How Kana Beisekeyev Transformed Documentary Filmmaking in Kazakhstan
Leila Mekhdiyeva talks to Kazakhstan’s successful filmmaker about his professional path, his successes, and his creative plans for the future.
Image: courtesy photo
Every country has its heroes. They are usually people who are not afraid to say out loud what has remained unspoken, to reveal their true selves, and to wear their hearts on their sleeves. They become ‘thought leaders’ as they represent the ambitions and frustrations of a generation. Kazakhstan’s documentary filmmaker Kana Beisekeyev is one such hero. Though only 31 years old, he has already created 60 short- and long-form documentaries focusing both on social problems in his country and on self-identification amongst the Kazakh diaspora.
Vox Populi and New York Film Academy
While studying journalism at the University of International Business in Almaty, Beisekeyev started work as a photojournalist at the locally-based news project Vox Populi. He credits Vox Populi and its founder Alisher Yelikbayev with teaching him everything about journalism. Nonetheless, he remembers, “I left because I knew I want something bigger. I was told that being a photographer in Kazakhstan means taking photos of weddings. I saw a bigger potential in my career. So, I went to New York to find an answer.”
He got accepted to the New York Film Academy (NYFA) and was able to afford the hefty fees thanks to a grant from the Saby Charitable Foundation. It was during this one-year photography program at NYFA that he realized that documentary-making would be his true vocation. This became especially clear when making his final work at NYFA – a documentary photo story about a Korean LGBTQ girl from Kazakhstan living in New York. In search of her identity, she started learning Kazakh and playing the dombra (a Kazakh national instrument). Later he returned to this story and made his documentary film “In search of Dombra”.
First Documentary Film
Beisekeyev’s professional film career started almost by accident with “Zhana-York of Moldanazar.” This short video follows Kazakhstani musician Galymzhan Moldanazar’s visit to New York City, where he had been invited to collaborate and perform with the American cello-rock band “Break of Reality.”