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Shayloo-Jayloo: A Film Straight from the Heart of Kyrgyz Life


Photo from the filming of Shayloo-Jayloo. Used with permission.

A group of citizens in Kyrgyzstan, the only country in Central Asia where the democratic process still has a home, have created their own film about the crossovers between village life and politics.

Now they want crowd-funded help to hold screenings in the furthest-flung corners of the predominantly rural country.

Shayloo-Jayloo, whose title draws on two notions central to the Kyrgyz experience — ‘elections’ and ‘mountain pastures’ — will premiere on September 24 in the country's two biggest cities, Bishkek and Osh.

Elections to the parliament take place just over a week later on October 4, and the timing of the film's release is not coincidental. Shayloo-Jayloo, which is entirely self-funded, is a film with a message: cast your vote and make it the right one.

Now the film's producers wants to make sure that message is heard in the same place their story is set — the typical Kyrgyz village. To that end they have started a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo mostly to cover transport and screening costs in rural locations.


The comedy-satire is set in a fictional Kyrgyz village. Its plot, according to the makers of the film, is as follows:

The main character of the film returns to his former village after 20 years of living abroad. He and his family left the country at the dawn of perestroika [economic restructuring during the Gorbachev period of the Soviet Union]. After the death of his parents, he wants to say his final goodbye to Kyrgyzstan by selling his parents’ house. In the first few minutes, the young man learns that everything has changed: for one, his village has been renamed, so taxi drivers do not know the old name of his village and cannot understand where our hero wants to go.

After arriving in the village, he learns that his house is inhabited by another family and he must go through a huge amount of bureaucratic pain to restore his right to his property. At the same time he also meets his old friends, who stayed in the village after their graduation from high school. He finds that the carefree youth he enjoyed with them as a child is in sharp contrast to the struggles the village now faces. Nonetheless, the young man falls in love with his village and its people again, and decides to take part in the forthcoming election to the aiyl kenesh (village council) in order to contribute to the struggle for a just society in this small settlement.

A new political party is thus born and the hero begins to wage battle with the powerful aiyl okmotu (village administration), whose chairman creates barriers for him by intimidating, manipulating and trying to bribe his candidates.

But the new party begins to gather unexpected popularity and candidates suddenly find themselves having to prove their “professional competence” to the villagers. Amid a chain of comic and and more serious events, our heroes manage to win the trust of the electorate and become a symbol of the struggle for democracy in a small village. And, of course, the protagonist is persuaded to stay in his village due to a certain love interest…

The trailer of the film can be watched here:

Fundraising goals

Casting for Shayloo-Jayloo began in April and shooting started in May. Filming in mostly rural locations went on for ten weeks and now the group are in post-production.

So far the group has raised $705, just more than enough to cover a screening in one rural location. Only Osh and Bishkek have traditional cinemas, so the screenings will take place in regional ‘culture houses’ of variable capacity.


Photo from the filming of Shayloo-Jayloo. Used with permission.

The ambitious fundraising target is $20,000. While screenings take priority, the group have identified other potential areas for expenditure involving improvements in post-production.

  • $500 = one screening in a remote region
  • $300 = one month of advertising on a city bus in Bishkek. The group hopes to advertise on 10.
  • $500 =  a permit plus $0.50 per poster for the advertising campaign
  • $2000 = radio advertisements on 11 stations covering the country
  • $2000 = organising a press preview
  • $2000 = cutting and colour correction
  • $3000 = music recording
  • $2000 = sound editing

Photo from the filming of Shayloo-Jayloo. Used with permission.

Is Kyrgyzstan really a democracy anyway?

Yes and no. To the uninformed, Kyrgyzstan is just another authoritarian country with a -stan suffix; a perception that has rightfully caused its citizens and leadership offence.

Unlike Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, whose leaders have ruled over their countries for a combined total of more than 70 years, Kyrgyzstan's fourth president since independence in 1991 has committed to a single six-year term in office which ends in 2017. In contrast to Turkmenistan's president, he has not yet built a golden statue to himself.


Photo from the filming of Shayloo-Jayloo. Used with permission.

But while the country boasts the region's only independent parliament and its freest media, it has numerous other problems. The judiciary comes under pressure from the executive, graft is widespread and state institutions are generally unresponsive to citizens.

Civil society, while vibrant, is in a difficult moment as the parliament debates laws that would label foreign-funded organisations ‘foreign agents’, as in strategic partner Russia. Ethnic and sexual minorities have complained of unfair treatment.

For this reason, it seems important to support grassroots initiatives such as Shayloo-Jayloo that remind citizens what democracy is really about: the people, and their power to create a system that caters to all their needs.


Photo from the filming of Shayloo-Jayloo. Used with permission.

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