Hot Docs

Streets Loud with Echoes Review: Activists Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Hot Docs 2024

5 mins read

Streets Loud with Echoes
(Kazakhstan, 95 min.)
Dir. Katerina Suvorova
Programme: International Competition (World Premiere)


In the 2010s, figure skater Denis Ten was a superstar in his native Kazakhstan. Born in the former capital of Almaty, he was the first person from his country to podium at a World Championship event. He represented the post-Soviet independent nation at several Olympic Games, and was revered by many when he took home bronze at the 2014 event in Sochi, the first medal ever for his country.

In July 2018, he was stabbed to death in the city of his birth by two carjackers who were intent on stealing his car mirrors. Bleeding out on the street, it was yet another ignominious bout of violence in a place not unfamiliar to the citizens of his city. Yet his death set off a spark, resulting in massive protests against the corruption of the security services, the complacency of the politicians, and the general corruption within contemporary Kazakhstan.

Katerina Suvorova’s film provides a deeply intimate portrait of several participants in these acts civil disobedience, tracking their protests throughout many years as they attempt to change the very social fabric of their country. From the opening shot, we see a young man walking into a misty space, the sounds of bullets sounding in the space in front of him, giving the film its evocative title. Wearing a dark hoodie, he seems unfazed by it all, walking directly into the uncertainty of what lies in front of him, threats of violence be damned. The film then cuts back in time, to the mass of burning candles and flowers strewn at the site of Ten’s death. We then catch part of a paly, a theatrical retelling of the murder and the police response.

Beyond this cinematic back and forth, Streets Loud with Echoes settles into a fairly standard timeline where we get to meet the journalists and activists at the heart of the story. There’s tension between their personal traits and their stated goals throughout with certain feelings of friendship (or, in some readings, hints of romance) swayed when differing interpretations of what to do to amplify the cause are brought to the fore.

With voiceover describing the country as a “post-Soviet autocracy,” we witness as individuals turn to the camera and demand from the authorities that to ensure the safety of themselves and their loved ones, they demand transparency from the police. Others demand law enforcement be “politically neutral, accountable, and law-abiding.”

Suvorova describes one such voice, Dimash, as young, well-dressed and educated. He’s among the most vocal activists (and, as we’ll learn later, is the person walking into that uncertain space at the beginning). Later, we meet Assem, whose work as a journalist is hampered by her reporting that’s contrary to the party line. These two activists, along with the others we meet, form a multi-faceted glimpse into the years-long struggles to reform and modernize Kazakh politics and free the nation from the burdens of corruption and secrecy.

The result is a unique perspective on these political machinations, combined with many personal reactions as well. Moments of joy are soon in conflict with real challenges, making even the most modest of movements towards justice feel at times futile. While not quite as comprehensive or compelling as, say, The Square, Streets Loud with Echoes provides a powerful insight into this oft-ignored country, its struggles and protests both highly local and eminently evocative of what takes place around the world.

It’s this mix of the hyper-local and intensely global that gives the film much of its impact. While at times it feels a bit too insular, less journalistic and more diary-like than perhaps desired, there’s still plenty to admire about Streets Loud with Echoes.

Streets Loud with Echoes premiered at Hot Docs 2024.

Jason Gorber is a film journalist and member of the Toronto Film Critics Association. He is the Managing Editor/Chief Critic at and a regular contributor for POV Magazine, and CBC Radio. His has written for Slashfilm, Esquire, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Screen Anarchy, HighDefDigest, Birth.Movies.Death, IndieWire and more. He has appeared on CTV NewsChannel, CP24, and many other broadcasters. He has been a jury member at the Reykjavik International Film Festival, Calgary Underground Film Festival, RiverRun Film Festival, TIFF Canada's Top 10, Reel Asian and Fantasia's New Flesh Award. Jason has been a Tomatometer-approved critic for over 20 years.

Previous Story

Ari’s Theme Review: Interrupted Melody

Next Story

Echo of You Review: Memories Are Made of This

Latest from Blog

0 $0.00