For even the rangiest moviegoers, the notion that the newly emerged, ex-Soviet states nestled between China, Russia and the Caspian Sea—the "-stans"—have distinctive, thriving movie cultures of their own can be a shocker. Of course, this unflaunted legacy flows from the Soviet era: During WW II, the national film industry decentralized to outlying "film factories" in the southeast (Mark Donskoi spent the war making films in Turkmenistan, and both Eisenstein and Vertov transferred to Kazakhstan), and during the Khrushchev thaw, the rugged, pre-industrial outlands served as the terrain for an entire genre of adventure sagas. Still, the Central Asian republics weren't merely picturesque soundstages for Muscovite film production. As with the great Soviet movies born of Georgia, Ukraine, and Belarus, the trans-Caspian regions' distinctive ethnic identities always provided a rich, if officially devalued, lode of cinematic meat and marrow. After the empire's crumple, the renascent industries have focused almost exclusively on the quotidian of their nations'... More >>>