Armor-clad warriors surge out from behind a rocky outcrop and gallop across the steppe amid a thunder of hooves, banners flapping in the breeze and swords aloft. Emitting furious war cries, they descend on an encampment and – with a clash of swords – a pitched battle ensues.
Perched on a rise above the skirmish, a female warrior in an elaborate fur headdress checks her smartphone as an impassive white camel chews the cud.
This is not a medieval war zone, but the set of a Game of Thrones-style TV series that aims to bring to life the colorful historical tale of the birth of a Kazakh state over half a millennium ago.
The series dramatizes the tumultuous events leading up to the creation of the first Kazakh khanate in 1465, amid the collapse of the Mongolian-ruled Golden Horde empire – events interpreted in modern-day Kazakhstan as laying the foundations for today’s independent state.
The 10-part historical epic is being made by acclaimed director Rustem Abdrashev, a man on a mission when it comes to cinematic interpretations of Kazakhstan’s past.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.