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Films from Georgia (Documentaries) February 11, 2010

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Docu, Georgian Films.

Okay, so the film writer is back in action. Cinema being his first and legal wife. Following are documentaries from Georgia, which are always interesting to take a look at even if you don’t have any idea where the country is. (How about Google?) After all, being an ambassador of good cinema knows no boundaries, as there are always good films anywhere to find and behold.

Georgia, represent!

“Speechless” Salome Jashi Camera: Tato Kotetishvili 12:22 Artefact Production / Sakdoc Film 2009

Upon seeing the first few minutes of “Speechless” one feels to argue that this is not a documentary. Considering the common aesthetic of documentary one often sees on television, this may not fall under it. But a documentary, above all things, documents, and “Speechless” does so, as it emphasizes the relationship of the camera and the “actor”, the camera focusing on the details of the actors’ face and the gravity of emotions disturbing them. Eight portraits, each accompanied by a distinct and uneven sound, that correspond to the aftermath of the Georgian-Russian War in 2008: a doctor, a young girl, an old man, a nurse, a sergeant, a policeman, a wife, and a mother. Only when the documentary reveals its intentions in the end that the realization sinks in, that these sad faces are not just faces of grief, but also faces of a country afflicted with the atrocities of war and its madding violence.

“When Clocks Stop” Tiko Nachkebia 11:28 Artefact Production / Sakdoc Film 2009

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 ended the Cold War, but it also started things that greatly affected the political landscape of the newly-formed states in the years that followed. Gorbachev, in 1985, might not have anticipated the radical effect of glasnost, the possibility of unleashing the long years of speechlessness, that 22 years later, in the Republic of Georgia, a state of emergency was called after a series of violent demonstrations led to a severe civil unrest. “When Clocks Stop” reminisces the November 7 event a year after, interspersing the images of rallies with a handicraft television show being taped, and some random employee going around the TV network office. There is a note in the beginning about the Georgian State TV channel reflecting the changes in the country, how it transformed along with the political condition of the society; and upon showing the TV program, touching on the “domesticated” and “almost irrelevant” aspects of Georgian life considering the protests happening on the streets, it raises concern on involvement—on immediate action. There is a conscious effort to show clocks in the film, which, as it relates in the end, tells that the times have changed so much that different clocks in one place show different times, never corresponding, always ahead and oftentimes far behind.

“Altzaney” │  Nino Orjonikidze and Vano Arsenishvili │  30:45 │  Artefact Production / Sakdoc Film │  2009

The documentary follows the life of the village chief called Altzaney who, being the eldest in the place and therefore respected for her wisdom and authority, settles important matters from family disputes and engagement to blessing the dead. Her role is vital in the community, but somehow, as the rich details of the film show, there is an air of distance around her, despite her being down-to-earth, and despite doing the same hard chores that the common people in the village do. The photography is intimate, very close to Altzaney’s face that her wrinkles reveal many things: experience, knowledge, and humility. There is a tinge of sadness felt all throughout the film, that while it is impressive to know that their traditions are still intact, bit by bit their values are changing, almost unnoticeable in plain sight. Worthy of note is that the village in “Altzaney” is the Pankisi Gorge, located in the northeast of Georgia near Chechnya, where two bloody wars had already taken place.

The Women from Georgia” │  Levan Koguashvili │  53:00 Independent Film Projects │  Georgian National Film Center │  2008

The great thing about ”The Women from Georgia” is that it does not only share the stories of women who work illegally in the US as caregivers to the elderly, but it also delivers a biting critique on how their employers treat their parents as they grow old. Georgian women talk a lot, and they argue vehemently, which is understandable because most of them only have one day off during the week. In their off days they meet in a “hotel” to talk about their work and their families in Georgia, sharing sentiments even to the point of strong disagreement. Once, one of them tells that the Americans are hardworking, yes, they persevere enough to have a good life, but they seem to be working a lot to pay illegal workers like them to take care of them when they get old—which is a point difficult to argue against, considering the constant need of the US for foreign caregivers in private houses and nursing homes. But see, these women are just happy that they have their jobs—they care more about their jobs than their employers—they need to earn money to send home to feed their families, and, as what usually happens, to support their families’ families, who seem to be growing bigger and bigger the longer they stay abroad. Easy jobs don’t exist—right—and they just take comfort watching videos of their sons in their singing recital, or of their husbands wishing them to come home, these mothers and wives kissing the TV screen as if kissing their loved ones for real, thinking it’s the closest they can ever kiss them, thinking all they have managed to do all these years is to raise their kids on the phone, love their husbands on the phone, cry their hearts out on the phone. “The Women from Georgia” is a poignant work, and somewhere in the middle, during one of these women’s pastime, there is this amusing scene where two beautiful kids are dancing, charming them the way their own little ones back home never could.

“May You Always Sing, Mother!” │  Zurab Inashvili │  1:15:36

In contrast to “The Women from Georgia”, “May You Always Sing, Mother!” interviews women who are in Georgia, specifically the townsfolk who cherish the old times. They narrate how they spent their adolescence, how their arranged marriages went, and how they met their husbands for the first time on the day of their wedding. They also muse on how women during their time used to behave, how they work hard to serve their men, and how their life is happy as long as they are together. Later on some old men are being asked; their wives are working abroad for them, and they are the ones taking care of the household. Times have changed; women now sacrifice to be away to support their families. Their parents and husbands talk about them, sad but hopeful that they will come home again. Near the end the film presents the effect of the ongoing tension between Georgia and Russia—the South Ossetia War that started in 2008—and the families that grieve the loss of their homes and the life they used to have. As they mourn, the Tusheti tunes and the Georgian landscape stay close behind.

* With thanks to Teddy Co



1. Kevin - April 26, 2013

I know this post was from a while ago but thank you for the rundown of what seem to be very interesting films.

I’m doing some research about the Georgian people and social environment at the moment and would love to see some of these films – do you know how I could find them? None of them seem to be under any form of general release, not are they accessible through any well-known video service. Where did you see them?

Thanks in advance!


2. Roger - May 11, 2013

Wow, this post is nice, my sister is analyzing these things, thus I
am going to tell her.

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