Nomad (2005)

 

 

 

 

Directors:     Sergei Bodrov, Ivan Passer.

Starring:     Kuno Becker (Mansur),  Jay Hernandez (Erali),  Jason Scott Lee (Oraz),  Doskhan Zholzhaksynov (Galdan Ceren, the Jungar Sultan),  Ayanat Ksenbai (Gaukhar),  Mark Dacascos (Sharish),  Ashir Chokubayev,  Zhanas Iskakov,  Almaikhan Kenzhebekova,  Tungyshbai Dzhamankulov,  Erik Zholzhaksynov (Barak),  Dilnaz Akhmadieva (Hocha),  Termirkhan Tursingaliev,  Asylbolat Ismagulov,  Sabit Orazbaev.

a young fellow in 18th-century Kazakhstan unites the country's independent tribes

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

For centuries, the Great Asian region bordered by Russia and China has been home to the Kazakhs, nomadic tribesmen roaming from one pasture to another. Since the time of their legendary ancestor, Genghis Khan, hordes of foreign invaders have tried to conquer this land. Of all those who threatened the lives of the Kazakhs, none were more brutal or determined than the ferocious Jungar tribesmen from Mongolia.

The Mongols descend on a tribe of Kazakhs burning all the tents. But the Kazakh tribal leaders could not unify against this deadly enemy. So many Kazakhs had to flee. This period became known as the "Flight of Bloody Feet". Others stayed with the hope of the fulfillment of the prophecy that one day a warrior descendant of Genghis Khan would rise up and unite all the Kazakhs in a revolt against their enemies.

Oraz the Wise is a Kazakh that believes in the fulfillment of the prophecy. He searches far and wide for the child who will become that warrior. A group of warriors rides out to him. The Great Khan of all Jungars, Guldan, commands them to bring Oraz to him. Oraz tells the leader that he is not a Jungar and does not have to obey this command. So the leader tells his men: "Take him!" But Oraz is able to easily defeat those who come against him.  With force not working the leader decides to appeal to Oraz’s better side. He tells Oraz that if they return without him, they will all lose their heads. Oraz agrees to go with them.

The Khan asks Oraz, known for being excellent with horses, to pick out the best horse in the entire herd for him. He picks out a chestnut stallion. The Great Khan tells Oraz that Oraz knows what will happen to him if he is wrong about the horse. The Khan rides the horse at full gallop. The leader of the squad and his men try to keep up with the horse but cannot. The Khan is very pleased and he says he will give Oraz his weight in gold and make him his horse-master. Oraz says gold does not bring either freedom or happiness. The Khan warns him about refusing his gift, but Oraz says that his future has already been set.

Seeing how sure Oraz is of his future, the Khan asks about his own stars. Oraz says that stars fall from the sky and stars rise in the sky. The Khan asks the name of this new star. Oraz only says they both will know when the time comes.

In spiritual contemplation Oraz hears a baby cry and realizes that the savior of his people has just been born. But a Jungar also has a vision. He rushes to the Khan to tell him a child has been born to a Kazakh Sultan with whom the Khan will cross paths. He will grow to defeat the Khan unless the Khan has the child killed at once.

The Khan tells Sharish, the leader, to find the Kazakh child and kill him at once. Oraz finds the tribe of the chosen one on the move. Oraz finds the child and then tells the tribe leader to prepare for a Jungar attack. From the surrounding hills the Jungars descend on the caravan. The Kazakhs fight hard, but they are heavily outnumbered. Oraz fights too, but when he sees the inevitable coming, he asks the mother to give him the child and she complies.

Sharish kills the mother of the child, but does not see the baby. The Jungar leader then fights the head of the Kazakh tribe and kills him.

Ozar with the child travels to the Kazakh city of Turkestan. He rides to Sultan Wali’s palace and goes in to speak with him. The Sultan is very sad and keeps his back turned to Oraz. He recently learned that his wife and child along with everyone else in the caravan were killed. Oraz has the pleasure of telling the Sultan that his son is alive. The sultan hears the baby babble. He turns around while getting up and takes the child from Oraz.

The Sultan wonders how can he repay Oraz. Oraz tells him to give the child to him. This shocks the Sultan. If Galdan finds out your son is alive, he will have him killed, says Oraz. The Sultan says there is no place safer than the palace, but Oraz informs him that a spy in the palace told Galdan about the caravan. The Sultan gives the child back to Oraz.

