The 2008 film Tengri: Le Bleu du Ciel was directed by Marie-Jaoui de Poncheville, a director and actress who was also involved with 1995’s Molom: A Legend of Mongolia and the 1990 Lung Ta: The Forgotten Tibet. With Tengri Poncheville has built a dramatic and dream-like romance set in the rural steppes of modern Kyrgyzstan.
The film stars Elim Kalmouratov in the role of the Kazakh Temür, a thirty-year-old who chooses to return to the Kyrghyz Mountains, the site of his ancestral village, to begin anew and find his father. However, he soon discovers that his father had passed away years before and realizes that he cannot fit in with the conservative Islamic culture in this settlement. Here, he is just an outsider. This does not move him to return to the West though, as he already found rejection there as well. He takes to living in a hut on the edges of the nomad mountain camp.
Before long he meets the young and married Amira, played by Albina Imasheva. Amira waits with despair for her Mujahedeen husband, who is off trying to make money overseas. She feels frustrated in a world where she is expected to wait and be submissive to men’s needs. Similar to how the villagers reject Temür because he is an outsider, they condemn Amira because she desires something different out of this patriarchal world.
Short scene from the film:
In the meanwhile, Temür builds a relationship with her and her young brother-in-law Taibom. As that develops, he also attempts to assist the community, though the different situations often appear hopeless and he can still not overcome his status as an outsider.
As Temür and Amira fall in love and her husband fatefully returns, they make the decision to depart from the village to find a place where they can hope and dream again. Together, they try to build a little world where they can find that life is worth living. However, there are obstacles and personal weaknesses to overcome — and a path where nothing is guaranteed. They head West together, leaving the Kyrghyz Mountains behind them as they travel to a foreign land.
The director has stated that the fragile and blossoming romance between the two was inspired by the love story of Daniyar and Jamilia from the 1958 novel Jamilia by ChingizAytamatov, perhaps the most well-known Kyrgyzstan literary. In that novel, there is also a strong and beautiful woman with a negligent husband who is away in a foreign land, and this woman falls in love with a young man in the setting of a collective farming society.
This film was awarded Best Film and Poncheville won Best Director at the Women’s International Film and Television Showcase (WIFTS) in Los Angeles. In this film, Poncheville strives to show the viewer the beautiful sprawling landscape of Kyrgyzstan and the power of a strong woman in Amira, the latter most likely the reason this movie won Best Film at WIFTS.
Tengri also was a submission for Best Foreign-Language Film in the 2009 Kyrgyzstan Academy Awards.