About “The Road to Mother”:
‘The Road to Mother’ is a dramatic Independent film that features one of the most tragic periods in Kazakhstan’s history. Director, Akan Satayev, presents a story about the overwhelming power of a mother’s love and highlights the struggles of the Kazakh people and their ability to persevere. The story spans from the 1930s to present day and is not only an historic panorama, but also a hymn to family values and the sense of honor and charity.
Review Fix: Can you tell us about your background as a director?
Akan Satayev: After graduating from university, where I was studying film directing, I started making commercials and music videos. I have a lot of them), but was always dreaming of making a feature film. In 2003 I created a production company Satai Film, and in 2006 directed my first feature “Racketeer,” which became the top-grossing film in 2007 in Kazakhstan. After that, every year I make films. Sometimes I executive produce television series. In 2014 I got a chance to direct a film in Canada, which is called Hacker (ANONYMOUS on the American market). It is currently in theatre, and got picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures, which we are infinitely proud of.
Review Fix: How long was the shooting of the movie, where and when?
Satayev: The production of the film “Road to Mother” took a year and half. The actual shooting period was four months, with a few interruptions for changing locations. We were shooting the film in Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Azerbaijan, starting at the end of February and ending in June 2015.
Review Fix: How did you choose this village with single tree at the entrance of the village?
Satayev: The village was a set, which we fully built. Nowadays it is impossible to find a village that was built in 1930s – 6’0s. Of course, a lot had to be done in vfx, And the tree is also a prop, which we added digitally.
Review Fix: What interested you in the script?
Satayev: It was a little story that my parents told me when I was in 10th grade. The story of how a lonely mother, being an old woman, for the duration of 20 years went out to the outskirts of the village every day from dawn till dusk, waiting for her son to return from war. Of course, the great love of mother for her child, and the boundless hope, which lies on the surface of this story, had a deep impact on me, and I am happy that after a few years, we wrote a screenplay based on the story, found like-minded people who supported us and that is how we were able to make the film.
Review Fix: What was the most difficult scenes to shoot?
Satayev: We were very well prepared to avoid difficulties during the filming process. But, nevertheless, the war scenes “crossing of the Dnieper River” were complex in technical terms. We have one scene, near the city of Minsk, which we were shooting for 10 days) this was the first time in my practice, and so it was a great challenge and experience.
Review Fix: What are your inspirations for this movie and in general as a director?
Satayev: This archival photos of those times: the collectivization, famine, war … I listened to the music of John Williams, Hans Zimmer, during the design and storyboarding process. Re watched the “D-Day” scene from the movie “Saving Private Ryan” by Steven Spielberg, it was a great example for our military scenes.
Review Fix: Did you work on the script and if yes what did you bring to it?
Satayev: Screenplay was written by Timur Zhaksylykov. We often met with him and discussed the script structure at the development stage. I do not remember exactly what I added to the story), but my participation in the development of the plot was surely there) We also worked with history, military and language consultants. We showed the first draft of the script to a remarkable script doctor from the UK, Clare Downs, with whom we already worked on previous projects.
Review Fix: Did you cast the movie and if yes why did you choose these actors?
Satayev: Yes, we always make a serious emphasis on the selection of actors. In the final stages of casting for playing samples, I did take an active part in the process. The main requirement for the casting director: internal and external correspondence of the candidate with our hero or heroine. And in addition, we still need the main characters to reflect at different ages, the task was complicated) but, fortunately, we managed to find all the actors.
Review Fix: How was the reception of the movie in Kazakhstan and in Russia?
Satayev: The film was released theatrically in Kazakhstan this fall, and viewers of all ages very warmly welcomed our film. It was nice to see how the young people invited their mothers and grandparents to our film. Almost all the spectators, even the men, who watched the film, were crying. There was a tremendous amount of positive feedback we received from viewers. Theatrical release had to be extended, as all the sessions in every cinema were fully booked.
In the summer, we showed the “Road to the mother” at the Moscow International Film Festival, in the competition program. We were worrying about how the Russian audience will perceive our story. In Moscow, as well, and in Kazakhstan, the audience worried about the heroes, cried and applauded at the end of the film. We had originally planned to make a film that would be clear to viewers anywhere in the world. Since the story of a mother’s love for a child is understandable everywhere and to everyone. And we dedicated our film to all the mothers of the world.
Review Fix: What is your next project and would you be interested to work in the US one day?
Satayev: A few days ago I finished shooting a psychological thriller called “She.” Now we will proceed to the editing stage and we plan to release it in the spring of 2017. (I think every director wants to make a film in Hollywood)