Oraz starts training the boy to ride at a very early age. Then he gathers a group of boys together to train as warriors. Two of the boys outshine all the others, the chosen Mansur and his best friend Erali. But only Oraz knows that Mansur is the son of Sultan Wali.  The Sultan comes to inspect the boys. He tells them that they are the hope of their nation and may God protect them. He gives no indication that one of the boys is his son. Oraz tells the boys about Genghis Khan who gathered his men together to demonstrate the importance of unity.

Mansur talks with a pretty young girl named Gauhar. She has a new colt she calls Moonshine. He carries her jug of water for her.

After ten years of relatives peace, the Jungar army invades Kazakh land again. Oraz’s boys hav grown into young men in that period. A messenger comes to Oraz to escort him to the camp of Sultan Abulkhair. Meanwhile Oraz’s young men participate in athletic games on horseback. Sultan Abulkhair has gathered all the sultans together. He tells them that they must find a leader to unite them and form an alliance. He suggests that they unite with the Russians to the west. But Abulkhair cannot himself unite the sultans and they leave disunited as always. His only hope now is the prophecy.

Mansur sees Gauhar and Erali swinging on a swing. Gauhar drops her bandana and Mansur retrieves it. In his tent he holds the bandana and sees visions of Gauhar. Erali comes in to tell him that he is in love with Gauhar. This upsets Mansur and he leaves the tent. Erali sees the bandana that Mansur left behind and knows that Mansur also loves Gauhar.

Ozar speaks with Mansur in private. The attempt to unify the tribes has once again failed. Now Mansur must step up for much is expected of him.

The visionary comes again to speak with the Great Khan. He has terrible news, he says. The child of the prophecy lives! The prophecy will be fulfilled unless the young man is killed. The Great Khan orders it so. Sharish has the assignment of taking the city of Turkestan and killing the young man of the prophecy.

Mansur speaks with Gauhar and returns the bandana to her. She says he can keep it if he wishes. But Mansur says he can’t keep it. His friend Erali is in love with her and he is like a brother to him. Gauhar says that she knows Erali loves her and he is like a brother to her too. But, she tells Mansur, she is not Mansur’s sister. Their talk is interrupted by a messenger carrying a black flag. Mansur has to leave to see what the problem is.

The Jungar army fights its way to the approach to Turkestan. They kill the men and enslave the women. And now they come for Turkestan itself. Oraz speaks with Sultan Wali. He is busy packing things to escape the wrath of the Jungar army. Oraz tells him that his son’s time has come. The Sultan asks how will he recognize his son? He will recognize him in battle.

Gauhar says goodbye to Mansur and Erali for awhile. The older men, women and children are being taken to safety.  Erali asks Mansur if he has said anything to Gauhar. No, he has not. Erali tells Mansur that he should say something to her. Oraz tells the two young men that there are tunnels beneath the city that can be taken as an exit in case of an emergency.

Gauhar tells her mother now that they are safe, she will return to the palace. Mother objects but Gauhar refuses to listen. She goes back on her horse Moonshine. Mother sends her son Kasim after Gauhar. As they ride together, they are captured by the Jungars. Sharish offers to save her brother from death if Gauhar agrees to marry him and bear his child. He has Kasim released and both are taken to the Jungar camp. Her future mother-in-law prepares Gauhar for marriage to her son, which she says is a great honor for her.

Oraz speaks with Sharish, who offers a challenge. He will fight the best man from Turkestan and if the Kazakh wins, the Jungars will leave. But if he loses, the Jungars will take over the city without Kazakh resistance.

Oraz speaks with his young men and they like the idea of the challenge. Erali asks Oraz to chose him, but Oraz tells him that Mansur must fight Sharish. Oraz tells Mansur that it was Sharish who killed his mother.  The two men face off outside the city walls. They charge each other on horseback. Mansur kills the murderer of his mother. From the top of he walls his people shout: "Ablai! Ablai!" The Jungars turn their horses around and leave.

Erali is told that the Jungars have captured Gauhar and he says that they must free her. He tells the messenger, a friend of Gauhar, not to tell Mansur.

