Saturday, December 27, 2008

Red Dawn, 1984 (Remember when American Movies fantasized about Russian Invasions?)

Well, coincidentally, this Russian invasion film happened just around the time that the Soviet-Afghan war was at its thickest and Afghans were winning popular American support. Americans scared the crap out of themselves and little Miss Talibonita had nightmares of the Russians invading Brooklyn. The first scene is especially traumatic! The commies invade just as the high school teacher finishes up a lecture on the invading Mongol hordes!

Some of the same all-American boys from The Outsiders are also in this film like Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, and Darren Dalton (the Soc kid). The rest of the teen cast are popular 80s icons like Jennifer Grey (before their Dirty Dancing days), and not Emilio Estevez, but his brother Charlie Sheen, and Leah Thompson:

See the similarities... okay so the Afghan Mujahideen are not wearing letterman jackets and posing on bleachers, but you get what Miss Talibonita means! In this photo by the Lithuanian photographer the Mujahideen are photographed in the Kunar Province, 1985). This was Miss Talibonita's favorite movie as a kid, and she was not smart enough to realize the connection between the Wolverines and the Mujahideen. Of course, the religion is different and it takes place in a mountainous area in the American Midwest not West Asia.
Photograph by: JONAS DOVYDENAS

Not surprisingly, considering the current political situation, a remake is in the works. Of course, it has a post-9/11 coloring. If turbans end up invading America, I don't know if I am going to feel the same about this film! Thankfully, at least, the actresses will not be the thin-lipped 80s screen ladies (ie. Jennifer Grey, Leah Thompson, Margot Kidder etc)

OMG all hell would break loose if McDonalds was conquered by the Soviets! What would happen next? Silver Spoons in Russian?!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

War Inc. (Brilliant)

Tartarous the Noble insisted, no made it a requirement in order to rightfully continue as Miss Talibonita, to watch this film. So we watched it yesterday and he was right! How did this amazing film have such a short theatrical run? Oh... because its smart, political and critiques the current wars!

Here is a trailer and some clips. You can't go wrong with a film that has Joe Strummer music, War Profiteering, Absurdist humor, and John Cusack. What more can two Central Asians ask for?


Hillary Duff plays the Eurasian pop star Yonica Babyyeah, she licks a gasoline pump, and makes John Cusack puke (just as Marisa Tomei asks him "What are his views on the images of Turaqi women?").

Interview with John Cusack on CBC


An assassin posing as a trade-show producer fixes his crosshairs on a Middle Eastern oil minister while maintaining his cover by organizing a high-profile wedding in this satirical action comedy starring John Cusack, Hilary Duff, and Marisa Tomei. A private American corporation run by a former U.S. vice president (Dan Aykroyd) is occupying the war-torn nation of Turaqistan, but a powerful Middle Eastern oil minister is preventing them from taking total advantage of the situation. In order to gain a monopoly on the lucrative opportunities that Turaqistan has to offer, the CEO of the corporation hires an evenhanded hitman named Hauser (Cusack) to take the oil minister out of the picture. Now, in order to carry out the contract without a hitch, Hauser will pose as the corporation's trade-show producer. The stakes are high and the potential for disaster is evident, though if Hauser can successfully organize the wedding of Central Asian pop-star Yonica Babyyeah (Duff), he's got a good chance of pulling it off. But sexy and resourceful left-wing reporter Natalie Hegalhuzen (Tomei) is determined to uncover the truth about what's happening in Turaqistan, and the moment she does, this carefully constructed scheme will crumble like a house of cards. Joshua Seftel directs a screenplay co-written by Mark Leyner, Jeremy Pikser, and producer/star John Cusack.

~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fotima va Zuhra: Sisters 4E

A few weeks ago, Miss Talibonita watched the Uzbek film Fotima va Zuhra on and she could not stop crying.

