Tulpan

YEAR: 2008

WRITER: Sergei Dvortsevoy & Gennadi Ostrovsky

DIRECTOR: Sergei Dvortsevoy

BUDGET: €2,150,000 (estimated)

GROSS: $156,331 (as of August 30th, 2009)

i was trying to think of a way to describe Tulpan and the thought that first came into my head was that it was like Seinfeld. how can a film that takes place on the dry and dusty kazakhstan steppes be anything like Seinfeld you ask? well, one way to describe Tulpan would be to say it is a film about nothing - at least on the surface.

remember that episode of Seinfeld when george is pitching the idea for a show about nothing to nbc executives and he asks them what they did that day? one of them responds to the effect of, "i got up. brushed my teeth and had breakfast and came to work." and george enthusiastically responds, "that's a show!"

if george had been talking to the characters in Tulpan, they would have responded in russian and kazakh and they would have said something like, "got up. herded sheep, got water and supplies from the old truck that came around. protected ourselves from a dust tornado that swept over the deserted land. made food using elementary tools. sat around and had a meal with family. went to bed all aligned on the floor of our yurt." and george would have responded, "that's a movie!"

the camera takes us into their world almost as a documentary would. i don't mean that in the way that the camera work is, as some assume when the term documentary-style is used, all hand held. but rather in how the story is told.

the film is like a "day in the life" of these characters (actually it is more like a couple days). some scenes linger longer than they would in most films and some scenes portray very simple and daily tasks that might be easily cut out of other films. but not this one. because that is who these people are. that is how we get to know them and care for them and experience a culture and connection with their environment that many of us have never seen or experienced or considered.

on the surface Tulpan is such a simple film in its production and storytelling. but it is also completely engaging in the experience that when the main character has his big revelatory moment i felt the smile on my face and throughout my entire body.

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