2000 Songs of Farida is a deceptively clever film, directed by Yolqin Tuychiev. Quiet and slow-paced, it explodes with revelations and plot twists in its final 20 minutes.
It is 1920 and Kamil lives in a remote area in Central Asia with his three wives. The film opens with the arrival of a fourth wife, Farida. Why does Kamil need a fourth wife? Because the first three have failed to provide him with an heir.
The other three wives are Husiya, the oldest and a sort of mother figure to the others; Mahfirat, who is simple-minded and childlike; and Robiya, who is sensuous and likes sex and dancing.
Anyone who is familiar with Zhang Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern (which was nominated for an Oscar in 1992) knows that arriving as a fourth wife doesn’t mean that the other three wives are necessarily who they appear to be. Mahfirat views Farida as a new playmate. Robiya feels threatened. And, sure enough, Farida does become pregnant. This delights Kamil, but angers Robiya and Husiya.
Kamil treats all of his wives as servants. He gives the orders, and they carry them out. When they all eat together, the wives keep their heads down and do not eat any dish until Kamil has taken his first bite.
An old friend of Kamil’s, now an army officer, warns Kamil that the Bolsheviks are advancing closer, and they have a different way of viewing a woman’s role in society. He advises Kamil to pack up his wives and flee. But Kamil has trouble facing this reality.
For viewers who might find 2000 Songs of Farida too exotic or too slow-paced, I recommend sticking it out because, as I implied, the final 20 minutes are worth waiting for.