A piece of Bishkek’s history…as seen in its Cinema House

By Chinara Sultanalieva

The Cinema House of Bishkek is a place with long history. The fact that it is the only old building in a quiet Bishkek neighborhood reveals a lot. Recently the government even built up a continuation of a dead-end street where the Cinema House is located. Now it is surrounded with a new street, new buildings, offices, restaurants and elite apartments.

It is a piece of the past of Bishkek, but a piece that is full of plots from old Kyrgyz movies.

When you enter the Cinema House, it seems like you go back to old Soviet times. A portrait of Lenin greets everyone at the door. Once inside, you are greeted by someone in a small room with a big window where a stern old woman is clearly in charge. Such ladies are a special kind, always angry at everyone, and they shout at those who come in with dirty shoes or are late to the  movie.

In the room where the movies are being shown, the spirit of those times doesn’t leave you. You sit on old chairs; they are small and uncomfortable. There is no popcorn sold in the hall, no soda pop, nothing  at all is sold.

But when you start watching the movie, you forget about all this, because the main accent is the movie. And a few minutes later you understand that this is not just another movie theater. It is, indeed, a special place. There are no tickets sold, and no special program for children on Saturdays, and no comedies shown on Thursdays, like they used to be during the Soviet years.

Still, black-and-white movies are the most popular here. The Cinema House gives a chance to people to see the history of Kyrgyzstan from old movies. Kyrgyz cinematography was always very rich with ideas and unforgettable images, even though it always suffered financially. Many movies were plotted by novels written by the famous Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov. Heroes of his stories are still impressing people. They are immortal.

In cooperation with different civic and government organizations the Cinema House now presents classic shows on various themes. Mostly they promote new movies of young film-makers, of talented students from universities, and of young specialists. Sometimes the movies are organized as thematic contests. Recently the theatre showed the series of the world’s greatest movies from some of the greatest and most controversial filmmakers, such as Kusturica, Tarantino, and others. After the viewing, all those present discuss the film, sharing opinions and trying to find the truth.

Unfortunately, the building has no heating and it was closed to the public during the cold winter months. But this doesn’t scare the staff members. Avaz baike, the security, house-keeper and the head of the technical department, all at once, has been taking care of the building since the 1980’s.

“He is a real patriot,” says Gulbara Tolomusheva, director of the Cinema House.

“I like both the idea and the architecture of the Cinema House,” Tolomusheva said. “A white Mercedes is parked in front of the Cinema House. It is spring. Half-snowy mountains are seen in the end of the green arch of the trees. Someone is standing on our balcony. I am going out of the car, looking at the entrance with high columns of Stalin times. I wish I had such a picture!” Tolomusheva said.

The Cinema House contributes to the development and establishment of a new platform for new specialists; thus, there are also a lot of students there. They are learning how to play, how to shoot and what a good movie looks like. For them, the Cinema House is the first contact with  filming art.

People can visit the Cinema House located at 13, Logvinenko St., every day from 9.00 a.m. to 18:00 p.m. Visitors at the Cinema House are always welcome.


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