Mumbai (Maharashtra): American filmmaker Rachel Sine has been capturing the rise of Aisuluu Tynybekova, Kyrgyzstan’s first female freestyle wrestler. Since 2018, Rachel has been filming the challenges Aisuluu faces as she trains for her lifelong dream to win an Olympic gold medal.
Q. How did you come across the idea of making a documentary on Aisuluu Tynybekova and what do you want to convey through this film?
I lived in Kyrgyzstan from 2013-2014 and fell in love with the country. I had always wanted to go back to make a film, so when I heard about Aisuluu, I knew immediately that I wanted to help share her story with the rest of the world.
In 2017 I went back to Kyrgyzstan to film another project when I started researching female athletes. Right away I came across Aisuluu’s story in my research since she is one of few women to compete at an international level. She is a household name is Kyrgyzstan, and almost everyone I met knew her story.
Hailing from one of the most remote mountain villages in the heart of Central Asia, Aisuluu Tynybekova is truly a pioneer for women in her country. In a region where the average girl is married off and having their first child by 23, Aisuluu has already competed in two Olympic games and is dead set on winning the Gold at Tokyo 2020.
Q. Were you drawn to this film because of its unique subject?
Absolutely— not only is Aisuluu a champion wrestler but also a role model for young girls. Moreover, she has shattered cultural stereotypes in an increasingly conservative climate. A practicing Muslim, Aisuluu has defied the traditional gender roles for Kyrgyz women and redefined her femininity in a way that I believe is groundbreaking.
I want this film to take a deeper look at what it means to be a modern Muslim woman from Central Asia, exploring all of the mental, physical
Q. Will Aisuluu’s story inspires other girls who gave up on their dreams due to societal pressure?
Aisuluu is already a role model for the next generation of young women. When she started freestyle wrestling, she was the only female on the team. Now the team is about 8-10 young women, with girls as young as 8 years old wrestling. Aisuluu didn’t take the traditional path for a young Kyrgyz woman, instead, she offered something new and original. I think she will stand as an inspiration for years to come, for both boys and girls who dare to do something different.
Q. From a production perspective what is it like to capture a story where you don’t know the ending?
As Aisuluu’s story unfolds, I plan to continue filming her, wherever that may lead. But because this story is happening in real time, of course, that means the story is also being revealed as we film her. It’s actually quite exciting following her because every few weeks she is attending a different international competition. At one moment, I was going to attend a competition of hers in Budapest, but at the last minute she suffered from an injury and could not attend. I’ve learned that the stakes are very high in professional wrestling and try to be ready to film at any moment. Fortunately, I have a great team in Kyrgyzstan that also supports me in capturing extra footage. I have also attached producer Medha Jaishankar to prepare as we begin to approach Tokyo 2020.
No matter what happens to Aisuluu on her journey to the Olympics, she already has come so far competing in London in 2012 and in Rio in 2016. Following her to the Olympics in Tokyo is just one part of her story, and whatever the results may be, her life and role in Kyrgyz society is much greater than achieving any one medal.