Running to the Sky

Empathetic and mature coming-of-age film from Heavenly Nomadic director Mirlan Abdykalykov

Film Review by Katie Goh | 03 Mar 2020
  • Running to the Sky
Film title: Running to the Sky
Director: Mirlan Abdykalykov
Starring: Temirlan Asankadyrov, Ruslan Orozakunov, Meerim Atantaeva, Ilimbek Kalmuratov, Ulan Omuraliev, Kubanychebek Beishebaev, Jibek Baktybekova, Jenish Kargeldiev, Dishat Mambetaliev

Actor-turned-director Mirlan Abdykalykov surprised critics with the confidence of his first feature, Heavenly Nomadic, which portrayed a slice of everyday life in the remote mountains of Kyrgyzstan. An acute eye for characterisation and locality, Abdykalykov’s sophomore feature, Running to the Sky, follows in a similar vein, focusing on an isolated 12-year-old boy in rural Kyrgyzstan called Jekshen, played with impressive depth of expression by Temirlan Asankadyrov.

Jekshen lives a dispirited existence. His father has turned to alcohol after his wife left the family for a man in the city and spends his time drinking, commiserating and dodging his debts. Left to bring up himself, Jekshen’s lack of a stable home life has left him a target for school bullies as he scrounges to get by. Things turn around for Jekshen when his teacher discovers he has a natural prowess for running, encouraging him to enter school competitions and setting him on a new path to improve his life.

Like with Heavenly Nomadic, Abdykalykov is uninterested in contriving tension, instead devoting long, uninterrupted spans of the film to creating a layered and intricate portrait of a boy and his surroundings. Abdykalykov, accompanied by his regular cinematographer, Talant Akynbekov, lets the dusty, lonely landscapes of Kyrgyzstan do the narrative heavy lifting, adding depth to Jekshen’s coming-of-age journey.

Shot with documentary-like restraint, Running to the Sky is an empathetic and mature sketch of a young man finding his feet and, as with his debut, Abdykalykov proves himself to be a great humanist filmmaker.

Thu 5 Mar, CCA, 5.15pm | Fri 6 Mar, CCA, 4pm