This Is What I Remember is the International Feature submission for Kyrgyzstan. The film is about a son, Kubat, who’s been searching for his father, Zarlyk, for the past 23 years. Zarlyk was working in nearby Russia when a terrible car accident occurred making him suffer from total memory loss. Kubat, finally reunited with his dad, brings him back to his small rural town in hopes that a familiar surrounding will help him regain some of his memories.
Zarlyk is re-introduced back to his community including his daughter-in-law, his grandkids, and his classmates. And more importantly to his ex-wife, Umsunai, who has since remarried due to the fact that she thought, and everyone else thought, that he was dead. As Zarlyk, who doesn’t utter a single word, slowly begins to get accustomed to his new surroundings. He becomes fascinated with cleaning up the town by spending hours picking up all the garbage. But with that, his neighbours think he’s gone crazy, his ex-wife’s family doesn’t want him back, and with his child-like behaviour, tensions begin to rise in a tiny community where everyone knows everything and gossip spreads quickly.
This Is What I Remember is a beautiful film focusing on family and community values. It’s a gentle, subtle, quiet, slow-paced film, just like the people who live in this town. The story is simple, the message is clear, and the emotions that one feels when watching such a compassionate, loving family makes this film a winner.
A family member who suffers from memory loss can have huge effects on, not only the person suffering from the disease, but with everyone around them. One’s home is just not the same when a loved one is living through it. Work tasks and simple day-to-day activities become a hassle. Patience and re-adjusting one’s life is needed to fully take care of someone who doesn’t remember where he is anymore. Memory loss is not about the past, it’s about the present, the struggle, the fight to live with the disease. It’s being in the moment, the relationships, the new experiences, this is the core of life.
Sometimes all it takes is a familiar face, or a familiar song, for someone who’s been suffering with amnesia to slowly awaken something inside, for they do not remember days, but they remember moments. That is what they remember.