Last week the movie theater Amirani showcased short films of six Georgian young filmmakers. All of the films were finalists of the Georgian National Film Center competition.
All six films are charming in their own way, many of them share the Kusturica-like unifying theme of death and its rituals. It seems, when a Georgian filmmaker wants to communicate something important vis-a-vis life, it cannot be done without introducing death. It is a silent trope of these movies that is executed in different ways in each of them.
Most of the films share the collective experience of attending wakes and the Georgian traditional kelekhi, which is the large supra or feast that is done after one’s funeral. This tradition is on the verge of dying out in the larger cities of the country, but still holds in many villages and is regarded as one of the most important ways of showing respect for the dead — the more food, the better.
Young Georgian filmmakers showed the tragic elements of life alongside the absurd, which continues the legacy of such great filmmakers as Ioseliani and Abuldze.
One of the more memorable films “The Wake Man” is about a poor old man who attends the funeral feasts, kelekhis, that he reads about in the newspaper obituaries. It is itself a sad story, but the underlying dialog that the viewer finds his or herself in, becomes very light-hearted and funny.
Another memorable movie “Exodus” is shot in the city of Chiatura with its Soviet Era rope-way lifts and manganese factories. The film is totally silent. It follows the story of an older Chiatura resident who one day finds herself totally alone, with her children and family having either left the city or died, so she decides to leave herself.
It is a telling expressive film that communicates the atmosphere of the city as well as the story of the character.
“Chiatura is a city that is very close to me since childhood, so I wanted to communicate its unique atmosphere to the viewer,” filmmaker Jajanidze commented during the Q&A.
A noteworthy short film by Tato Kotetishvili was shot in the village of Gorelovka in the Southern part of Georgia. The village has its very small population of Dukhabors (“spirit-wrestlers” in Russian), who are a small pacifist movement within the Russian Orthodox Church that immigrated to Georgia in the times of Nicholas I. It is said that Leo Tolstoy was interested in these people’s pacifist practices.
As of today, the Dukhabor population is no more than 1069 people (according to a 2002 census), which is about 200 families. It is a very interesting historic minority, which makes for a wonderful film cast, as seen in Kotetishvili’s “Ogasavara.”
This is as far as this film reviewer’s personal impressions go. Below you can find the short descriptions of each movie:
Tato Kotetishvili “Ogasavara” — Murat and Masha decide to get married. What follows is a funny intermix of unbelievable and funny stories that happen before their wedding. The film employs the technique of montage within the frame, making a creative portrait of the objects and characters. Set in the village of Gorelovka, in Samtskhe-Javakheti part of Georgia.
Vakho Jajanidze “Exodus” — silent film shot in the city of Chiatura, which is formerly place with biggest Bolshevik movement in early 20th century Georgia. Today, Chiatura leaves an impression that time has stopped there. The remaining population gets by in the inertia-filled town. This is demonstrated through main character Lili and her story of abandoning Chiatura to join her daughter in the city. An expressive film.
Tornike Bziava “Wake Man” — Rezo is a 70 year-old resident of the old people’s house. He is tired of the lack of proper food at the institution, so he has a special little black book where he keeps notes from the local obituaries. He attends wakes of unknown individuals and stays for kelekhi, which is the traditional feast that takes place after the funeral. At one such feast Rezo meets his former student, whom he taught Georgian dance in the 90’s.
Giorgi Tsilovani “Preparation” — Black and white film telling a story of one small family living in a Georgian village: two sisters, a dad and a grandmother. One evening at dinner the grandmother is not feeling well and the doctor’s diagnosis only confirms reasons for anxiety that have entered the house. Soon the death fantom impersonated by a young Georgian actor pays visits to the grandmother.
Tamar Shavgulidze “The First Day” — 9 year-old Giorgi loses his parents in a car accident. Being left alone in the woods while playing hide-and-seek with his aunt Giorgi has a revelation. He realizes that home is not one specific place, but is rather the entire world.
Data Pirtskhalava “Father” — a dynamic short film about a small Georgian family consisting of a working single mother and two teenage brothers. The father abandoned the family years ago, without any proper explanations. The boys are very much affected by the absence of a father figure in their lives. They undertake robbing local cars for radios in order to help their mother. An unexpected personal plot-twist occurs during one such robbery.
The films were shot with the financial assistance of TBC Bank, which added 100 000 GEL to the Georgian National Film Center’s documentary and movies funds last year.