Gulchеhra Eshonqulova (Fotima)

The film itself is a tragic story of a family that falls apart. About half hour into the film, the sister has killed herself, the brother is knifed by his former friends, and his father is killed by a chubby Uzbek mafioso (well... okay... Godfather wasn't so slim either). There is no translation, so not many of you out there may understand.

So here is the full story: Fotima and Zuhra are happy sisters. Okay, Zuhra is a little lazy and spoiled while Fotima, the elder, is the more responsible one. Their mother died a while back, so its just the sisters, their father and a wayward brother who comes home drunk most of the time and joins a bad gang of friends, who are sociopathic serial rapists (but they only attack hookers except on one tragic night!). One of the brother's bad friends does not harm Fotima, so he follows around Zuhra with a heavy heart and ends up falling in love with her! Its his chubby father who killed Zuhra's father. Anyway, the rest is tragic cinema Uzbek style. Tough girl that Zuhra turns out to be! Perhaps the most moving part for Miss Talibonita were the sister scenes.

The film stars a famous Uzbek pop singer Shahzoda, so there is a music video for the movie on youtube. The film seems to have won the drama of the year award (2006) in Uzbekistan. Miss Talibonita found another review of the film and a few other Uzbek films that came out around the same time and the reviewer, who was a mother, complained that this film and others of its genre promoted limitless power for youth, especially those with money in Uzbekistan.

Its true there weren't any authority figures in this film, not effective ones anyway. No policeman helps Zuhra and her family (no police reports are filed! Or at least, not on camera). But then again, this is Uzbekistan. Her uncle walks with a cane, appears only once and is much much older than her father was. There is a sense of the youth having to take things into their own hands without any of the older generation or government authority being able to help. This is interesting. It connects with the latest ads Uzbekistan is running on Euronews: "Young Uzbekistan Welcomes You."

Still any film whose main character is named Zuhra has Miss Talibonita's attention! It had a feminist ending, the surviving sister, Zuhra sets things straight. And remember, much of this film watching is to strengthen linguistic skills. All in all it was an enjoyable film!

Ulug'bek Qodirov (Gorgeous!) and Shahzoda (Zuhra)

See 8:30 in this clip for the happy sisterhood of Fotima and Zuhra.

Here she meets her sister's spirit at midnight and gets her advice (starts at 11:04):

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Topkapi (1964)

After years of enduring movie lampoons of his 1955 crime-caper classic Rififi, director Jules Dassin topped them all with his own spoof, Topkapi. It's a rather disreputable crew that teams for the elaborate jewel theft masterminded by Maximillian Schell. Sexy Melina Mercouri (Mrs. Dassin) is probably the best of the batch: the others are faffling Robert Morley, unreliable Gilles Segal and Jess Hahn. Bumbling Peter Ustinov (who won an Oscar for his performance) is duped into helping the thieves, and soon finds himself uneasily straddling both sides of the law. As in Rififi, the theft itself (taking place in Istanbul's Topkapi Palace museum) is played out in near-complete silence. We won't tell you how the crooks are foiled; just be advised that money flies out the door when something else flies in the window. Topkapi was based on The Light of Day, a somewhat more somber novel by Eric Ambler.

~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Starring Melina Mercouri and (Sir) Peter Ustinov

Akim Timoroff, our favorite Armenian who plays all the Turk/Arab/Indian roles in 60s Hollywood (like After the Fox with Peter Sellers).

And rumors of a remake:

Former JAMES BOND PIERCE BROSNAN is set to return to the big screen as master thief THOMAS CROWN in a remake of PETER USTINOV's 1964 crime caper TOPKAPI. Brosnan hopes to cleverly implant his Thomas Crown character into the Topkapi plot, which revolved around the theft of a jewelled dagger from a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. The new film will be called THE TOPKAPI AFFAIR. Brosnan tells website, "(Topkapi) is much loved by people who love that genre of film, and it has a sentimental resonance to it. "So we just took Thomas Crown off the shelf, kind of dusted it off, and took Topkapi, which is much loved, and is also in the cannon of the MGM library, so it didn't cost us anything. "This version of Topkapi will have a different part, different woman, and different affair... and we're using wonderful locations." The THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR remake, which starred Brosnan and RENE RUSSO, was a critical and commercial success when it was released in 1999.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Man Who Would Be King (1975) John Huston

Mid-Film Sean Connery is the new Sikandar:

The people here say "Astafurrilla" meaning "God Forgive Me!" fantastic Moroccan extras who were chanting under a giant idol!

