Candid Cinema

Oscar-Nominated Short Film ‘Ala Kachuu’ Review And Interview With Director Maria Brendle

By: Amanda Guarragi

There comes a time in every woman’s life that defines them. That one moment where they realize the woman they want to become is in reach if they just keep pushing forward. However, different cultures value marriage and are set within their conditioned gender roles. Sometimes the traditional notion of being a housewife and dedicating your life to your husband and children can also seem like a loss of agency. In Maria Brendle’s Ala Kachuu she explores the difference in generations and the conditioned ideal of womanhood. As generations of women explore and evolve, the meaning of motherhood and female individuality change to the dismay of the previous generation.

We meet Sezim (Alina Turdumamatova), who wants to fulfil her dream of studying in the Kyrgyz capital. She abruptly gets kidnapped by a group of young men and then she is forced to marry a stranger. If she refuses the marriage, she is threatened with social stigmatization and exclusion. This is actually a tradition in South Asian countries and not many people know about it,

“It was so important for me when I learned about bride kidnapping and I learned that only a few people in the world knew about this tradition. And it was so important for me to give the victims of the war a voice and create awareness of this topic.”

– Director Maria Brendle, Ala Kachuu

This is still stripping a woman’s right to choose. It’s a heartbreaking story and the way Brendle presented it on screen was difficult to watch at times. You can feel Sezim slowly slip into despair, as the only good thing she had was her education. Once she does get kidnapped, we see a very different side of her. She does not know how to process any of this and why it’s even happening in the first place.

What was so interesting to see is how the difference in generation forms two ideas about how a woman should conduct herself. The elders believe that a woman is destined for marriage and to bear children. Due to the fact that education wasn’t as accessible to them, their mind-set is completely different,

“I think it’s important that each girl and woman in the world should support each other. This is very important for all of us. I learned in Kyrgyzstan, there’s a lot of female tradition. So a mother can say no when the son is bringing in a girl for marriage by kidnapping. I think it’s important to cut this cycle. Women must stand together and fight for their rights.”

Director Maria Brendle, Ala Kachuu

When Sezim sees that her friend has moved out of their village and she is living by making her own decisions, she dives headfirst into her schooling. She believes that education can definitely pull her out of this traditional lifestyle. Instead of changing the narrative, Brendle sits in the brutal truth about the women struggling through these traditions. She shows how damaging it can be to their mental state and how hopeless the situation might feel. The one thing Brendle does show is Sezim’s resilience and strength to push through this horrible period for her.

Ala Kachuu brings awareness to a subject that isn’t really touched upon in Western culture. It’s important to bring these stories to the forefront in the most authentic way possible, so everyone can understand how women are still being treated in other cultures. Maria Brendle hopes that by using her voice and her platform, her film can raise awareness in order to protect and save these young girls. Brendle is overwhelmed and humbled by the reception. This story is important and hopefully this can unite women everywhere in order to change these traditions and fight for a woman’s right to choose.

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