Sultan Wali welcomes his son and apologizes for not being able to call him son earlier. Mansur says he did his duty – he avenged his mother’s death. They embrace.

Messengers were sent to all the Kazakh tribes of the great steppe to announce that a new leader, given the name of Ablai, has arisen.

Erali tells Mansur that he is leaving and if they are brothers, he will let him go. Erali leaves. He then speaks with Oraz. He is going to free Gauhar. He leaves with a squad of men. Oraz now tells Mansur that he was chosen by the stars to be the leader to unite all the Kazakhs. He also tells Mansur that tomorrow he will leave him. His only advice to the young man is: "Beware of betrayal."

The Great Khan is told of the death of Sharish and is shown the man's head. The wizard tells the Great Khan that Ablai is Mansur. The Khan promises to avenge the death of Sharish.

The spy in Sultan Wali’s palace gives more information to the Jungars.

Alone Mansur goes to the tree of his childhood for guidance. On his way back he is captured by the Jungars. Galdan is being shown how to use cannon by a foreigner. Mansur is brought into the camp and brought before Galdan. The man who captured Mansur is the brother of Sharish. And now he tells Mansur that he will cut his head off. The Great Khan says that a descendant of Genghis Khan cannot be executed, but he can be forced to face their trials. If he passes them, he will win his freedom.

When Mansur is escorted away he see Gauhar’s horse and learns that she is in the encampment. He tells the little boy (the Khan's grandson) who now owns the horse that the horse’s name is Moonchild. Mansur is put in prison. When the little boy sees Gauhar, he asks her how the Kazakh new the name of his horse and the horse knew him? Now Gauhar knows that it is Mansur that the Jungars recently captured. She tells the boy to bring the horse around to the jail tomorrow to learn more.

In the morning the captured Erali faces a challenge of his own. He has to fight to the death a Jungar. He easily kills the man. He has many notches on a post so he has already killed many men.

Now it’s Mansur’s time. He has to run a gauntlet on Moonshine down and back of archers trying to kill him. (It’s an impossible feat, but Mansur does it.) Now they must let Mansur go. But the mother of Sharish objects and the wizard says there is one that can defeat Mansur, the Kazakh Erali. If Erali wins they will set him free. (Of course, that’s what they said about Mansur and the gauntlet challenge.)

Galdan’s daughter has a huge crush on Mansur. She tells him in his jail cell that they will not let him live even if he wins the match tomorrow. She knows a way out for him. If he would marry her, he would be a prince of the Jungars. Mansur tells her thanks, but he cannot accept. She replies that tomorrow he will face an unbeaten warrior and he will lose his head for certain. She leaves.

In the ring the two combatants wear mail chain over their faces so they do not know who the other man is. Mansur is stabbed by Erali but Mansur kills him. He then learns that it is Erali who he has killed. Watching from a tent Gauhar cries over the match and the death.

Galdan says Mansur will be freed tomorrow. Tonight there will be a big celebration of his victory. Gauhar sees Sharish’s mother getting venom from a poisonous snake. Gauhar gets on Moonshine and rides over to the tent of Mansur, who is about to be given milk laced with the venom. She yells to Mansur that it is poison. The guards try to kill him, but he fights them off and jumps on Moonshine behind Gauhar. They get away.

They rest on top of a cliff overlooking a body of water. Mansur tells Gauhar that he loves her. They kiss.

Six months later. The Jungars are at it again. They prepare to take Turkestan. The Sultan has sent for help from the other tribes, but so far nothing. Mansur has his men fill the tunnels under the palace with oil.

The Kazachs send a messenger out to Galdan, but he is beaten and then his body torn apart between four horses tied to the man’s four limbs. Mansur says that the battle can only be one if the Kazakhs stand united. He prays that they will arrive in time. News arrives that Sultan Barak is coming but he is two days away.

Gauhar is pregnant with Mansur’s child. Mansur tells her to take care of their child in case anything happens to him.

The Jungars open the attack with cannon fire. More news arrives. Sultan Jomart is on his way. The Jungar infantry attack bringing ladders with them. Mansur says they will fight to the death. Riders come out of the gate and light fire to the channels filled with oil. The infantry starts running away.

The other Kazakh tribes start to arrive and charge the Jungars. The soldiers in the palace now come out to fight the Jungars. The channel fires reach all the way to the cannon and there is a terrific explosion of the cannon balls.