Miss Talibonita's favorite mess of an orientalist film! Sean Connery is awesome! (The best meglomaniac colonizer on screen!) The people speak in Arabic or jibberish. Their translator speaks Hindi. Its set in Kafiristan (Nuristan Afghanistan). Filmed in Morocco and uses the same music and feel as Pasolini's Medea (also filmed in Morocco -- at least the "savage" areas are).

Miss Talibonita showed this to her BMCC students many moons ago and they could not deal with this film. (Could you blame them?)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oirat Mongols

Wow, Oirat Mongols are gorgeous! What amazing faces! They live in the same area as Uyghurs: The North West of China.

Directly from The NationMasters Encyclopedia:
Oirats (also spelled Oyrats or Oyirads; Mongolian: Ойрадын Ojradyn) refers to both a Western Mongol people of Europe and Asia and, historically, to a Turkic people now known as the Altays.

Although the Oirats originated in Dzungaria in north-central Asia, the most prominent group of Oirats today are the nearly 200,000 Kalmyks of Eastern Europe. Other Oirats remain in present-day Mongolia (ca. 200,000) and China (ca. 140,000 in Xinjiang, Qinghai, and Inner Mongolia).[1] Oirats are traditionally Tibetan Buddhist and many still follow a nomadic lifestyle. Oirats speak Western Mongolic languages including Oirat, Kalmyk, Dorbot, Torgut, and Darkhat as well as the official languages of the regions they inhabit.

Ancient pot stash found in China tomb

Ancient pot stash found in China tomb
December 5, 2008


Researchers say they've found the world's oldest stash of marijuana in a tomb in a remote part of China.

The cannabis was in the grave of a shaman or holy man and was clearly "cultivated for psychoactive purposes" rather than for fiber or as food, researchers say.

It is the oldest example of cannabis being used as a drug and reportedly had a high THC content, the main psychoactive ingredient in the plant.

It is not clear if the cannabis would have been smoked or taken orally. No pipes or other clues were found in the tomb of the 45-year-old shaman.

The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, a member of the Gushi culture based around Turpan in northwestern China.

The cannabis was in such good condition due to the region's dry conditions and alkaline soil that acted as a preservative.


Miss Talibonita could not resist posting this. One question, How do they know his eyes were blue if he was dead for so long?

Of course y'all know that Turpan is Uyghur land, right?
More on Gushi people of North-West China: Gushi

Tahir i Zuhra Dir. Nabi Ganiev (1946)

Directed by : Nabi GANIEV (Наби ГАНИЕВ)
Release date in Russia : 16/11/1946

Plot synopsis
During WWII, the base of Soviet moviemaking operations shifted to the east. Eisenstein shot his glorious Ivan the Terrible in Almaty, and there were many films shot in Uzbekistan. Including this glorious period piece, based on the Uzbek Romeo and Juliet. Takhir and Zukhra are childhood sweethearts brought up together at the royal court, only to be torn apart as teenagers when Takhir is banished from the kingdom. Shot in shimmering black-and-white by Daniil Demutsky, the great cinematographer who shot Dovzhenko's Arsenal and Earth, with eye-filling sets and costumes, TAKHIR AND ZUKHRA is a feast for the eyes and ears, with the magicaly beautiful Gulyam Aglayev and Yuldus Rysayeva as the enchanted lovers (it's hard to say who's prettier, Takhir or Zukhra) and Bollywood-style musical interludes in the bargain.
Source :

