Review: Kazakh Stoner Comedy “A Guys’ Story” Offers Whiff Of Central Asian Cannabis Culture

"A Guys' Story" transplants marijuana-fueled hijinks to the Central Asian steppe, adding a refreshing new strain to the stoner comedy genre.

By , 8 Jul 23 15:51 GMT
Courtesy of the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.

Many in the Anglophone world may not be aware that psychoactive use of cannabis started 2,500 years ago around the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia. This isn’t particularly surprising if you’re aware that some of the world’s most fertile cannabis-growing regions are in the Central Asian steppe—for example the Chu Valley straddling Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Marijuana from the Chu Valley was renowned throughout the former Soviet Union for its high potency, and residents in the valley have unique harvesting practices like riding naked on a cleanly washed horse through thickets of cannabis leaves.

It’s against this backdrop of Central Asian cannabis that Kazakh stoner comedy A Guys’ Story takes place. The movie centers on three young Kazakh men from Almaty named Tima, Kair, and Rus. While the three start off as stolen cell phone smugglers, they soon stumble upon a strain of high-quality Kyrgyz weed. Keen to make a quick buck—Tima needs money to get a US visa, while Kair must pay for his impending wedding—the three hatch a plan to traffick this Kyrgyz marijuana across the border back to Almaty, and sell it to a violent mafia boss. Of course, events do not go according to plan, resulting in a fresh and entertaining addition to not just the world’s pantheon of stoner comedies, but also Kazakh cinema at large.

Courtesy of the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.

You don’t need to know anything about Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan to enjoy A Guys’ Story. The film makes ample use of comedic mediums that transcend cultures. Beyond the situational comedy of its protagonist trio, it deploys farcical and physical elements—like bumbling police officers, and sheep eating marijuana. Universal tropes around disapproving fathers-in-law, attempts to woo women, and young people lacking money also abound. A Guys’ Story contains multiple fight scenes as well, sprinkled in at just the right moments of its well-paced 90 minute narrative; audiences will never feel bored while watching this movie.

What’s even more laudable about A Guys’ Story is how it achieves this degree of accessibility without trying very hard at appealing to non-Kazakh audiences. In fact, the film heavily leans into its Central Asian context. Plot details specific to Central Asia—corrupt border guards in distant steppe checkpoints; ethnic relations between Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Russians; the existence of marijuana-alcohol-infused blocks called “kara torpok”—distinguish the movie from American stoner comedies and make it even more entertaining.

Courtesy of the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.

This has benefits for the state of Kazakh cinema as well. The international film festival circuit often feature Kazakh art house movies with limited appeal—so it’s no wonder that many Westerners might still incorrectly associate “Kazakh movie” with certain productions from Sacha Baron Cohen. A Guys’ Story might be an independent film, but it’s not some art house snoozefest that aims for silver-haired connoisseurs of classic cinema. It’s a competent stoner movie with broad appeal, one that deserves wider distribution so that genre fans around the world can partake accordingly.

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A Guys’ Story (Russian: Пацанская история / Patsanskaya istoriya)—Kazakhstan. Dialog in Russian, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz. Directed by Nursultan Djumabekov. First released October 6, 2022. Running time 1hr 30min. Starring Ilyas Djaparov, Elteres Nurzhanov, Sharip Serik. 

This article is part of Cinema Escapist‘s dedicated coverage of the 2023 Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN).

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