Kyrgyzstan Latest Former Soviet Republic to Make Epic Historical Movie

“Queen of the Mountains” is backed by the country's president and minister of culture.

MOSCOW – Kyrgyzstan is the latest former Soviet republic to put public money into producing a national historic epic.

Queen of the Mountains (Kurmandjan Datka in the local language, Kyrgyz) is the $1.5 million story of a noblewoman, Datka, revered to this day for her diplomacy in saving her nation from complete destruction and subjugation when Russian imperial forces conquered the Central Asian country in the 1870s.

Shot on digital Red Epic film and starring three top Kyrgyz actresses as the lead at different stages of her life -- as a young woman (Elina Abai Kyzy), middle-aged mother (Nazira Mambetova) and old woman (Jamal Seidakmatova). The film is backed by Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambaev and minister of culture, Sultan Raev.

Writer-director Sadyk Sher-Niyaz, who is producing through Aitysh Film, Bishkek with national studio Kyrgyz Film, told The Hollywood Reporter that despite the film’s historical setting, it's subject -- that of a courageous woman who breaks away from Islamic mores and a patriarchal country to achieve great things -- is up-to-date.

"It's the story of a young woman who is forced into an arranged marriage but escapes, flees to the mountains and falls in love with the local chief, Alynbek, whom she marries. When he is killed by political rivals she becomes the 'queen of the mountains' and a key figure in the national struggle when the Russians invade."

Filled with spectacular locations, lavish costumes, bloody battle scenes and dramatic turns, the film is shooting on location this summer with a release slated for early next year.

Last year’s $10 million national epic from oil-rich neighbor Kazakhstan, Myn Bala, which included a top-notch international creative crew, was a box-office sensation in that more populous state.

Kyrgyzstan, which has a population of 5.5 million and GDP per capita of just $2,400 a year (compared with Kazakhstan's population of 17.7 million and per capita GDP of $13,900) is not a major producer of films. But the country’s rugged and beautiful scenery makes it a spectacular movie location and a new, relatively affluent generation of educated young people are increasingly using low-cost digital equipment to make films.

"We’re experiencing a film boom now, with around 100 low-budget movies shot every year – many of them about love, of course!" Sher-Niyaz said.