France/Netherlands, 2010, 80 min
On the steppe in Kyrgyzstan, a simple electrician affectionately known as Mr. Light (director/cowriter Aktan Arym Kubat) finds himself caught in a difficult position when an ambitious politician embraces his dream of generating wind energy for his tiny impoverished town. Mr. Light is modest and altruistic through and through, but his unlikely partner seems motivated more by greed than hopes of community development. In the meantime, Mr. Light helps out the best he can, tampering with the meters of those too poor to pay for electricity, which raises the ire of the authorities. He also strains to keep his wife—a tough, smart woman frustrated by her husband’s naïveté—happy. The Light Thief elegantly dramatizes the complex challenges of a developing economy with its heartfelt story about the unglamorous yet very real struggles of life in post-Soviet Central Asia. Some of the villagers here have already given up, leaving to seek out easier lives in Russia and Italy. Those who remain must also look to the outside world to raise capital, as evidenced by a group of Chinese investors who are considering funding the wind farm. Director Kubat sets his narrative against the backdrop of the 2005 Tulip Revolution, when a disputed election led to a popular revolt against the government. Although the brief glimpses of political unrest in capital Bishkek seem a world away from Mr. Light’s sleepy town, Kubat slyly illustrates the same governmental failings on a local level, as his humble protagonist faces the greatest social issues, plugging away against injustice and tyranny.
Presented in association with The Global Film Initiative.