Kyrgyzstan, 2010
Cornerhouse, 7 August 2011

The Light Thief

It is easy to see why this film has garnered such high praise at Cannes, Locarno, Pusan and elsewhere.

There are many wonderful moments – a boy being rescued from a tree, a drunken howl of anguish from a man who feels the lack of a son, a wife bathing her husband in a tub – in a story about a village under threat.  The young people are leaving for Russia and the Ukraine, since they see no prospects in staying, and there’s a developer eager to dispossess the people who have lived there for generations.

Against the robber baron and his minions stands Mr. Light, the ‘thief’ of the title, and he’s quite an unlikely hero even as a Prometheus figure.

Not only an illuminating portrait of modern day Kyrgyzstan, The Light Thief is also an enlightening look at human beings, their families and the fragility of traditional communities.  Gorgeous landscapes are all over the shop and there’s an effective use of the tropes of your usual Western.

Another work concerned with light, my second in a week.  Yes, we are all the Sun’s debtors, as Jacques Roubaud has written, but we also owe a great debt to Aktam Arym Kubat for this marvellous film.

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