Capital (2010)

"We're all newcomers here, where we come from the are no jobs, here there are," says an 11-year old boy looking up at the skeleton of a new highrise. His father, an electrician on the site, is one of the thousands of migrants who come to Astana every month in search of work and for a chance to participate in the building of Kazakhstan's utopian new capital. CAPITAL begins as Astana's first generation prepares to celebrate the city's tenth anniversary. Zhan and Tilgen, two brothers who recently arrived from the provinces, lead a construction brigade building a plaza around the city's newest monument, a marble column topped by a 9 ton golden bird. Across the street from them is the Presidential Cultural Center, a towering pyramid of steel and glass designed by Norman Foster. Inside, Asel and Alia guide visitors on a tour of Astana's future development. The Pyramid and the new monument are often visited by TV reporters, Zhenia and Balzhan. They cover all of the military parades, song competitions, and nomadic festivals taking place as part of the anniversary celebration. Like most residents, they work to realize the President's vision of Astana - a city that makes a clean break from its Soviet past and propels Kazakhstan onto the world stage.

As the anniversary celebration approaches, the first waves of the global financial crisis hit Astana, leaving construction sites empty and the future of Kazakhstan's dream city in the balance. With the government reluctant to acknowledge the devastating economic conditions, the official celebration takes place as planned. However, the fate of all the unfinished construction projects remains uncertain. "The developers loaded up on credit. The banks got paid either way. Without credit, there is no construction," Tilgen says looking down from his window onto yet another site that has been frozen indefinitely. Nearby, Asel turns down her boyfriend's marriage proposal. "When I tell the girls back home that I'm dating a guy from Astana, they assume he's rich." As their lives intersect, CAPITAL tells the story of a city caught between an official vision of the future and the reality of life on utopia's outskirts.

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