(In)Action Film: Genre and Identity in Rashid Nugmanov’s The Needle

  • Angelina Karpovich


The Needle/Igla (Rashid Nugmanov, USSR, 1988) was unanimously hailed by critics as both the starting point and the most memorable film of the ‘New Wave’ of Kazakh cinema (Horton and Brashinsky 1992; Zebrina Pruner 1992; Dönmez-Colin 1997, 2006). The Kazakh New Wave was to be a brief but exciting moment that produced a handful of innovative and energetic low-budget films, both informed by and responding to the newfound openness of the perestroika and glasnost reforms, which began in the Soviet Union in 1987. The reforms brought with them a relaxation of state control over most areas of public life. Soviet cinema responded by focusing on topics which had previously been taboo, particularly Stalinist repressions (Repentance/Monanieba, Tengiz Abuladze, USSR, 1987) and contemporary sexuality (Little Vera/Malenkaya Vera, Vasily Pichul, USSR, 1988; Intergirl/Interdevochka, Pyotr Todorovskiy, USSR/Sweden, 1989). The Needle initially seems to fit into a similar context, with its plot nominally centred on drugs, crime and violence, though the portrayal of these ‘controversial’ topics is never explicit. Another significant, but not explicit, feature of the film is its portrayal of Kazakhstan as a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic site. While the film’s plot does not engage with the issues of nationality or ethnicity in any obvious way, the fact that its protagonist is a member of the Soviet Korean ethnic group adds another layer of complexity to its possible interpretations.


Action Film Critical Acclaim Rock Star Soviet Central Exciting Moment 
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© Angelina Karpovich 2011

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  • Angelina Karpovich

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