Echoes of a Storyteller
For over a thousand years, the people of Kyrgyzstan have maintained their history and tradition through an epic poem. The epic, called Manas, is passed orally from generation to generation by designated poem tellers known as Manaschis. Residual Soviet…
For over a thousand years, the people of Kyrgyzstan have maintained their history and tradition through an epic poem. The epic, called Manas, is passed orally from generation to generation by designated poem tellers known as Manaschis. Residual Soviet influence and the continuing presence of Islam, pervasive in Kyrgyzstan's past century, complicate the once spiritual and ubiquitous power of Manas. The role of the Manaschi is now reconciled within a culture shaped by its Muslim population, estimated at over 75%, and by its role in the Soviet Union.
Our feature-length documentary will follow two Manaschis, one a young boy and the other an elderly man. Their relationship with one another, as teacher and student, conveys the lingering legacy of Manas in Kyrgyz culture today. They are two Manaschis at different ends of their careers; equally significant, they are two Kyrgyz who grew up in different societies and with different perspectives on their culture. Their polemic perspectives provide insight to the tremendous transitions of Kyrgyz life in the past fifty years.
Interviews with various figures--from government officials to historians to artists and musicians and other Manaschis--will supplement the central storyline and provide more authoritative insight to the epic poem and its significance. For some, the Manaschi is still the defining role within Kyrgyz culture. For others, many of whom grew up speaking Russian or reading the Koran, a Manaschi is no more than a figure of the past. Still, the poem and its teller, as well as the ways it reveals a larger story within a Central Asian society, provides a unique and little known subject for documentary film.
With over 130 hours of raw footage (between two cameras) and a collection of archival footage—from television programs to Soviet films—which we attained the rights to while in Kyrgyzstan, we are confident that our documentary will tell this story in the manner it deserves.