The battle outside of Turkestan lasted 100 days and 100 nights. The tribes had finally come together as one. This is how they conquered the Jungars, who had never known defeat.

Mansur is ready to receive the sword of the Great Khan. Mansur’s grandfather Ablai’s was a great defender of the Kazakhs. And now all the tribes are united and ready to follow the new Ablai.

The Kazakhs return the Great Khan’s grandson captured during the fighting. Grandfather is happy to see his grandson. Ablai sends a globe of the world along with the grandson. It shows how immense is the territory of the Kazakhs. And with the globe comes a statement on a document:

From the Tian-Shan Mountains to the Aral Sea lies a land that has been inhabited by the Kazakhs since ancient times. All who dare to encroach upon this land will be beaten and driven out as was done to the Jungars. We will greet our friends with open arms, but we will show no mercy to our enemies. Ablai Khan.

 

Good movie but it was a little long.  Lots of battles, duels and challenges adding up to a lot of action.  But it was nice to have a film about Kazakhstan.  This one is about the uniter of the Kazakh tribes in the 18th century. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

Kazakhstan (aka Kazakstan) is officially known as the Republic of Kazakhstan.

It is a large Eurasian country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe and is the ninth largest country in the world. It is larger than Western Europe. On its borders are Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China. It also borders on the Caspian Sea.

For most of its history it has been inhabited by nomadic tribes.

ancient times -- cities Taraz (Aulie-Ata) and Hazrat-e Turkestan served as important way-stations along the Silk Road connecting East and West.

early 13th century – Mongol invasion of Kazakhstan. The administrative districts set up later came under the Kazakh Khanate. A basic unit of the society were the Turkic tribes.

15th century – distinct Kazakh identity begins to emerge.

mid-16th century – the Kazakhs emerge as a distinct group. These people were divided into three hordes. Also developed was a Kazakh language, culture, and economy.

17th century – Kazakhs fought Oirats, a federation of western Mongol tribes, among which the Dzungars were the most aggressive.

18th century – the Russians began advancing into the Kazakh steppe.

beginning of 18th century – the zenith of the Kazakh Khanate.

1711 – birth of the future Kazakh leader Ablai Khan, then known as Abulmansur.

1723-1730 – the Little Horde participated in the war against the Dzungars, following their "Great Disaster" invasion of Kazakh territories.

1726 – under leadership of Abul Khair Khan, the Kazakhs won major victories over the Dzungar at the Bulanty River.

1729 – Kazakh victory at the Battle of Anrakay.

1720s-1750s – Ablai Khan participated in the most significant battles against the Dzungars. He was declared a "batyr" ("hero") by the people.

1735 – The first Russian outpost, Orsk, is built.

Kazakhs were also a victims of constant raids carried out by the Volga Kalmyks.

1771 – at the meeting of the representatives of the three hordes, Ablai was elected as the Kazakh khan. He never submitted to Russian rule.

By mid-19th century – Kazakhstan became part of the Russian Empire.

1813-1907 – The "Great Game" period running from 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention.

late 1800s – the Kazakh national movement began in order to preserve the native language and identity and thereby resist Russian Empire attempts to assimilate them.

1917 – the Russian Revolution.

following 1917 – after the Russian Revolution and the subsequent civil war, Kazakhstan was reorganized several times.

1936 – Kazakhstan becomes the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the USSR.

Under Stalin – Kazakhstan becomes ethnically and culturally diverse partly due Stalin’s mass deportations of many ethnic groups to it. Kazakhs are still the largest group, followed by Russians. Islam is the primary religion, followed by Orthodox Christianity. The official language is Kazakh. The Russian language is still commonly used.

during 20th century – Kazakhstan was home to the Semipalatinsk "Polygon", the USSR's primary nuclear weapon testing site.

1991 – Kazakhstan declares itself an independent country, the last Soviet republic to declare its independence. Nursultan Nazarbayev becomes the country's new president. He keeps his country under strict control. Recently, several opposition leaders and journalists have been killed. Their elections are not free or fair.

Today Kazakhstan is the dominant state in Central Asia.

2010 – Kazakhstan will chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

2011 – the country will form a customs union with Russia and Belarus.

 

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