The Gift to Stalin

2008 | Israel, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, USA | color | 99 min

Kazakh, Russian, w/ Eng. subtitles
Film Still Image
Eastern Europe & Former Soviet Union,
Eastern Europe & Former Soviet Union,
Holocaust & World War II,
Narrative Feature,
Russia & the former Soviet Union,

Archive Details

Screened at SFJFF 2009

Rustem Abdrashov, whose Rebirth Island was the first film from Kazakhstan to win the prestigious FIPRESCI (international critics) prize, sets his new drama in a tiny village in the vast Kazakh steppes. The inhabitants are all considered enemies of the state, but they refuse to allow their outcast status to quash their rebellious acts privileging life and human connectedness.

In 1949, railcars holding Jews and other deportees creep eastward into oblivion. Or is it? For young Sasha, salvation comes through a rubric of chance, defiance and love. His enforced rebirth finds him surrounded by a makeshift new clan: his savior and new grandfather, Kasym (veteran actor Nurzhuman Ikhtimbaev), who is Muslim; Verka, the wife of a traitor; Ezhik, a Polish resister; and a gang of orphans—a wilderness family with deep bonds despite habitual harassment from authorities. Rare news comes from Moscow announcing a children’s contest celebrating Stalin’s 70th birthday. If Sasha’s original gift wins, he hopes to achieve his parents’ freedom. Decades pass, and Sasha questions history and his fate: “Who are you in the land of your God if a part of your soul was left behind?” Gift’s allegorical ending will linger long in your heart and mind, likely to raise questions, yet perhaps answer others, such as Kasym’s early query, “Whose flock are you from?"
—Elsa E’der

New Jewish Filmmaking Project Blogs & Interviews


Rustem Abdrashitov, Rustem Abdrashov
Pavel Finn
Khasan Kidiraliev
Sylvain Coutandin
Principal Cast
Nurzhuman Ikhtymbayev, Bakhtiar Khoja, Yekaterina Rednikova
Co-presented by
Kritzer/Ross Émigré Program of the JCCSF, The 79ers, a program of Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, and Peninsula Jewish Community Cente