The rugged mountains and valleys of Kyrgyzstan present a whole new canvas for filmmakers. What’s more – red tape is at a minimum
Located in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is a country that offers a wide expanse of natural beauty. From snow covered mountains, pristine water bodies to beautiful plains, there is also a rich and diverse cultural heritage spanning over 2,000 years. It is indeed a surprise that not many international filmmakers have showcased this in their films.
Hindi filmmakers who leave no opportunity to explore such eye-catching locations in their films have not ventured into this region. It is only the recently that the Sanjay Dutt-starrer Torbaaz, directed by Girish Malik, captured this beautiful country.
The most peaceful and best time to film in Kyrgyzstan is from late April to the end of May as at this time of year the chilly winters withdraw and the country wakes up to mellow sunlight. Tourists are hardly seen during these two months. The roads leading towards the mountains begin to open up and the beautiful spring flowers are in full bloom. The tourist population throngs Kyrgyzstan from June till August. Summer in Kyrgyzstan is the best time to film in mountainous locations with lush green all around. The nights are still cold in these mountains. Most places in the country start closing with the arrival of October and the cold starts getting unbearable as December approaches.
If you are looking for alluring hilly landscapes, snow-coated mountain peaks, frozen lakes, gushing rivers or open plains, Kyrgyzstan is the place for you. More than three-fourths of the country is mountainous. The highest point of Kyrgyzstan is Pobeda Peak on the Kyrgyzstan-China border. Tien-Shan (where Pobeda Peak is located) and Pamir-Alay in the north-east and south-west, respectively, are the two major mountain systems throughout the country.
Kyrgyzstan has 40,000 large and small rivers, over 2,000 lakes and 8,000 glaciers. Most preferred locations for filmmakers are Ala Archa Canyon (an alpine national park), Tien Shan range, the stunning Karakol Valley (in the south of Karakol along the river of the same name that passes through the town), Lake Issyk Kul, Lake Song Kul, Sary-Chelek Nature Reserve, Tash Rabat caravanserai and the colourful Osh market.
Kyrgyzstan provides a 20 per cent cash rebate of qualifying productions expenses under the newly launched film industry incentive scheme. The rebate for feature films, documentaries, television series and commercials comes from private institutions instead of the Kyrgyzstan government.
For the cash/tax rebate in Kyrgyzstan, hiring a local partner approved by KRIFCom is a must as all payments are to be directed through them. Feature films wanting to avail the rebate require to make a minimal expense of $3,00,000 in country or spend a minimum time of 14 production days.
The rebate comes with a few free benefits:
Foreign Ministry accreditation
All public filming locations — free of charge
No Customs fee
The Customs procedure of Kyrgyzstan, with nominal formalities, proves the country to be quite welcoming for filmmakers. Filmmakers only need to submit the details of their local partner/fixer/facilitator with the list of equipment organized in a declaration. The list should contain:
Details on the responsible accompanying person
List of the equipment with details like country of origin, make, model and weigh of each piece, serial number, and the customs value)
When it comes to issuing permits to shoot in Kyrgyzstan, it is differs based on what and where the shooting entails. However, there are simple rules like applying for the accreditation of the Foreign Ministry and getting a letter of support from KRIFCom. This will give the filmmaker free access to shoot in any public area without any special permit. This will save you from getting permits through PR services of the respective venues for shoot. If the shooting location is privately owned, the owner of that place is to be contacted directly.
Accreditation of the Foreign Ministry
The following information is to be given in written form on the production company’s letterhead:
The synopsis of the upcoming project including broadcasting details (where applicable)
Short biographies of all crew members
Passport ID page scans of all crew members
Passport-size ID photo of all crew members
There are no monetary implications for the procedure and it takes almost a month. However, there are exceptions for emergency.
Letter of support
A letter of support from the Kyrgyz-Russian Independent Film Commission is highly recommended once the filmmaker has decided to shoot in the country, as it will open many doors with regards to the filming, even if you are not obliged to obtain it by law.
To apply for permits, filmmakers will have to provide the synopsis of the shoot, the crew details and tentative dates and hours of the film to authorities. The KRIFCom recommendation letter is supposed to be attached with the accreditation details.
Kyrgyzstan is one of the countries which have very liberal and simplified visa policies where citizens of most countries need no visa or are provided visa on arrival. Last year, the government of Kyrgyzstan introduced online e-visas which made the travelling for Indian filmmakers even easier. Before that, there was a requirement for applying for a visa to the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry but now the process has become effortless. The electronic visa bars the necessity of original documents and it only requires the scanned copies of all the documents and with online payment, you can get a visa for up to three months.
Sourcing film equipment in the country has limited options. Some basic camera and grip and lighting tools are only available. Filmmakers will need to carry their own equipment or will have to import them from abroad. Regarding shooting there, the place has no restrictions on using unmanned flying vehicles, including drones, as far as they meet the minimal demands set by the authorities.
- Bhavi Gathani