MAY IT BE A GIRL is a film about the personal search for the identity of Kazakh women, who were named, according to an ancient tradition, by their parent’s wishes for them to be born as a son.
Ulbolsyn, a teenage girl, lives in the outskirts of the big city of Almaty. Her life is firmly invested in the affairs of a large family – caring for siblings, house work, helping in an unstable family business with a grocery store and caring for an aging grandmother; and all of this is mixed with local school. She withstands this seemingly not age-appropriate role assigned to her with calm acceptance, which contrasts so much with the name that she bears: "Ulbolsyn – may it be a boy", following an old tradition of name giving, where the family’s expectations of having boys is expressed. As if one could imagine that her presence in this family could be replaced by another person. However, behind her silence, we see questions and her real feelings being born and multiplied. One day, the anger in Ulbolsyn has grown like a flaming flower blooming, which leads her to the decision to change her name, and start talking and acting the way she wants.
This is a story about nowadays women’s personal search for identity in our patriarchal society within our complicated world.
"I was born and lived in Kazakhstan my whole life, as well as all my family. Upon marrying a Kazakh man, I was introduced to the female name Ulbolsyn (Let it be a Boy) and the ancient tradition surrounding it. I was astounded by how outsiders would inquire if her parents had their hopes fulfilled and had a boy.
This led me to discover my own trauma: my father had openly lamented the absence of sons, raising my sister and me as if we were boys, with martial arts and strict discipline. Exploring the weight of unfulfilled expectations from family became a journey of self-healing.
How does living under unfulfilled expectations shape us, and how do we shape ourselves, either by conforming or rebelling? As I met and spoke with women, I uncovered deeper layers of this story.
How does one discover one's pain and try to escape it in protest of a name change? At what point is there time and awareness of the need to accept oneself without all these superstructures and expectations? How do you cleanse your self-perception from the superstructures of expectations and their dissatisfaction? How do I get rid of the attitude of "being as good as other people's sons"? How does this interfere with me right now? How long does it take? And how do I do it? It's only obvious that it all has to be done. Through making this film, through capturing this part of our undescribed reality." — Katerina Suvorova
“We have chosen a project from an underrepresented region that sheds light on a phenomenon that has remained unknown to the general public. We were moved by the protagonists’ resilience and are inspired by their courage to confront their own destiny. The award goes to MAY IT BE A GIRL by Katerina Suvorova” — Aleksandar Govedarica, co-founder of Syndicado Film Sales and by Mirjam Wiekenkamp, founder and manager of international projects at NOISE PR
“We want to award a project with a unique approach to a very important topic, where through what each of us uses several times a day - a name - we can closer understand Kazakh society and especially the position of women. The project brings with openness a light to what is named every day and, at the same time, hidden for generations in families. Special Mention of the East Doc Platform Award goes to MAY IT BE A GIRL.” — East Doc Platform Jury Statement
Director Katerina Suvorova
Katerina Suvorova is a Kazakh documentary filmmaker known for her powerful and thought-provoking work. Her films draw on the everyday life experience of diverse communities across Kazakhstan and wider Central Asia. Katerina’s feature debut SEA TOMORROW about the now disappeared Aral Sea was premiered at the Locarno IFF 2016. After successful festival screenings, and awards, in 2021, the film was released on Netflix. This year Katerina is finishing her feature film QORYQPA and starting work on a new film MAY IT BE A GIRL. Suvorova is the founder of the independent documentary studio TIHIY SVET (Silent Light) in Almaty, Kazakhstan, dedicated to producing films with a significant social impact. She actively engages in educating documentary filmmakers in the region, frequently lecturing and openly sharing her experiences. Additionally, she manages a Telegram channel called DOCUSTAN dedicated to creative documentaries and is an active member of the grassroots initiative QAZDOC, uniting independent documentary filmmakers in Kazakhstan.
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