Don’t be misled by the title. This debut feature by Kazakhstani director Assel Aushakimova is a memorial not to the United States but to the director’s home country and the tortuous navigation it takes to be queer in a former Soviet republic.
In the opening shots, Aliya (Saltanat Nauruz) is shocked when she learns she has been accepted as a permanent U.S. resident in the famed Green Card Lottery. After receiving the life-changing news, we follow the introspective thirty something for several days as she evaluates every aspect of her life: her ailing mother, her unhappy sister who is trapped in a strict Muslim marriage, her inscrutable lover, the secretiveness it takes to be a lesbian in Kazakh society, and the country’s corruption and subtle abuses.
With sharp observance and in a beautifully shot documentary style, Aushakimova avoids soapy clichés and, in their place, has us sit with Aliya’s family and friends, all of whom she can, if she wants, leave behind.