True Noon -- Film Review

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BUSAN, South Korea -- A historical conflict between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan provides the basis for "True Noon," a reasonably stirring drama that could take place almost anywhere on the globe right now, what with constantly shifting borders and nation-states reconfiguring themselves. Without any grandiose gestures or set pieces, director Nosir Saidov's modest portrait of a once functional town falling into chaos has little potential for broad distribution but could nonetheless see a fairly long life on the festival circuit.

In the mountain village of Safedobi, Kirill (Yuriy Nazarov) is training his apprentice Nilufar (Nasiba Sharipova) to become the town's next weather observer. Originally from Russia, Kirill is hoping she can take over from him full time so that he can be reunited with his family. The only problem with his plan is that Nilufar is about to be married to Aziz, the son of a rich local who expects the newlyweds to move into the fancy house he built them. Things take a turn for the worse when, out of the blue, the army moves in and announces that the town sits on a new international border, erects a barbed wire fence, and tells everyone to take their concerns to the district council. Nilufar and Aziz's nuptials become fraught with danger -- literally and figuratively -- and it's not long before tragedy ensues.

If a fence suddenly went up in any random border town on the American/Canadian border, residents that one time crossed freely suddenly needing paperwork would be little more than inconvenienced. For the denizens of Safedobi, however, the disruption is nearly disastrous. Trade, health care, schooling and courtship are among the workaday events that are made nearly impossible by the boundary. The village -- once distinct as simply Upper and Lower Safedobi -- finds the world around it has changed overnight.

Saidov makes his point even more vivid by keeping things matter-of-fact and occasionally comical. The villagers don't let civics interfere with their lives at first, and just mosey up to the fence and haggle with each other from opposite sides. But Nilufar's wedding brings just how serious the issue is into sharp relief. "True Noon" never considers nationalism a problem for its characters; with the exception of Kirill, everyone is from Safedobi and that's how they identify. What the film does consider is the hand centralized, distant bureaucracies have in creating nationalism and how fundamentally fragile our social connections are.

Venue: Pusan International Film Festival -- New Currents

Sales: Small Talk Inc.
Production company: Talko Management Ltd.
Cast: Yuriy Nazarov, Nasiba Sharipova, Nasriddin Nuriddinov, Shadl Saleh
Director: Nosir Saidov
Screenwriter: Safar Haqdadov
Producer: Rustami Joni
Director of Photography: Georgiy Dzalaev
Production Designer: Daler Mehtojev
Music: Daler Nazarov
Costume designer: Nigina Rajabova
Editor: Dilovar Sultonov
No rating, 83 minutes
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