Asset Imangaliev, Perizat Ermanbetova, Turgunai Erkinbekova,
Without preamble, a young Kyrgyz boy is taken out an orphanage and into the lives of his supposed parents, who make ends meet by running various cons on unsuspecting villagers. Director Stishova weaves mythological and even comedic elements into a beautifully filmed tale that centers around the titular mountain, a mysterious and holy place where the prophet Solomon is said to be buried and where the film’s characters aim to find their destinies. It’s the way that the Russian actress-turned-filmmaker drops you into this immersive, rarely seen landscape of Central Asian culture—as seen through the perspectives of shamans, shameless grifters, and sad-eyed kids—that makes this neorealistic tale so remarkably rewarding. Working with a cast of mostly nonprofessional Kyrgyzstani actors, she paints a picture of life along the Silk Road’s townships as both hardscrabble and honorable, where twentieth-century modernities inherited from Eastern Europe jostle up against centuries-old folk traditions. And thanks to her performers—especially Perizat Ermanbetova as a healer with hell-or-high-water maternal instincts and Turgunai Erkinbekova as the con man’s jealous, much younger second wife—the movie brings home the humanistic notion that, at the end of the day, the concept of family is a bond thicker and stickier than blood.