Running To The Sky


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Running To The Sky
"Abdykalykov’s story is slight but its roots go deep."

Up among the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, where 12-year-old Jekshen (Temirlan Asankadyrov) lives with his father, the sky is huge. It dominates everything, the small town huddled beneath it, his father’s farm clinging to the slopes. Life here is hard, but Jekshen has one gift. He can run faster than anyone else around, and when he’s running he can feel free.

It’s important for him to be able to escape from day to day life. His mother has left; his father has taken solace in drink. At school people bully him about both. He has problems that poor kids all around the world will relate to. His gym teacher, who wants the school to be able to make more use of his talent, keeps pressuring him to get a new gym kit but his father can’t come up with the money. in the house where he’s ashamed to take anyone, there’s a notable absence of anything that might easily be sold. Beautiful carpets and cushions, too worn to trade for cash or liquor, are all that remain to hint at the beautiful home he once knew.

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It’s not all bad. He does have friends and there’s a girl who has taken a shine to him. Then there are the local running races. In one, he wins a goat which he and a friend alternately carry and drag home through the countryside. outside is house, in the gnarled wood of an old tree, fresh green leaves are beginning to sprout. Could Jekshen’s luck be about to turn?

With a charming lead performance and a strong sense of place, Mirlan Abdykalykov’s second feature has all the ingredients of a feelgood ‘we were poor but we were happy’ story about dreams coming true, but look a little closer and it becomes apparent that there’s more going on. The opportunity to run in further races isn’t really easing Jekshen’s distress. He’s been bearing up against so much pressure for so long that taking on more is exhausting. He’s tired, undernourished and, at the end of it all, still a child, not ready to carry his family’s fortunes on his slender shoulders. There’s a sense that, like many people living in poverty, he’s been running on empty for far too long. What will it take for people to notice?

Abdykalykov’s story is slight but its roots go deep. When we celebrate those who push themselves to the limit, what do we miss, and what is the cost?

Reviewed on: 06 Mar 2020
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In a beautiful mountain village in Kyrgyzstan, a 12-year-old is fiercely loyal to a father brought low by drink and divorce. The kid can run faster than anyone else in school and his ability might be the key to the family’s salvation, especially given the prizes in some local races

Director: Mirlan Abdykalykov

Writer: Ernest Abdyjaparov, Mirlan Abdykalykov

Starring: Temirlan Asankadyrov, Ruslan Orozakunov, Meerim Atantaeva

Year: 2019

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: Kyrgyzstan

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