Monday, 25 February 2008

Uralin Perhonen

"The Butterfly of the Urals" is a handmade puppet animation by Finnish artist Katariina Lillqvist. It is based on folk tales about general Mannerheim, told by the working-class inhabitants of old Pispala in Tampere. The folk tales weren't too reverent towards the "Slaughterer-General", whose decisive role in the bloody civil war in 1918 stayed in the memories of the losing "Red" side in old Socialist stronghold Tampere, which was taken after an especially bitter battle. What makes these secret folk tales interesting is the imagination and visual poetry that Lillqvist has interpreted them with. And yes, there's a Chirayliq angle...

Before his career as leader of the Finnish armed forces, before there was an independent Finland, Mannerheim travelled as an "explorer" (in reality, a spy for the Russian military) through Central Asia. The folk tales claim that he brought back a Kyrgyz man who was his servant - and his secret lover. This detail in the animation appears to be tastefully rendered - the Kyrgyz is equipped with handsome cheekbones and giant butterfly wings, and rides side-saddle on Mannerheim through the steppes - no, nothing awful: in this scene, Mannerheim is a centaur.

Uralin Perhonen has shocked so-called patriotic Finns - certain old angry men, I mean politicians, have even demanded, "off with her head!" The same people usually argue that Mannerheim defended Finland's freedom in 1918, 1939 and 1941 - I wonder if their "freedom" is the same as mine. It certainly sounds more like the "freedom" offered by Mannerheim's favourite enemy - shut up and do what you're told.
Because... no matter if you believe the old folktale, is it more important to respect your idol more than other peoples' memories? These folk tales are the silent ones' way of dealing with a painful past. No wonder Lillqvist was praised at Prix Italia in Milan - Italians should know that art is the first thing to be oppressed and abused by the powerful. The power of the image is intimidating. Nobody complained when the same story was aired on public radio in 2004!
Returning to Chirayliq mode, and I know I may get flamed for this, but one cannot blame Mannerheim for hiding in his closet, if the closet contained a handsome Central Asian man like the Butterfly of the Urals.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Berlinale 2008 - another highlight!

The only film of the Berlinale that I actually saw was "Chiko", written and directed by Özgür Yildirim. It's a dark story about Chiko and Tibet, two Turkish-German best friends and small time crooks in Hamburg, trying to make it big in a messed up world of poverty and extreme wealth, conflicting loyalties, bad decisions and an all-destructive cycle of revenge. It was a quite gripping and disturbing film (despite some easily avoided logical errors).

Of course, it was no disadvantage that the main character Chiko was played by the hot and hairy half Italian, half Turkish Denis Moschitto. ^_^
Moschitto had for a long time, due to his southern looks, been confined to funny "ethnic" sidekick roles. His first two main roles before "Chiko" were in comedies - as a guy who starts up a phone sex line exclusively in Turkish in "Süperseks" (2004), and as a wannabe star director in "Kebab Connection" (2005). He was born in 1977 and is a vegetarian, as IMDB informs us ...

Here is Moschitto's page at The photos are a bit old - for his role as Chiko, Moschitto built some more muscles than can be seen there ... (Photo above left by Marion Koell.)

Since Denis Moschitto is no longer a funny sidekick in this movie, Fahri Ogün Yardim (of Turkish descent, born 1980) instead takes on a bit of that role as Chiko's and Tibet's Roma-German friend Curly Adler. But he is also a bit of a "good example" and often the only voice of reason in the difficult relationship between Chiko and Tibet.
And he's cute. ^_^

Here is Yardim's page at his agency Rakete.

Oh, and can Germany be considered part of Central Asia? Well, ask Wilhelm II. (More in the German Wiki.)

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Berlinale 2008 - A Highlight

From Son of a Lion by Benjamin Gilmour, interviewed at The movie tells a story about the life of Pashtun people in northern Pakistan, a hard life where fathers place a heavy burden on their sons, but also a life of harsh beauty in the mountains near the Afghanistan border. The actors are all amateurs, and the dialogue is improvised.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Tatar Hip-Hop & R&B

This is a Russian 5TV program about the Tatar "R&B phenomenon", mainly focusing on the hip-hop group IttifaQ. Reporter Kirill Ivanov, who is quite handsome himself, travels to Kazan to get the straight dope on this intriguing issue. Can you be a Muslim and a rapper? (Well, the answer seems obvious, but just to be sure they've asked a real philosopher, too.)
Featuring: the Ittifaq crew, president Mintimer Shaimiev a.k.a. "Babay", various cute Tatars and Russians, the statue of Musa Jalil (Soviet hero of WWII), and the Qul Sharif mosque. I also thought I recognised pop singer Bulat Zhighanshin in a clip.

