The Fall of Otrar | Chicago Reader

The Fall of Otrar

165 minutes

Shot in 1990, as Kazakhstan was asserting its independence, this brutal historical epic by Ardak Amirkulov charts political intrigue among the Kipchaks, a confederation of tribes on the steppes of central Asia, before they were overrun by Genghis Khan. At 165 minutes this is a pretty long haul, and the shifting alliances mapped out in the dark and claustrophobic first part can be difficult to follow; the payoff comes in the second part, which opens out into dramatic locations and bloody battle as the Mongols lay siege to Otrar. The film's respectful treatment of Islam was welcomed in Kazakhstan as a celebration of national identity, though Amirkulov's attitude may be more ambivalent: as Genghis Khan prepares to execute the governor of Otrar, he points out two holy men whose marginal religious differences have allowed him to divide and conquer. In Kazakh, Chinese, and Mongolian with subtitles.

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