The Gift to Stalin

Rustem Abdrashev, whose Rebirth Island was the first film from Kazakhstan to win the prestigious FIPRESCI (international critics) prize, sets his new drama in a tiny village in the vast Kazakh steppes. The inhabitants are all considered enemies of the state, but they refuse to allow their outcast status to quash their human connectedness. In 1949, railcars holding Jews and other deportees creep eastward into oblivion. Or is it? For young Sasha, salvation comes through a rubric of chance, defiance and love. He finds him surrounded by a makeshift new clan: his savior and new grandfather, Kasym (veteran actor Nurzhuman Ikhtimbaev), who is Muslim; Verka, the wife of a traitor; Ezhik, a Polish resister; and a gang of orphans—a wilderness family with deep bonds despite harassment from authorities. Rare news comes from Moscow announcing a children’s contest celebrating Stalin’s 70th birthday. If Sasha’s gift wins, he hopes to achieve his parents’ freedom. Decades pass, and Sasha questions history and his fate: “Who are you in the land of your God if a part of your soul was left behind?” Gift’s allegorical ending will linger long in your heart and mind, raise questions, and yet perhaps answer others, such as Kasym’s early query, “Whose flock are you from?
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