Kyrgyz filmmaker Mirlan Abdykalykov's Heavenly Nomadic encompasses three generations of one family who inhabit the same yurt high in the mountains. Ostensibly, the film portrays the everyday life of nomads: the elderly herdsman Tabyldy, his wife Karachach, their daughter-in-law Shaiyr, and their 7 year old granddaughter Umsunai. Yet Heavenly Nomadicis also saturated with Kyrgyz legends that are perceived as reality rather than fairy tales. People of this Central Asian nation worship the souls of their ancestors as well as natural phenomena.
Existence is thus posited as a blending of three worlds: the lower, the middle, and the higher. The middle world, where Shaiyr and her family dwell, is beautiful and picturesque— green grass and colored robes, a lost paradise. The upper world is the domain of legends and myths— sunlight and blue sky. The crepuscular lower world evokes death and is frightening— images of twilight. In Heavenly Nomadic, these three worlds are intertwined as are human and animal dominions. The aging Tabyldy wishes for a stallion to accompany him into the other world; Shaiyr, who is torn between her emotions, is often compared to the bird Sutak; Shaiyr's young daughter believes that her father hasn't died of drowning, but has rather transformed into a golden eagle that occasionally flies over their home. A high level of integration between the natural and the mystical characterizes not only Heavenly Nomadic, but Kyrgyz cinema as a whole.
Cinematic masterpieces of the so-called "Kyrgyz miracle" demonstrate this concept most clearly— namely, The White Ship (Bolotbek Shamshiyev, 1975) and The Skies of Our Childhood (Tolomush Okeyev, 1966). The White Ship features a similar legend about the deer-mother, the patron of the Kyrgyz people. Kaibergen, a mother of mountain goats, saves the hunter from plummeting off a cliff by turning him into a golden eagle. Heavenly Nomadic's parallel with The Skies of Our Childhood is even more evident; both films feature the theme of desolation in a corner of paradise. When dump trucks and excavators arrive to build a new road in the mountains, the old man is the first to notice that all the large stones and boulders in their valley have been marked with numbers, to be carried away.
While seemingly inanimate objects, the stones are a potent symbol in The Skies of Our Childhood. In one scene, a brother explains to his sister that cave paintings were drawn by their ancestors. The stone walls become a platform for history, the richness of culture, one's origins. In another scene, an old man removes stones from a wild river, symbolizing the search for his son. Instead he finds the souls of other people— the Kyrgyz legend of "San Tash" translates to "counting stones." Conversely, stones marked with numbers for export serve as a metaphor of civilization that invades a land and takes away all its riches.
More than mere quotes, Heavenly Nomadic's references to classic Kyrgyz films mark the continuity of a vibrant Kyrgyz cinema storytelling tradition, translated to modern times. There is a simultaneous sense of respect, and differentiation— an effort to define oneself as new— like Shaiyr's son Ulan who goes to the city find himself a bride. There exists no fear of the Soviet regime, which took away sons (The Skies of Our Childhood); no bitterness about being fatherless child (Beshkempir). Instead, Heavenly Nomadic concludes with the 7-year old girl Umsunai, who bows three times and says: "I forgive you."