Kurmanjan Datka, Queen of the Mountains

Queen_of_the_Mountains

Kurmanjan Datka, also known as Queen of the Mountains is a Kyrgyz film by Sadyk Sher-Niyaz. It tells the story of the woman who was the leader of the Kyrgyz during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

The young Kurmanjan is forced to marry a man she doesn’t like. After she runs away, she eventually comes to the attention of the feudal lord, Alimbek, who marries her. When Alimbek is killed by a political rival, Kurmanjan becomes the leader of the Krygyz. When the Russian empire begins to intrude upon the Kyrgyz, Kurmanjan realizes that they simply aren’t powerful enough to defeat the Russians. She pursues a policy of accommodation, which is opposed by some of her countrymen, including members of her own family.

Kurmanjan is credited with enabling the Kyrgyz to maintain their identity and culture in the face of Russian imperialism. I imagine some will argue that this was due to her willingness to make concessions to the Russians. However, it seems to me that the Kyrgyz were lucky. The Russians apparently weren’t interested in colonizing their mountainous land. Others were not so lucky. For example, the Russians drove the Circassians off their land and sent them into exile. Last year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi were held on land that once belonged to the Circassians.

Kurmanjan Datka is hard to follow at times. I can only assume that Sher-Niyaz intended this film for Kyrgyz audiences who would already know about the events depicted. The early scenes, which show a young Kurmanjan struggling against the patriarchal strictures of Kyrgyz society, have feminist overtones to them. The battle scenes are well done, and there are beautiful shots of the magnificent Kyrgyz countryside. Aside from that, though, I can’t really recommend this film. Perhaps some day someone will make a film that does justice to this remarkable woman.

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