Archive of films Harmony Lessons / Uroki garmonii

Kazakhstan / Germany / France
2013, 110 min

Section: Horizons
Year: 2013

Thirteen-year-old Aslan suffers from a personality disorder that pushes him towards perfectionism. At school, however, he is forced to accept the principle of "might makes right.” Aslan decides to stand up to the system and deal with it in his own way. This surprisingly mature debut earned a Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution (camerawork) at this year’s Berlinale.


Thirteen-year-old Aslan lives with his grandmother in a small Kazakh village where he attends a school with an extremely high level of crime. Although not at first entirely noticeable, the boy suffers from a personality disorder that gradually manifests itself in the untenable convergence of his strict sense of order and extreme perfectionism with the violent school environment where the rules are made by the strongest and most aggressive students. Bolat is a leader of a local gang that humiliates Aslan at the outset of the film. He and his minions then continue using violence to extort protection money from the other kids to give to their friends in jail. But the daily dose of terror eventually pushes Aslan to an act that goes beyond the established hierarchy of power. This surprisingly mature debut, featuring outstanding performances by the young leads, subtly builds up its atmosphere via a sequence of images of the boy’s daily activities.

About the director

Emir Baigazin (b. 1984, Almaty, Kazakhstan) is the directorial discovery of the year. He graduated in direction in 2009 from the Kazakh National Academy of Arts. While at school he shot several shorts that made the rounds of a variety of film festivals. Thanks to his short film Steppe (2007), he was invited to participate in a workshop at the Asian Film Academy in Busan, South Korea, where his teachers were Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang and Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. He also took part in the Berlinale’s Talent Campus. More recently he shot the short Fatshedder (2008), which screened at the 28th VGIK IFF in Moscow. His feature film debut Harmony Lessons caused quite a stir when presented in the main competition at this year’s Berlinale.


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About the film

Color, DCP

Section: Horizons
Director: Emir Baigazin
Screenplay: Emir Baigazin
Dir. of Photography: Aziz Zhambakiyev
Editor: Emir Baigazin
Producer: Anna Katchko
Production: JCS Kazakhfilm
Cast: Timur Aidarbekov, Aslan Anarbayev, Mukhtar Andassov, Anelya Adilbekova
Contact: Playtime


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