"Kurmanjan Datka Queen of the Mountains," Kyrgyzstan's submission for the foreign-language Oscar and purported to be the most expensive production to come out of the former Soviet republic, is a lavishly photographed historical epic that spends its estimated $1.3-million budget prudently.
Set in Central Asia during the mid-1800s, the film chronicles the remarkable life of Datka, a courageous young woman who would save her war-torn nation by brokering a treaty with the Russians.
Taking up the mantle of her beheaded husband — a quest to unify the region's splintering Kyrgyz factions — the woman presaged as a child to become a great leader emerged as an inspiring local folk hero.
With its sweeping visuals and colorful pageantry, the film, directed and written by Sadyk Sher-Niyaz, certainly provides a stirring backdrop for its patriotic narrative, although, as edited, some of the chronological compression can be tricky to follow.
Despite the feminist overtones, it's curious that, even with four actresses playing Datka (most effectively by Elina Abai Kyzy), she manages to occupy only about half of the film's two-hour-plus running time.
You're left wanting to have seen much more of the story from the Queen of the Mountains' singular vantage point.
'Kurmanjan Datka Queen of the Mountains'
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 2 hours, 11 minutes
Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills