Jamilya / Джамилья

Published: October 19, 2016

Jamilya (Джамилья) is a 1968 Kyrgyz drama and a classic of Kyrgyz and Russian cinema.

Jamilya is based on the 1958 book of the same name by Chingiz Aitmatov (Чингиз Айтматов), who is probably Kyrgyzstan’s greatest cultural export and certainly its best-loved writer. (A statue of him stands right across from the main square in Bishkek.) It is Aitmatov’s first major novel and his most famous publication, as well as one of his earlier Russian-language works (his first works were written in Kyrgyz). Aitmatov wrote the screenplay for the film as well, as he did with several adaptations of his works, and also provided the voiceover in the film. The film was produced by Mosfilm (Мосфильм), the biggest film production studio in the Soviet Union.

It starred Natalya Arinbasarova (Наталья Аринбасарова), who is actually Kazakh, not Kyrgyz. She is a well-known Soviet/Kazakh actress whose debut was in another Aitmatov adaptation, First Teacher (Первый учитель/Алғашқы мүғалімде), and she is still working today. The film’s male lead was Suymenkul Chokmorov (Суйменкул Чокморов), a Kyrgyz actor who became a Distinguished Artist of the Kyrgyz SSR in 1973 and amassed several other state awards after that. He died in 1992.

The book and film tell the story of Jamilya, a young Kyrgyz woman who runs away from her arranged marriage to seek true love. It takes place during World War Two in an aul, or Kyrgyz village, and beyond the love story the story revolves around collective farming, the hardships of the war, and the role of women in traditional societies. It shows Jamilya’s fighting for her personal happiness against both her family’s wishes and the bedrock of Kyrgyz traditional society.

The film has excellent reviews from recent online viewers. Despite the fact that it’s in Russian, it provides true insight into Kyrgyz society and gives viewers a look at one of the most important works of culture of Kyrgyzstan’s history.

Find Jamilya on Amazon


Director: Irina Poplavskaya (Ирина Поплавская)
Stars: Natalya Arinbasarova (Наталья Аринбасарова), Suymenkul Chokmorov (Суйменкул Чокморов), Altynbek Kenzhekov (Алтынбек Кенжеков), Nasreddin Dubashev (Насреддин Дубашев), Chingiz Aitmatov (Чингиз Айтматов)
Production company: Mosfilm


While an official trailer isn’t available, the film can be watched for free—and, more important, legally!—online through MosFilm:





Find Jamilya on Amazon

About the author

Julie Hersh

Julie studied Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk and before that, Bishkek, with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Julie Hersh