(Malik and Dana Tazhiyev’s Old-World-Spanish costume. Courtesy photo)
(Hal Foster appears in the Baltimore Post-Examiner under a partnership with Tengrinews of Kazakhstan. )
I’ve been amazed at the creative talent I’ve found in Kazakhstan since the day I arrived almost six years ago.
The country of only 17 million has some of the best entertainers I’ve ever seen — including musicians, singers and dancers.
Kazakhstan also boasts excellent writers, poets, composers, painters and sculptors.
Now I can add another genre to the creative-artists list: wedding photographers and video makers.
A surprise ending to the video-making part of the story I’m about to spin for you is that the project got the groom so fired up that he auditioned for a movie – and got the part.
Before I go into that intriguing wrinkle of the story, let me tell you that the idea for this piece grew out of a wedding photo I saw on Facebook.
Zarifa Tazhiyeva posted the photo of her brother, Malik, and his wife, Dana, a few weeks ago. I taught Zarifa at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research, or KIMEP. She earned a master’s degree in journalism there a few years ago.
The spectacular shot that she posted of her brother and his bride on Facebook showed the newlyweds, in traditional Kazakh wedding clothes, sitting around a roaring fire. The photo is so perfectly composed and the couple’s expressions so radiant that it looks like a promotional shot for a historical movie about nomads.
Zarifa told me the photo was part of a slide show of the wedding in Almaty that included three genres: nomad, Old-World Spanish and modern-day.
The slide show is incredible. Check it out:
Dana said many Kazakh couples want wedding photos that are “original and unforgettable” to keep this important chapter of their love story alive.
She found her fabulous photographer, Max Zolotukhin, while surfing the Web.
Max, who works for the Valeriy Ayapov Studio, ,quickly warmed to Dana’s three-genre slide-show idea. And that enthusiasm clearly shows in his work.
All three of the motifs are sparkling, but the Old-World Spanish is particularly fun. It features Dana in a red flamenco dancer’s costume and Malik in the kind of shoestring mustache you’d see in an El Greco painting.
Max said a sterling photo shoot hinges on the photographer’s ability to capture on film what the bride and groom want this important day to convey.
He also noted that, since a photographer has no second chance with a wedding shoot, he must go all out to get it right. “The photographer should keep the most important moments in focus, being ready for hundreds of nuances – such as a sudden rain or the bride breaking one of her high heels.”
Although wedding photography is a staple of the Ayapov Studio, the team also does fashion photography and other motifs. I checked the studio’s Web site, and the non-wedding work is creative, too.
Another visual encapsulation of a Kazakh wedding that I saw recently was just as original as the slide show that Malik and Dana arranged.
This was a Bollywood-style video of the marriage in 2011 of my former KIMEP undergraduate-journalism student Rabiga Nurbay and her husband, Serik Kaidarov.
The first step in the Astana couple’s video-production effort was finding creative shooters. They were thrilled with the work of Dzhalil Alhmetchin and Maksim Lapunka on the Internet.
The next step was finding a way to make the video stand above run-of-the-mill wedding videos.
“Suddenly Serik came up with the idea of a Bollywood movie,” complete with a fight scene, Rabiga said. The couple thought that approach would put smiles on the faces of viewers.
You can decide for yourself by watching this video:
Serik’s Bollywood idea not only was exciting, Rabiga said, but touched a chord deep inside her.
One of her “crazy dreams” – which she had never conveyed to Serik – was “to be a Bollywood actress and play in an Indian movie,” she said.
“And when Serik came up with this idea, it just strengthened my feeling that I had met the right guy – a guy who could make even my crazy dreams come true.”
When she responded to Serik’s Bollywood proposal by disclosing her dream of acting, he confided that he had also had that dream.
“I never knew Serik wanted to be an actor long ago, and was so surprised when he proposed an Indian scenario,” Rabiga said. “So I made his dream come true also.”
The couple themselves created the video’s scenes and dialogue. Rabiga, whose love of Bollywood films means she’s also a fan of Indian music, selected the video’s songs. The words were in Hindi, of course – but she crafted Russian subtitles for them.
The fight scene involves two men trying to steal Rabiga’s purse. In true Bollywood fashion, Serik rushes to the rescue, kicking the bad guys’ behinds until they flee.
“In the next scene he sings a song about how eagerly he is awaiting my response” to his marriage proposal, Rabiga said. He promises that if she says yes, he will lay down a carpet of pearls for them to walk on.
Rabiga and Serik had two wedding ceremonies in the bride’s hometown of Karaganda – a traditional Kazakh ceremony and a contemporary ceremony.
Photographer Mikhail Hodanovich of VMG Studio in Karaganda took still shots of both events, during which the couple played the video for their guests. You can reach Mikhail, who is also a solid craftsman.
“In both ceremonies, people were surprised and shocked and loved the video,” Rabiga said.
I’m one of the video’s many fans. I not only love its joyful Bollywood approach, but also its terrific film-making, particularly the lighting.
When Rabiga told me that one of the shooters, Dzhalil, was only 17, I was amazed. What a future he has!
You can reach Dzhalil and Maksim through Maksim’s website.
Making the video was so much fun that Serik decided to audition for a film role.
Producer Erlan Sagin chose him for the part of business executive from among more than 20 people at the audition.
The film, “For the Sake of the Future,” which is about the adventures of Kazakhs who study abroad under the country’s famed Bolashak Scholarship Program, hit theaters early this year.
Whether the movie leads to a change of career for Serik remains to be seen.
But one thing is certain: Both his wedding video and the film will be memories that he and Rabiga will keep forever.
Hal Foster is a longtime journalist and journalism professor who has worked in the United States, Japan, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. His news career has included writing and editing at the Los Angeles Times and nine years as a journalist in Japan. He is an associate professor of Communication at the new Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan. Catch one of his other blogs at en.tengrinews.kz.