Private Project

The Letters from the Pamirs

Disappointed by loss of homeland to modernity, the granddaughter of Kyrgyz nomads travels to the luminous Pamirs of Tajikistan across the border, where she bears witness to idylls, dreams and grief of her distant cousins.

  • Janyl Jusupjan
  • Janyl Jusupjan
  • CINEDOC Films
    Maman Colonel, Justice a Agadez etc.
  • CHAGALDAK Production
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 18 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 31, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    138,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • One World Filmd Festival on Human Rights
    Czech Republic
    March 8, 2017
    European Premier
  • Traces de Vies
    November 23, 2016
  • One World Kyrgyzstan
    October 30, 2017
    Kyrgyzstan Premier
    Grand Prix
Director Biography - Janyl Jusupjan

Letters from the Pamirs is Janyl Jusupjan’s first feature documentary. Born in Kyrgyzstan, she worked in journalism before moving to film making in 2015. Her radio documentary series “The Invisible Women of Osh” on the victims of sexual violence during the Kyrgyz-Uzbek conflict in Kyrgyzstan was awarded AIB Diploma (London).

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Director Statement

In 2013, I first visited the Jerge-Tal district in newly-independent Tajikistan, which experienced a bitter five-year civil war after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Encounters in Jerge-Tal brought me back to my childhood. They revived memories of family stories of tribal life in Kyrgyzstan, where people were poor by modern standards, but rich in wisdom – generous, compassionate, respectful of Nature, and united by a worship of ancestral spirits.

The last twenty years of post-Soviet capitalism and uncontrolled materialism have left their mark in Kyrgyzstan.

We are now far-removed from an intimate relationship with Time and Nature; our knowledge of ancestral traditions is disappearing. Families do not make beautiful tapestries, or cut and assemble colourful felts to craft sturdy, warm carpets – we do not know how; we have forgotten how to make olovo, a meal of boiled sheep’s lung, filled with milk and butter. Most importantly, we are on track to lose a sense of humanist values and social cohesion among people. As an observer of Kyrgyzstan’s society, it strikes me that this collective consciousness of our loss is faint. It is not articulated, its nascence and suddenness make it difficult to name or pinpoint. But the feelings, commonly heard among so many, are of insignificance in our own eyes, and a profound loneliness and alienation.

When I was in Jerge-Tal, I felt as if the simplicity and sincerity of a bygone era was returned to me. At the same time, I bore witness to the intricacies and contradictions of life in this seemingly harmonious community.

You only have to contemplate their past to understand that these people are survivors; they are resilient with an honest sense of self-worth, not arrogance. In the last century-and-a-half, their lands were divided between three empires –Chinese, Russian and British. Annexation by the Soviet Union and a civil war that followed the fall of the Soviet empire were but the most recent expressions of violence. In the face of these challenges, the Kyrgyz people of the Pamir Lands have preserved remarkable qualities that make their identity what it is.

This encounter of Tajiks and Kyrgyz has given birth to a younger generation to whom the elders transmit a wisdom borne of unenviable hardship. These are youth steeped in tradition: at times fascinated by modernity; at others, flabbergasted by it.

Today, most of these young women and men will leave their villages to work or study in the cities, where life seems easier. But a few will return – enriched by experiences good, bad, uncertain.

Such displacement of people is common throughout the world, of course.

In Jerge-Tal, these changes are unfolding rapidly before our eyes; it is dramatic, palpable. The contrasts are stark: the traditions were kept so firmly, but modern forces act with astonishing speed. Therefore, it is essential to have a sensitive observation of this transformation in this corner of the world.

To watch, to listen, and to understand and share…