CAFIF: Central Asia’s first-ever independent film festival

Central Asian directors showed their films to a general audience on 8, 9 and 10 June in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in the “Ilkhom” theater, the former home of the murdered dramatist Mark Weil. Nikita Makarenko reports.

Tashkent hosted the first_ever Central Asian Independent Film Festival (CAFIF). The festival provided a unique opportunity to filmmakers and video artists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to show their movies on the big screen, bring them to the audience and communicate with each other.

The festival was held at the legendary Tashkent theater “Ilkhom” from 8-10 June, former home of the dramatist Mark Weil who was murdered in 2007. Art-director Oleg Karpov, himself a well-known enthusiast of non-commercial cinema and the husband of the infamous director Umida Akhmedova — who was convicted in Uzbekistan for the film “The Burden of Virginity” — served as the main organizer of the festival.

Festival organizers described “independent cinema” as film outside the established system of filmmaking. Probably even more widely, beyond the established system of values: the experimental, low-budget, underground, various new wave, and so on.

Is there anything like that in Central Asia? Yes, of course! But it needs to be showcased more, hence the raison d’etre for CAFIF.

Over the course of three days, the public could see six different thematic programs ranging from Central Asian documentaries to video art. The first day’s program was entitled, “The role, place and purpose of the artist in an era of independence”. The second day, “Why people are not animals”, spoke about Man’s relationship with animals; it also included the program “In Search of the Miraculous.” The final day of the festival presented an anthology of Kazakhstan’s video art , as well as of the “Non-obviousness probable” and “Main”.

In total, the festival showed 50 short and feature films from nearly 40 authors. Only Turkmenistan was not represented, due to its lack of cultural integration in the region.

The award jury was comprised of several famous directors: Gamal Bokonbayev (Kyrgyzstan), Vladimir Tyulkin (Kazakhstan), Orzumurod Sharipov (Tajikistan), Alex Ulko (Uzbekistan). The jury also invited Cecil Hubert, a photographer and film director from Belgium. Two main prizes were awarded; a separate special prize was also awarded for the best film version of the festival’s own organization.

The first grand prize, “Sour wine of creativity hangover”, was given to Alexander Ugai (Kazakhstan) for the film “Bastion”; the second grand priwe, “The style of your independence”, was awarded to Emil Dzhumabaev and Marat Alykulov (Kyrgyzstan) for the film, “The Country and State.” The jury also noted “11,000 miles to New York” by Orzumurod Sharipov (Tajikistan), “It is not about dogs” by Vladimir Tyulkin (Kazakhstan), “The old story” by Dmitry Donskoy (Uzbekistan), “Flash” by Zoya Falkova (Kazakhstan), and “Fear” by Nigina Radzhapova (Tajikistan). The special prize wen to two movies from Uzbekistan: “Butterfly” by Andrey Kudryashov and “Like Michael Jackson” by Alexander Barkovsky.

The CAFIF plans to become a regular event, consolidating all of the independent video art of the region and developing the dialogue between countries and supporting the cultural community. To learn more about the program and movies of the festival participants, please visit:, and watch movies-winners and discuss them in a group on Facebook. Below you can check out some photos from the event!

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