Private Project

On A Clear Day You Can See the Revolution From Here

An expansive journey through the Kazakh steppe, "On A Clear Day You Can See the Revolution From Here" excavates layers of myth, history and geology to reveal the shifting fault lines between a government, its people and their land.

The film brings into focus Kazakhstan’s search for a post-Soviet identity and a state-sponsored programme of cultural production that on the one hand connects back to the ancient folklore and belief systems of the Silk Road, while on the other, seeks to embrace the values of Western capitalism. Shot on 16mm, the camera is drawn across the landscape taking in locations that include mineral mines, the Eurasian Steppe, the STS decommissioned nuclear site and the newly constructed city of Nur-Sultan.

On A Clear Day You Can See the Revolution From Here provides a meditative faux observational film about the continual process of construction involved in nationhood and national identity.

  • Emma Charles
    White Mountain, Fragments on Machines
  • Ben Evans James
    The Texture of Air, On Solid Ground, CC Utrillo
  • Duman Nursila
    Kazakh Production Manager
    Marco Polo, End of Season
  • Nora O Murchú
    Artistic Director, Transmediale Festival, Berlin
  • Pat Wintersgill
    Slumdog Millionaire, One Night in Al Aqsa, Shed of the Dead, 8 Remains, Lucid
  • Simon Goff
    Joker (2019)
  • Emma Charles
    White Mountain, Fragments on Machines, After the Bell
  • Ben Evans James
    The Texture of Air, On Solid Ground, CC Utrillo
  • Emma Charles
    White Mountain, Fragments on Machines, After the Bell
  • Ben Evans James
    The Texture of Air, On Solid Ground, CC Utrillo
  • Sebastian Kite
    Location Sound Recordist
  • Matt Baird
    Sound Design
    Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before, BBC Imagine: Olafur Eliasson, Random Acts Channel 4
  • Michal Maletz
    Sound Design
  • Elliot Bowell
    Sound Design
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 4 minutes 45 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 1, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    45,000 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Kazakh, Russian
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Visions du Réel
    May 1, 2020
    World Premiere (Online)
    Burning Lights
  • 74th Edinburgh International Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    June 1, 2020
    Festival Cancelled (Covid-19 )
    Official Selection
  • Sheffield Doc Fest
    United Kingdom
    June 8, 2020
    UK Premiere (Online)
    Ghosts and Apparitions
    September 3, 2020
    Market (Online)
    Official Selection
  • Astra Film Festival
    October 16, 2020
    Romanian Premiere (Online)
    European Competition
  • Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF)
    October 29, 2020
    South Asian Premiere (Online)
    Official Selection
Distribution Information
  • Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (Non-Exclusive)
    Country: Worldwide
Director Biography - Emma Charles, Ben Evans James

Emma Charles is a London-based artist and filmmaker. Working with experimental approaches to moving image and sound, her research based practice navigates the field of non-fiction while engaging with recurring themes of technology, capitalism and landscape.
Playing with the blurred lines between documentary and fiction, her work often reveals the artificiality of both the filmic environment and our lived experience. She has exhibited at Serpentine Galleries and ICA London; HKW, Berlin and Jeu de Paume, Paris. She has also screened her films at Sheffield DocFest, East End Film Festival, Architecture Film Festival London, Abandon Normal Devices and Impakt Festival. Emma was nominated for the New Talent Award for her film ‘White Mountain’ at Sheffield Doc/Fest in 2017. She is the recipient of a 2015 and 2017 Arts Council England award, British Council UK-China Connections Through Culture grant and The Elephant Trust fund. Charles’ films are held in two museum collections at Guangdong Museum of Art in China and The ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe in Germany. Emma holds an MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art.

Ben is a filmmaker and curator whose work engages with narratives that lie outside landscapes constructed by global capital. He is the film curator at transmediale festival in Berlin, co-founded the London project space South Kiosk and is an AHRC funded PhD candidate under new media theorist Prof. Beryl Graham. His latest feature film On A Clear Day You Can See The Revolution From Here premiered at Visions du Réel in 2020. Ben is based between Vancouver and Berlin.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

On A Clear Day You Can See The Revolution From Here is a film about a new country finding its identity through a re-connection with its past.

The film’s origin stems from the co-director’s mutual interest in the Soviet built Ekibastuz-Kokshetau power line. Built in 1973, the line was the first to operate at 1150kV — the highest transmission line voltage in the world. Running for 432km over the barren grasslands of the Kazakh Steppe, the construction of the power line marked the beginning of a massive power distribution system designed to link up the outposts of the Soviet Union. Before its completion however, the USSR collapsed.

What started as an initial interest in the power line and its colonial history, led to a three-year filming process traversing the Kazakh steppe. Using the line as a structuring device, the filmmakers traced its path across Eastern Kazakhstan taking in locations including mineral mines, electricity generating stations, the Polygon nuclear test site and the newly constructed city of Nur-Sultan. A filmic dérive across the Kazakh steppe, the film drifts through its locations to reveal the shifting fault lines between the government, its people and their land - critically investigating how Kazakhstan’s nomadic history and folklore, and its colonial experience, have informed the country’s renewed identity.

Sharing an interest in research-led experimental documentary, the directors have created a film built on the structural language of non-fiction while utilising experimental approaches to sound and moving image. The film’s sound design and composition manipulates field recordings that include electro-magnetic pulses from the Ekibastuz-Kokshetau power line, seismic geological movements from the Bogatyr coal quarry and sounds from the earth’s own magnetic field recorded at The Polygon nuclear site. Captured on 16mm, the film has an observational feel, shot wide with occasional notes of intimacy that provide the space for the narrative to reveal itself; the image suspending a dialogue between the past and present in Kazakhstan.

Throughout its production, the film has engaged in a collaborative filmmaking strategy to create a form of restorative storytelling aimed at dislodging dominant Western perceptions of Kazakhstan. The film’s Kazakh producer — Duman Nursila — facilitated introductions to dombra musicians, folklore tellers, healers, construction engineers, mining workers, and historical researchers; the script written in consultation with individuals from these communities while lengthy interviews with each helped shape what the film became.

Kazakhstan is a country where memory is in flux. A place entangled between old politics and a new future where history is both forgotten and remembered. On A Clear Day experiments with the documentary possibilities that arise from the interplay between myth and reality as the country searches for a renewed identity.