Take 2: Making Movies (Again) in Georgia
There is symbolism and nuanced meaning in every word, every action, every raised eyebrow. These films escaped Soviet censorship in their cunning, creative tension – almost a dance – between artistic Georgian filmmakers and rigid Communist censors.
Some of Georgia’s earliest films include ‘My Grandmother’ (1929), an anti-bureaucratic satire that was made using a brand-new medium: animation. ‘The White Caravan’ (1963) was shot throughout Georgia – a cinematic 1963 time capsule – and was a Cannes Film Festival entry. A film on the edge of perestroika and landmark changes in the Soviet Union, ‘The Way Home’ (1987) reflects upon Georgia’s politics, history and culture.
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Two notable films that are MIR staff favorites include:
- ‘Repentance’ (‘Pokayaniye’): A film that represents Georgian cinema at its most creative and controversial, ‘Repentance’ focuses on Stalin’s tyranny and repression. This landmark Georgian film was made in 1984 but not approved by jittery Soviet censors until 1987, when Gorbachev was in power and perestroika and glasnost were beginning. ‘‘Repentance’ called on Georgians and Soviets to repent for their native son’s sins (Stalin was born in Georgia), as well as Soviet oppression in the past. ‘Repentance’ won 10 international awards, including at Cannes, while director Tenghiz Abuladze received the USSR’s highest civilian award, the Order of Lenin. This drama is my favorite Georgian film; it is also the favorite of Katya Boyarskaya, director of MIR’s affiliated St. Petersburg office.
- ‘Mimino’ (‘Falcon’): This 1977 comedy is an improbable story of a Georgian who dreams of piloting a Tupolev supersonic airliner, and flying off to foreign lands. Through madcap misadventures he succeeds – yet in the end returns home to Soviet Georgia. Winning three top prizes in Soviet competitions, the meaning of ‘Mimino’ is still discussed, decades later. This comedy is a Georgian favorite of MIR Tour Manager Michel Behar, and one of mine as well.
In the past decade – thanks to generous private financing, co-production ventures, and film festival publicity such as at Locarno, Berlin, and Berkeley – a new generation of young Georgian filmmakers is renewing and nurturing the cinematic traditions of their forerunners, spilling over into Armenia and Azerbaijan as well. In all three countries filmmakers are focusing on post-Soviet identity, the role of women, and political conflicts. In all three countries movies are winning awards and stirring controversy, just as earlier generations did in Soviet times.
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MIR offers three scheduled small group tours that explore Georgia:
- A Taste of Georgia: Wine, Cuisine & Culture indulges in unforgettable cuisine and natural wines.
- Eastern Turkey & Georgia: Legacy of Empire explores life, history and culture from Turkey’s Anatolian plateau to Georgia’s Caucasus mountains and lush valleys.
- Treasures of the South Caucasus is studded with mountain-to-sea landscapes, historic fortresses and byways, as well many opportunities to experience Georgia’s legendary hospitality.
Regardless of how you travel, MIR’s journeys to the starring attractions of Georgia and the South Caucasus make for unforgettable travel memories – the “stuff of movies,” as they say.
(Top photo: Giorgi Shengelaia directed “Pirosmani,” a film about Georgia’s famous painter; it won the Grand Prix at the 1972 Chicago Film Festival. Photo credit: Courtesy of the National Archives of Georgia.}
(Special thanks and appreciation to Susan Oxtoby, Senior Film Curator at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, for assistance in obtaining and using photos from these Georgian films. )
PUBLISHED: April 15, 2015