Directed by Aminatou Echard • Documentary • 2018 • 84 minutes
This mesmerizing film, shot in Kyrgyzstan on richly saturated Super-8 footage, is a search for Jamilia, the title character in that country's famous novel by Chinghiz Aitmatov, about a young woman who rebels against the strict rules of her society.
Over the course of its haunting narrative, director Aminatou Echard introduces contemporary Kyrgyz women who, in talking about this literary heroine, reveal their own private lives and desires, the social rules they chafe under and their ideas of freedom.
Jamilia portrays Kyrgyzstan through the prism of these women's stories. They describe what their lives are like in a country where the patriarchal system may see them kidnapped by would-be suitors, and curbs their freedom to work, desire, love, live and dream.
Jamilia lets the women speak for themselves—about resistance and the freedom they find in unexpected places, despite the restraints and limitations imposed upon them. With dreamy pacing and a shifting relationship to time, the film gives viewers access to its subjects' desire for adventure, rebellion, independence and sensuality.