The Loving Story Around the World: Kyrgyzstan

Our filmmakers have been accompanying THE LOVING STORY to festivals and screenings around the globe and chronicling the film’s reception. In this post, writer Susie Ruth Powell discusses the impact of THE LOVING STORY on audiences in Kyrgyzstan.

Several attentive audiences in Kyrgyzstan took the time to view THE LOVING STORY and react to the irony of a United States purporting to be the world’s exemplar of democracy while grappling with the vestiges of a slave tradition. Southern states were  determined to maintain racial segregation by making interracial marriage illegal by statute as well as outlawing interactions of the races in school, public accommodations and elsewhere.  Interestingly the questions posed by students in Biskek, Osh and neighboring areas were consistently posed out of shock over the laws of Virginia in 1958.  They asked pointedly, “What was the perceived harm?”  They wanted to know, “Didn’t it matter that Mildred was part Indian?” and parenthetically told me that she was racially related to them because of the origin of the native Americans having been Asian.

They asked how the races interact today.  I found that I had to try to make sense of the historic travesty of LOVING by explaining the vestiges of slavery and the attempts by the section of the United States that saw defeat in a horrendous civil war to overcome the defeat by never accepting it.   The way to undermine that defeat was to pass the laws of Jim Crow that came under attack in the 1960′s.

Interestingly, the students of Kyrgyzstan asked how I thought they should deal with parents who opposed them marrying across ethnic line, Kyrgyzs and Ubeks.  I had no answer and I am still haunted by the question.

The setting for this experience was a tiny central Asian country which faces ethnic separation and which saw violence and killings in 2010 in the section of Osh. It is also a nation where the ancient tradition of bride kidnapping still takes place, where a man will grab his potential bride off the street and speed away in a car to carry out a forced marriage.  It is also a country where potential brides are taken by potential mothers in law to be examined  for evidence that her hymen has been pierced and where parents of young women will sometimes have an OBGYN reconstruct it.

LOVING  was enthusiastically received and praised throughout.  At the end of the film festival, the closing film was to have been a film about love among Muslim men, gay love.  The demonstrations by Muslims and a court order closed the festival canceling the showing as well as the closing festivities.

By Susie Ruth Powell


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