Myn Bala: Warriors of the Steppe (2012)

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Released 3-Jul-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Historical Epic None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 133:33 (Case: 125)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Akan Satayev
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Asylkhan Tolepov
Tlektes Meiramov
Ayan Utepbergen
Kuralai Anarbekova
Toleubek Aralbai
Aliya Anuarbek
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Renat Gaisin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Kazak Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Kazak Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In the early 1700s the Kazakh people were fighting among themselves which allowed the steppes of Kazakhstan to be controlled by the Dzungers, a tribe descended from the Mongols, who destroyed villages and killed men, women and children without restraint. As a young boy, Sartai (Asylkhan Tolepov) witnessed the killing of his parents and the destruction of his village by the Dzungers before fleeing to the mountains with his grandfather Nazar (Tlektes Meiramov) and a few survivors. Seven years later, with his friends Taimai (Ayan Utepbergen) and young woman Korlan (Kuralai Anarbekova), Sartai commences a guerrilla campaign against the Dzungers, ambushing and killing isolated detachments and stealing their horses.

     Some Kazakhs cooperated with the Dzungers, such as the Headman Rakhimjan (Toleubek Aralbai) and things became more complicated for Sartai when he fell in love with Rakhimjan’s beautiful daughter Zere (Aliya Anuarbek). As Sartai’s reputation and his band of warriors grow their ever escalating attacks, including destroying a fort, results in the Dzungers intensifying their search for Sartai and stepping up their repression, putting pressure on those Kazakhs who were collaborating. With Kazakh loyalties tested, both within Sartai’s band and in the wider Kazakh community, it becomes increasingly difficult to know who can be trusted as the Kazakh tribes agree finally to unite and gather for a massed battle against the Dzunger armies that will determine the fate of the steppe.

     Myn Bala: Warriors of the Steppe is based upon actual events; “Myn Bala” translating as “The Thousand Boys” who fought for freedom against the Dzungers. The film was funded by the Kazakh state to commemorate the 20th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union. As an official government project, it is impossible to know just how much of it is accurate, although the Battle of Anrakoy (1729) which ends the film is historical, and it must be said that the Kazakhs are pious and just while the Dzungers, as set up right from the opening sequence of the film, are indiscriminate murderers of women and children. While the film remains with Sartai and his band, especially his relationship with Taimai and Korlan, it maintains interest and momentum although the acting is only adequate, but when the film broadens its scope and shows the counsels of the leaders of both the Kazakhs and the Dzungers it introduces a bewildering range of sultans, khans and leaders. Kazakhs may be familiar with who these people are, but for a western audience it is very confusing and tends to slow the film down as well as adding confusion to the final battle.

     The main reason to watch Myn Bala: Warriors of the Steppe are the beautiful, spectacular widescreen photography of the Kazakh steppe, forests and mountains and the battle sequences. Myn Bala looks stunning; tiny horsemen dwarfed on the immense green grasslands of the steppe with snow covered mountains in the background, yurts (round nomad animal skin tents) surrounded by herds of animals or a lone rider silhouetted against a blood red sky. The interiors of the yurts and pavilions and the costumes are also vibrantly coloured and finely detailed. Indeed, the colours throughout the film, the greens of the steppe and forest, the blue of the rivers and red of the sunsets, the yellows on costumes, are some of the most beautiful I have seen in a film for some time.

     Until the massed battle which ends the film, the fights have been between small groups of horsemen, perhaps numbering up to a dozen, and the action is done mostly for real without the overuse of CGI, resulting in exciting, chaotic and quite gory sequences; horses charging across the steppe with arrows flying and swords, spears and clubs clashing, bodies and horses falling is always exciting to watch when it is done well, as it is here. The smaller numbers also allows us to see what the main characters are doing and thus their fate when some are killed is genuinely moving. It is only during the final battle that CGI is used to enhance the numbers and I must say it is pretty obvious!

     Myn Bala was made on a budget of $US12 million, a large sum for Central Asian filmmaking, peanuts by Hollywood standards for a historical epic. The official support of the Kazakh government however meant that the budget could be stretched a long way, and the action sequences, costumes and sets certainly do not fall short of Hollywood standards. While the film concentrates upon the deeds of the small group of freedom fighters it maintains interest, whatever the historical reality. And, as an advertisement for the stunningly beautiful Kazakh countryside it could hardly be bettered.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Myn Bala is presented in an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     As noted in the review this is a print with stunningly beautiful colours and widescreen vistas. Both close up and widescreen detail is very good, blacks solid and shadow detail great. Skin tones are natural, brightness and contrast consistent.

     There is some slight ghosting with movement against trees but otherwise artefacts and marks were absent.

     The layer change at 70:00 was in the middle of a scene and created a slight pause.

     English subtitles are in a white font. They are always clear and easy to read but do present some problems. In the first place, the timing sometimes seems off with people talking and nothing appearing on screen. Sometimes they are much abbreviated as well, with characters saying a lot and only a short subtitle. Towards the end there are a number of long conversations and only the subtitle “Verdana” appears on screen. I have no idea what it is about.

     There are also a number of spelling and grammatical errors, including the closing caption where “vicotyr” appears instead of “victory” (125:51). There are others too, including “you” instead of “your”, “full” not “fully”, “feelins” for “feelings” and “twnty thousand” (82:45). There were more errors in this release than I can remember seeing for quite some time.

     The print was spectacular, the subtitles needed more care.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio choice is Kazakh in either Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps or Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps. I listened to the 5.1 audio.

     Dialogue was always clear. The surrounds were constantly in use for music and weather effects such as thunder and rain, but of course resounded with the thump of horses’ hooves, the thud of arrows, the impact of edged weapons and clubs as well as the general din of battle. The subwoofer rumbled nicely supporting the horses, battle noise and the occasional explosion.

    Lip synchronisation was occasionally out, but was never distracting.

     The original score by Renat Gaisin was appropriately sweeping and epic and was supported by a number of Kazakh folk songs. It supported the visuals very well.

     The audio track was very good.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Absolutely nothing, not even a trailer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 US version of Myn Bala is out late November 2013. There are no details at the time of writing this review, although the run time is listed as 108 minutes. The Region 0 UK release is listed on Amazon.com as having an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and running only 100 minutes.

     Information about the film on IMBd is limited, and I cannot find any DVD reviews, but as our Region All release is in an 2.35:1 aspect ratio that looks correct and runs 133 minutes, it is the pick.

Summary

     Based on Kazakh legends about young freedom fighters who challenged the Dzungers in the 18th century and funded by the government of Kazakhstan to commemorate the 20th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union, Myn Bala: Warriors of the Steppe may or may not be good history but it is certainly an epic picture with good battle scenes, beautiful colours and spectacular landscapes.

     The video, except for the subtitles, is very good, the audio fine. There are absolutely no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, December 02, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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