Guka Omarova’s very new feature sets witch-craft and the mob against each other on the dusty plains of Kazakhstan. Aidai is an elderly spiritual healer, a “Kazakh Baksy” who has the power to find a person’s lost soul, heal the crippled and locate stolen cattle. For years, Aidai has been serving her local Kazakh community and living off the land of a rich businessman, Batyr, who feels indebted to her because she helped his wife to conceive. When local gangsters decide that Batyr’s land would be a prime location for a petrol station and a motel, Aidai puts up a fight, as the land is what connects her to her spiritual powers. Ignoring threats from the gangsters, Batyr goes away on vacation, but when he returns Aidai has disappeared and his land has been excavated. He is furious, so when the petrol station burns down in a freak accident, it seems like just revenge – until his son is kidnapped. Devastated and at a loss, Batyr goes looking for Aidai’s help.
Co-written and produced by the great Russian director Sergei Bodrov, Native Dancer evokes the mysticism of fantasy and the thrills of a gangster film. Featuring strong, naturalistic performances, the film recalls the earthy visual style of Omarova’s last film, Schizo, but with its hybridized genres, Native Dancer is far more epic in its scope. In this highly accomplished work, Omarova has crafted a captivating story that astutely highlights the clash between old Kazakh customs and the new Kazakhstan.