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The 2011 AFI Fest Filmmakers | Ruslan Pak’s Feature Debut “Hanaan”

The 2011 AFI Fest Filmmakers | Ruslan Pak's Feature Debut "Hanaan"

“Hanaan” is the story of Stas, a fourth-generation Korean-Uzbek police detective seeking to avenge the drug-fueled death of a friend. Infiltrating the Uzbeki underworld, Stas makes discoveries that plunge him into fury, moral chaos and a resurgent heroin dependency he once had kicked. He retreats to the snow-covered mountains of Uzbekistan, where he must fight his addiction in solitude as he faces an uncertain future. Inspired by his own life, first-time actor and childhood friend of the director Stanislav Tyan marvelously captures Stas’ intense inner struggle.

Set in the magnificent scenery of Uzbekistan, Ruslan Pak’s gritty crime drama explores one man’s desire to escape his past, his people’s diaspora, and his all-encompassing search for a motherland, a promised land of milk and honey. [Synopsis by Dilcia Barrera of AFI Fest.]

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in 2011 AFI Fest’s Breakthrough, New Auteurs and Young Americans section to submit responses in their own words about their films. Get to know the films before they screen. AFI Fest takes place November 3 – 10 in Los Angeles.]

New Auteurs section
Director: Ruslan Pak
Screenwriter: Ruslan Pak
Producer: Ellen Y.D. Kim
Executive Producer: E. K. Heo, Ellen Y.D. Kim
Director of Photography: Tae-sik Um
Editor: Ruslan Pak, Se-hoon Lee
Music: Hyun-min Park, Junjayang
Cast: Stanislav Tyan, Bahodir Musaev, Ilbek Faiziev, Dmitry Eum, Ruslan Pak
Official website

Director’s Bio: Ruslan Pak was born in 1981 in Uzbekistan and is a fourth-generation Soviet Korean. After working as an assistant director for seven years, he began making filming short films in 2001, including “Healing” and “Dance of a Free Bird,” screened at numerous film festivals. “Hanaan” marks his feature debut.

Responses courtesy of “Wuss” director Clay Liford

Your movie: In 140 characters or less, what’s it about?

It is a story of Stas, who once dreamed of becoming a policeman. When his dream comes true, he loses everything because of drugs.

OK. Now tell us what it’s really about.

It is based on the true story of Stas, my protagonist. We were friends since I was a little boy.

He was good at sports and had a dream to become a policeman. He graduated Police Academy and became an elite police officer. He had power and was well off. It was drugs that made him lose everything. But he tries to start over again. He wants to find his own Hanaan. “Hanaan” is a story about true life. I want the film to make the audiences think about one’s own Hanaan.

His true calling…

I’m a Korean born in Uzbekistan. I’m the 4th generation of Koreans who were deported to Uzbekistan during the era of the USSR. I studied filmmaking in Seoul and kept making films.

You know why I make films? One day, I was in a movie theater alone watching a very boring film. I dozed off, and suddenly there was a voice from above, ordering me to make a film. Since then, I cannot do anything else but make films…

A different “Hanaan”…

Originally “Hanaan” was a road movie depicting a journey of two men; a young man who is the fourth generation of Koreans in Uzbekistan and an old ethnic Korean who was forced to move to Uzbekistan. Because of the tight budget, I had to figure out what I really wanted to tell with the movie. Then, I realized that what I wished to depict in the movie was actually not probable, and my story was too contrived. Finally, I changed my mind to closely depict the lives of young Uzbeks living in Tashkent. My friend Stas inspired me the most. He also played the leading role.

Pressure from the government…

We had very little budget, so production had many challenges including working with non-professional actors. The script didn’t get permission from Uzbek authorities due to the depiction of corrupt police and Muslim criminals. So we always had to shoot in potential danger that we would have to stop the shooting or have our hard disks confiscated by the authorities.

“Aren’t Korean and Chinese the same?”

I guess the audience can sympathize with the protagonist, as he is also living in a multi-national country. Many people might have similar experiences as in a scene that Stas is asked by a Uzbek colleague; “Aren’t Korean and Chinese same?” Actually, I am very curious about the response of AFI audiences.


While I prepare for the film, I try not to see any movie that can affect my work.

Upcoming projects…

I am writing a script for an action trilogy set in Moscow and CIS area.

I think I could give a unique perspective as I was born and grew up in a place with various and unique cultures. I want to keep making films with this perspective.

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