Note: Maybe it's my bad Russian, but it seems that R&B means something completely different in Russia than what I'm used to. Call me old-fashioned! Check the Wikipedia articles on R&B and Contemporary R&B if you are interested.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Dombra Pop - Kazakh Music Videos

Totally AMAZING fantasy music video with unidentified dombra hero! No wonder the ice queen melts!

This is a propaganda video for the Kazakhstan armed forces. Again, I have no info about the artist. The dombra is relegated to a symbolical role. The accordion reminds me of Tatar music (and Russian and Finnish, obviously). Note the final "inspiring" quote by Nursultan Nazarbayev...

And as always when I see footage of soldiers, I think: "Poor boys."
(Though riding through the steppe is strangely tempting...)

Monday, 11 February 2008

Little Brother, Big Brother

Javhlan & Haidav - Ahand Dvvsin Duu

Tinet commented on the previous Genghis Khan post that Mongols are generally not very enthusiastic about Russia after decades of Soviet "nurturing". This video by the popular singer Javhlan made me very confused. It looks like a celebration of the "cooperation between nations" that was such a central part of Soviet propaganda.*) I even thought it was ironic, until I found this post at Silk Road Freeways.

The blog author has an excellent explanation for the popularity of this song:
I think a good analogy would be the way Americans see the 1950’s. Some people want to bring the USA back to the 50’s, just like some Mongolians wish they could go back to Russian domination. In both cases they’re the minority. Still, practically all Americans enjoy 50’s diners and oldies music. Putting footage of Lenin parades on TV is the Mongolian equivalent of showing girls in poodle skirts doing the twist.

*)As everyone knows, Finland benefited from it by being such a pain in the ass 1939-1944 that Stalin went all "awww, plucky little bastards" and let them sign the "Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance" in 1948 without rolling the tanks through Helsinki first. That's why the Finnish economy crashed in the early 1990's. Of course, nobody would admit that the reason for the loss of the important trading partner also depended on the fact that the Russians simply got free access to markets that had better stuff to sell...

Sunday, 10 February 2008

The Genghis Craze

This 2007 movie, about the early years of Genghis Khan, deserves a much longer post. The director, Sergei Bodrov sr., is Russian. The film is an international co-production between companies in Germany, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia. The lead actor, playing Temujin, is the (very very chirayliq) Tadanobu Asano from Japan. The film was shot in the People's Republic of China, principally Inner Mongolia, and in Kazakhstan. To top it all, the film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film as a submission from Kazakhstan.

(Wait a sec - "Music by Tuomas Kantelinen"? This truly is a pan-Eurasian production... Heart-warming!)

Of course, there's bound to be trouble.

This is not the first movie adaptation of Genghis Khan's life, and I'm sure it won't be the worst (in the fabulous "yellowface" genre, I think John Wayne takes the prize with his incredible line in The Conqueror (1956): "this Tartar for me...and my blood says...take her!!" Oh my Tengri, there's even one with Omar Sharif), though I understand the Mongolian concerns about historical accuracy and respect for their culture.

Especially the Japanese interest in the ancient warlord has been a bit disturbing. In 2007, a Japanese movie was released under the name Aoki Ookami (The Blue Wolf; a.k.a. Genghis Khan - To the Ends of the Earth and Sea). According to an online review, it was a commercial failure in Japan, and the producers scrapped the plans for a sequel. This film was shot entirely in Mongolia, but the leading actors are all Japanese. Takashi Sorimachi (of GTO o_O and Yamato fame) is kawaii. Check out his pout in the beginning of this video.

Ok, getting off topic there...

If you want to see REAL Mongols dressed up and playing Genghis, check out this gallery by Michel Setboun.

PS: An interesting tidbit of information is the fact that the script writer of Mongol, Arif Aliyev, qualifies as a chirayliq. His name sounds Tatar, but it doesn't really matter as much as his friendly smile.

More about Aliyev