Miss Talibonita saw this classic at the Walter Reade Theater during the 2003 Central Asia Film Festival. It was fantastic! In the 40s-50s turbans and tragic love stories were all the rage! The Soviet Union had the same cravings as the U.S. and Bollywood for similar films. Except of course, rather than Arabia it was Central Asia that was the "orient" for them. This is a great follow up to the Hoja Nasruddin film. Alas, where does Miss Talibonita get this film?!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Uyghur Poet Queen

This movie is based on the life and work of Amannisahan who is a writer,poetess,musician and queen of the Yarkend(Yeken) Uyghur kingdom in 16th century. Educated by her father, a distinguished musician of his time, and supported by her husband Abdurishithan,the king of Yarkend Uyghur kingdom, she devoted her life to the collection and promotion of Uyghur music/Uyghur 12 muqam.
The movie was made in 1994.
(Duldul601 Posted this on Youtube)

Miss Talibonita just loved this clip of a movie she found on youtube. As you can tell, she's been watching a lot of Central Asian films on youtube or googlevid! Her dad set it up so the computer is connected to a large flatscreen tv. Its just the blurriness that is slightly irritating, but hey its free movies on Sundays!

Miss Talibonita has no idea where to find this movie. If you have any leads, pass it on. The dancing lady is awesome! Its funny that the colonizing Chinese ambassador falls in love with the dancer. Y'all know that Uyghurs are another one of China's oppressed minorities, right? Except that China uses the convenient post-911 "Islamic Radicals" line to excuse their behavior.

Sardor Rahimxon

Just because his songs are adorable:

This song is "Just give me a glance"

Love the mix of traditional outfits and the cool spikey-haired Uzbek boy singer!

Hoja Nasruddin Vintage Soviet Film

Here is a Mulla Nasruddin story that always appealed to me as a kid:
Mulla Nasruddin's wife sent him to the store to get some yogurt. Since he was known to forget things, she told him to keep repeating it to himself till he got to the store. Mulla was rushing and saying at each step "yogurt! yogurt! yogurt!"

He jumped over a small stream and when he got to the other side, he forgot what he had been saying.

"Aye!" He screamed out. "I lost something in the stream!"

There were some people around him who thought he had dropped something by the stream and dropped what they were doing to come help him look for what it was he had lost. Some time passed and they could not get from him what it was he lost and could not find anything that could have dropped.

So a woman who had come to help said, "This is a waste of time! I need to get some yogurt and finish setting up dinner!"

At this the Mulla said, "AHA! I found it!"

Then he went on his way saying to himself at each step "yogurt! yogurt! yogurt!" leaving behind a very perplexed group of people!

Miss Talibonita is rather bad at retelling good jokes, so this may be an example of that. So lets just get to this film she found online.

Huja Nasreddin vs. Buhare

In 1943 the Soviets made a film of Mulla Nasruddin. He is always shown on his donkey and he is quite poor, since a mulla, a man of religion is not known for having lots of money. In this film, he is simply "hoja" or "Khwaja" so he has been removed of his religious position. He becomes the perfect example of the proletariat within a Central Asian context and in this film, which is in Russian, he manages to mock the Amir of Bukhara, who is shown as a cruel lazy man with a very over-sized turban!

The film is Russian without subtitles. So Miss Talibonita did not watch all of it because she still cringes a little when she sees people with her face speak Russian (sorry its anti-colonial Afghan thing!) But it was something worthy of passing along to those who speak Russian. Maybe you can send the translations!

The songs are in Uzbeki!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winter Blues!

Sure NYC doesn't get snow like this... but winter is coming and despite the holiday music in the shops... all Miss Talibonita feels only the sickie germs that sneak into her life like extra treats along with midterm and final papers to grade. Alas Miss Talibonita has fallen into her annual routine of 3 extended weeks of coughing and running a fever. The happy little blogoworld of Central Asians still goes on, with less words, less commentary and more funny images... like this one: