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Off to a galloping start

By Xu Fan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-01 08:05

A poster for the film. CHINA DAILY

"It was during COVID-19 pandemic prevention and control, so we couldn't enter the classrooms and had to wait for the children to come out of class one after another. At that moment, my eyes landed on Bahbul Kuratbak. He stood in the queue, relatively short in stature, seeming a bit mischievous as he swayed his body," Shapkat recalls.

Shapkat cast Bahbul, a fourth-grade student at a primary school in Burqin county, as the lead not only because of his demeanor, but also because of his uncanny resemblance to the character as described in the script, who is said to have a freckled face and a slightly hoarse voice.

After two other children were selected to play the other main characters — the protagonist's older brother and a young female friend, it was arranged for them to move to Urumqi in advance to study performance. The director also selected two stand-ins for the lead horse to avoid stressing and overworking the animal actor.

During early preparations, Shapkat says that he came to understand just how much horses form part of the traditions and culture of Kazakh and Mongolian ethnic groups in Altay, which was exemplified by the many families who own horses, and the many children for whom horses are good companions as they grow up.

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