1. Documentary - The Desert of Forbidden Art (Russia-USA-Uzbekistan) 2010

Produced by Tchavdar Georgiev, Amanda Pope. Directed, written by Tchavdar Georgiev, Amanda Pope. (English, Russian dialogue).

The fascinating story of the collection and the creation of the Savitsky Museum in Nukus is told in Tchavdar Georgiev and Amanda Pope's "The Desert of Forbidden Art". The museum is a remarkable treasure trove and showcases the decades of Russian and Uzbek avant-garde art of the early 20th century. After flourishing in the 1920s, avant-gardism in all media became increasingly frowned upon by bureaucratic watchdogs who much preferred "Soviet realist" style that idealised life in the Soviet Union. 

A painter who came to Karakalpakstan - Uzbekistan's autonomous northwestern republic as an archaeologist, Igor Savitsky became fascinated by the region's folk art. It also was far from the politics of Moscow and his position as curator of the Nukus art gallery which alloyed Savitsky to pursue what became his real passion: finding and acquiring modern art. Savitsky amassed an eclectic mix of Russian Avant-Garde art over three decades. His greatest discovery being an unknown school of artists who settled in Uzbekistan after the Russian revolution of 1917, encountering a unique Islamic culture, as exotic to them as Tahiti was for Gauguin. They develop a startlingly original style, fusing European modernism with centuries-old Eastern traditions.

Actors Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Ed Asner voice the diaries and letters of Savitsky and the artists. This is intercut with recollections of the artists' children and rare archival footage, the film takes us on a dramatic journey of sacrifice for the sake of creative freedom. His remarkable museum is described as having "one of the most remarkable collections of early 20th century Russian art"in the world. Interviewees include artists' surviving children; Savitsky's curatorial successor, Marinika Babanazarova; and various international art experts.

A well-crafted film it captures the flavor of the region, but the most arresting sights are inevitably those of the bold, richly coloured paintings themselves.

Camera (color, HD), Alexander Dolgin, Gennadi Balitski; editor, Georgiev; music, Miriam Cutler; sound, Dzuban; sound designers, Joe Dzuban, Raj Patil. Running time: 80 MIN.


1. For the Children - Saga of the Saiga 2 See this great little cartoon at Saga of the Saiga 2 produced by the Shimkent-based studio, Animaster. The Theme is focused on the conservation of endangered Saiga antelope and the need to ensure its survival (and other animals at threat) to sustain our biological diversity for future generations.  The cartoon is the second part of a story about saiga calves originally developed by Animaster in Khazakhstan but this time the co-authors of the screenplay were the schoolchildren of Karakalpakstan (Uzbekistan), who know about saiga poaching from everyday life in their small villages. The project was supported by a not-for-profit organisation, the Seimar Social Fund, as well as Agip KCO and the Committee for Forestry and Game Management of the Kazakhstan Ministry of Agriculture.

Also see the original at Saga of the Saiga

2.  Films featuring the Aral Sea

A. Psy 1989 The tragedy of the Aral sea coast was portrayed in the 1989 film, Psy ("Dogs"), by Soviet director, Dmitriy Svetozarov. The film was shot on location in an actual ghost town, showing scenes of abandoned buildings and scattered vessels.

B. The Needle 1989 Kazakh director Rashid Nugmanov used the barren landscape around the Aral Sea for his movie The Needle.

C. The Stowaway 1997  Dutch director Ben van Lieshout shot his film De Verstekeling ("The Stowaway") partly on the dry sea shore near Muynak. Written by Paul Verheijen

Orazbaj, son of an unemployed fisherman is a stowaway on a ship towards New York. Stranded in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, he finds affection from the wife and son of a sailor. Is he save or shall the foreign affairs-police be informed about his illegal stay and send him back home to Uzbekistan.

D. Der Aralsee  1999 German filmmaker Joachim Tschirner produced the documentary Der Aralsee for the German channel Arte.

E. Delta Blues 2000 Produced by the Spainish Mirror Mundo foundation this documentary film called Delta Blues looks at the problems arising from the drying up of the Aral sea. The excerpt below is the first part of this documentary about the social and political consequences of the drying up of the Aral Sea in Central Asia.

See Delta Blues (Excerpt 8:51)

F.  Back From The Brink?  A film by Borna Alikhani and Guy Creasey that showed some of the changes in the region since the construction of the Aklak Dam  It examines the desertification of the Aral Sea from the overuse of water resources and if it ever be brought back? The film shows how one part of the sea is slowly being restored. (BBC World Service).

G: AralFishing in the invisible Sea A film by Carlos Casas & Saodat Ismailova. Produced by Fabrica Moynak. Uzbekistan. 2004. Final documentary film in a series of three films about extreme environments on the planet, Patagonia, Aral sea, and Siberia. Looks at three generations of fishermen and their everyday struggle to survive life after one of the biggest man made ecological disasters. Portrays the process of a sea dying through the three last affected generations, from the old fisherman, retired who lived the sea, to the adult generation who still survives through fishing in the remain lakes, till the desert generation that survives from nothing, trying to keep the traditions and hope of a return of a more hopeful future. It is a film about the process of death and strength and root ness of people connected to their land. It doesn’t speak about politics or ecology it speaks only about the strength of human survival.

See photos

See (Trailer 3:08) and the Full Documentary (53:03)

H: Ghosts of the Aral Sea - Directed and Edited by Lucas Smith USA 2014. The "Ghosts of the Aral Sea" is a documentary film
shedding light on the lives of the Aral fishermen. The Aral was once the fourth-largest inland sea in the world. However, in the last forty years the sea has all but disappeared, as its headwaters have been diverted for irrigation. This film focuses on the story of two brothers, Islambek and Nurbek, as they encounter everyday challenges beneath the spectre of this ecological nightmare.

See (Extended Reel 8:30) (Trailer 2:27)

I: Aral - Death of a Sea : Director Dimitri Udovicki France 2008
The Aral Sea was once the fourth inland sea in the world, with a flourishing fishing industry. In the 1960s, with a need to increase the cotton production, the Soviet government decided to change and divert the rivers that fed the sea to cotton production. This led to what has become one of the biggest ecological tragedies of the 20th century, with the sea decreasing to a fourth of its original size over a span of 40 years. Many of the people left the surrounding region to look for a better future. This film is a portrait of those inhabitants who stayed, and their recollections.
Go to

J: Earth report Resurrecting the Aral Sea 2007 Season 12, Episode 9 Journeyman Pictures

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