Kyrgyzstan’s blockbuster film is a moving tale of the bond between a mother and son

Poster of the film “Beyish enenin tamanynda” (Heaven is beneath mother's feet). Screenshot from video “Эрлан Андашев – Апа (“OST БЕЙИШ-ЭНЕНИН ТАМАНЫНДА”)” on Erlan Andashev‘s YouTube channel. Fair use.

On March 1, a new Kyrgyz movie called “Beyish enenin tamanynda” (Heaven is beneath mother's feet) premiered at movie theaters in Kyrgyzstan. The film tells the story of 35-year-old Adil, whose intellectual growth has stopped at the level of an 8-year-old, and his 75-year-old mother, Raykhan. The viewers are invited to follow their journey as Adil pulls his mother on a cart to take her all the way from Kyrgyzstan to Saudi Arabia to perform hajj, a religious pilgrimage, in Mecca.

Here is the film's trailer on YouTube.

Adil is brought up by his mom, who tries to protect him from ridicule by telling him that he is among God’s favorite humans and will go to heaven. After learning from one of his friends that moms whose sons take them to Mecca for hajj can go to heaven, Adil decides to do it to ensure his mom can also get to heaven and join him there.

Their long and dangerous journey sees them travel across multiple countries and navigate through numerous challenges of travelling on foot with the help of good-hearted strangers. The film is filled with feel-good moments when strangers selflessly aid Adil and his mom. According to the film’s director Ruslan Akun, its main goal is encouraging people to be merciful towards each other and do good deeds.

Here is a YouTube video with interviews with the film director and lead actors.

To recreate the pilgrimage route traveled on foot, the movie was shot in seven different countries: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, making it the biggest film project in Kyrgyzstan’s history in terms of production. According to the lead actor and co-screen writer, Emil Esenaliev, Kyrgyzstan’s president Sadyr Japarov’s contribution was substantial in overcoming administrative and logistical hurdles related with shooting the film in so many locations.

Japarov’s support of the film is not a coincidence and fits into his broader policy of promoting traditional values. In 2022, for example, he signed the decree “On National Tradition” and asked stakeholders to conduct outreach work among the population to disseminate Kyrgyz traditions, including the tradition of respecting and serving one’s parents in old age, which is promoted by the film.

Kyrgyzstan’s Islamic religious leaders have also endorsed the film by appearing at its premiere and singing praises for it afterwards. The film can be seen as promotion of Islam, as it is centered around one of its pillars, hajj, and borrows it name from the saying of the Prophet Muhammad, who said that paradise lies beneath mothers’ feet. Undoubtedly, it reflects increasingly larger role Islam has been playing in Kyrgyz society since the country became independent in 1991, following the Soviet Union’s disintegration. For example, the number of mosques in the country has skyrocketed from 39 in 1991 to 2,669 in 2020.

With plans to translate the film into five other languages and show it theaters in at least three other countries, it is by far Kyrgyz film industry’s biggest achievement in the country’s modern history. However, it is far from the unprecedented heights this industry reached between 1960s and 1970s and earned itself an apt nickname of “The Kyrgyz wonder.”

Here is a YouTube video about the success of the Kyrgyz film industry between 1960s and 1970s.

In this regard, Ruslan Akun’s newest film follows in the footsteps of the great Kyrgyz films of the past era that were popular beyond Kyrgyzstan, earning hundreds of millions of dollars in the box office and even a nomination for an Oscar.

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