After completing his service in the Russian navy, a restless and sensitive young man (Askhat Kuchencherekov) comes to live as a nomad with his sister (Samal Esljamova) and her shepherd husband (Ondas Besikbasov) on the barren Kazakh steppe. He’ll need to begin his own life, and for that he’ll need his own wife, but the only available woman within many miles isn’t interested. Director Sergey Dvortsevoy, co-writing with Gennady Ostrovskiy, continues an emerging tradition of ethnographic docudrama that viewers familiar with Byambasuren Davaa’s The Story of the Weeping Camel and The Cave of the Yellow Dog will recognize, and any fan of elegantly simple tales from exotic faraway places will appreciate. What’s special about Tulpan–aside from Jolanta Dylewska’s extraordinary cinematography, which seems always to know what revelations to wait for and how best to present them–is its tender, desert-dry comedic touch. Apparently it is possible to come of age alone in the void, while chasing sheep through the dust.

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