Kazakhstan’s nature and cities, especially around Almaty, Shymkent, and Turkistan, are often featured in both local and global motion pictures.
Scenery for historical films
Quite often in movies, one can see the medieval towns and ancient settlements of Kazakhstan, but directors mostly have to recreate them by modifying the scenery. Sometimes the set remains as a tourist attraction after the shooting. This happened with the set for the “Nomad: The Warrior,” released in North America in 2007. Built on the banks of the Ili River (near the town of Kapshagai, in the Almaty Province), the ancient town’s scenery is visited today by many travelers. You can get there only on an SUV, and it's well worth your while!
A lot of music videos were shot at the preserved set for “Nomad: The Warrior”. Here the director Timur Bekmambetov, known for Wanted (2008) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012), filmed some scenes of his sensational “Night Watch 2”. By the way, some actors and extras in the movie were from Kazakhstan.
Tomiris - premiere of 2019
“Tomiris”, directed by Akan Satayev, tells the story of the powerful woman and skillful warrior Queen Tomiris, who lived in the 6th century B.C. The battle scenes were shot near the town of Kapshagai in the Almaty Province. Distribution rights for the historical drama were acquired in many countries in 2020, including the USA, Singapore, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Turkey and others.
Almaty - the city of love
Almaty is a very romantic city that adds a subtle tenderness to any movie. One of the movies featuring Almaty is the Kazakh-Chinese film "Composer", which premiered in 2019. It tells the story of a friendship between two composers, Xian Sinhai from China and Bakhytjan Baykadamov from Kazakhstan. The Chinese composer was evacuated to the city of Almaty during World War II, where he found the support of a new friend. The film shows recognizable streets and houses of old Almaty. The movie was produced by Kazakhfilm, Shinework Pictures, and Lenfilm Studio.
Paris Song: in Europe and Ushkonyr
”Paris Song” (2018) is a spectacular film about the Kazakh musician Amre Kashaubay, who was the first to perform a Kazakh song and play the dombra instrument at the Expo in Paris back in 1925. The film, based on a true story, tells about the triumph of the Kazakh performer in Europe, and about his mysterious fate. It also features famous Kazakh works of music.
“Paris Song” is filmed in English with subtitles in various languages. The shooting took place mainly in Latvia; several takes were shot in Almaty and in the village of Ushkonyr, in the Almaty Province.
Tulip Prairies and Cannes Film Festival awards
In the picturesque steppes of Betpakdala (not far from Shymkent), where millions of wild tulips bloom every spring, the first feature film of the famous Russian director Sergei Dvortsevoy, “Tulip,” was shot. For this film, Dvortsevoy received nine Grand Prix awards at international festivals around the world and the first prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. The same director, for his new film “Ayka,” which also became popular in the blink of an eye, received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival award.
Gerard Depardieu in apple orchards
Sergei Azimov's film "Late Love," starring the famous French actor Gerard Depardieu, was shot in a location replete with apple orchards known as the Tulkubas district near Shymkent. In one of his interviews, Depardieu admitted that it was very interesting for him to meet local Kazakh people, whom he praised for their hospitality and for staying true to their roots.
Charyn Canyon - one of the most popular shooting locations
Charyn Canyon, with its spectacular landscapes, is a perfect location for filming movies and music videos. It is shown occasionally in the Netflix series “Marco Polo” and in the Kazakhstani historical film “Myn Bala: Warriors of the Steppe”. The canyon also features in a recent Land Rover commercial.
British singer Rag’n’Bone Man, who rose to fame after releasing his hit-single “Human,” chose Charyn Canyon as a locale for his music video. The main character of the video is a Kazakh boy who wanders alone in a deserted world in search of other people. “It had always been my intention to shoot in Kazakhstan and a lot of the images in my treatment came from there. The sheer epic scale and breadth of locations was truly inspirational and thankfully our producer and service companies did an incredible job to allow us to shoot there,” says director Greg Davenport.
Daneliya Tuleshova, the tourism ambassador of Kazakhstan and the singer who represented Kazakhstan at Junior Eurovision 2018 and wowed the audience on America’s Got Talent and The World’s Best, filmed a music video in the canyon too. In addition, Charyn Canyon serves as an amazing backdrop for the debut music video of popular Korean band IN2IT.
Of course, this is nowhere near the complete list of films that were shot here in Kazakhstan. But even if you only watch some of them before setting off on a journey around the country of the nomads, you will already have a visual representation of its nature, the events that took and are taking place here, the people and their values. Moreover, you can always visit places where certain films were shot. Isn’t that amazing!?