Variety

Poetry in motion picture, by Georgia!

SANTOSH MEHTA | Updated on January 13, 2011 Published on January 13, 2011

Mr. Zurab Katchkatchishvili, Ambassador of Georgia and Ms. Nana Janelidze, Director, bridging the media in the main media center at IFFI-2010, in Panjim, Goa in November 24, 2010.   -  Business Line

After two decades of inertia, Georgian film industry attempts to recreate the magic of its Soviet-era films. And, woos Indian filmmakers with tax sops to shoot in that beautiful country.



Celebrated Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini had once said: “Georgian film is a strange phenomenon — special, philosophically light, sophisticated and, at the same time, childishly pure and innocent. There is everything that can make me cry and I ought to say that it (my crying) is not an easy thing.”

But he was referring to Georgian films of another era. In the two decades since Georgia got independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country has managed to produce just 30 films.

Georgian director, scriptwriter and actor Nana Jorjadze says her country now makes about three films a year as compared to India, which churns out new films every single day!

The golden era of the century-old Georgian film industry came about, ironically, when the country was part of the Soviet Union. With the State funding their films, the concerns of those involved in filmmaking — directors, scriptwriters, actors and technicians — were restricted to making good films, with no worries about whether it would make money or flop at the box office.

Nana's work was among several Georgian films screened at the recent 41st International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa. Alongside Mexico and Sri Lanka, Georgia was in the film festival's Country Focus.

The festival, in fact, opened with the screening of the 1984 Georgian film Repentance and its scriptwriter, Nana, was a special invitee. The film has won the special jury prize at Cannes besides awards at several other festivals.

Surreal and hard-hitting

After the film's screening, Nana said during an interaction that the film had to wait several years before it could be screened in Georgia during the Soviet era.

The film begins the day after the funeral of Varlam Aravidze, the mayor of a small Georgian town. His corpse mysteriously turns up in his son's garden and is secretly reburied. But the corpse keeps returning, and the police eventually arrest a local woman, Zeinab Botsvadze, accusing her of digging it up.

Zeinab, who had suffered greatly under the mayor's regime, refuses to allow the old man's body to be interred. Despite the son's Herculean efforts to stop her, Zeinab keeps digging up the body in a symbolic attempt to prevent the dead man's villainy from being forgotten. Repentance was the first Soviet film to openly denounce the horrors of the Stalinist era. The Georgian director Tengiz Abuladze, known for his poetic and surrealist films deliberately made the lead character look like a combination of Stalin's henchman Lavrenti Beriya, Hitler and Mussolini. The mayor's name Aravidze too is fictional as aravi means ‘nobody' in Georgian.

Rich imagery of protest

Apart from Repentance, the Goa film festival screened Pirosmani (1969), The Legend of Suram Fortress (1984), The Sun of the Sleepless (1992), and A Trip to Karabakh (2005) from Georgia.

Sharp in style, poetic in imagery and yet savage, innovative, visceral, energetic and rooted in literature, these works represent Georgian filmmaking in all its glory. They provided an insight into the various styles of filmmaking in that country, the themes which dominated the various decades, the emergence of a propagandist stance in the 1940s (considered a period of stagnation), and the birth of a new wave of film directors and screenwriters in the 1950s.

Says Nana: “During the 1960s a new kind of protagonist who took on the establishment, laws and stereotypes was introduced. Several films from the 1960s and 1970s were considered dissident in Soviet Georgia as they used metaphor, symbolism and national folklore as an expression of protest against the Soviet system.”

Call of the camera

Born in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, in 1948, Nana graduated from a local music school in 1966 and later from the architectural department of the Tbilisi State Academy of Fine Arts. After working for a while as an architect she enrolled in the Tbilisi State Theatre Institute.

She debuted as an actress in 1977 in the film Some Interviews on Personal Matters. Two years later she directed A Journey to Sopot. But her breakthrough work, My English Grandfather, came eight years later and won the Camera d'Or at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.

After moving to France in the early 1990s, she directed several films including A Chef in Love (1996), which till date is the only Georgian film nominated for the Academy Award. Nana is married to fellow Georgian writer Irakli Kvirikadze.



Georgian locales for Bollywood?



Despite boasting a great cinematic tradition, Georgian cinema is languishing as it continues to depend on State funds, which are hard to come by in a country that has faced three civil wars and a financial crisis in the post-Soviet years.

After a lull in between, Georgian cinema is making a comeback in recent years, she says. “With financial support from the State as well as private industry, a new generation of talented filmmakers, along with those who stopped making films in the 1990s, are making a mark.”

An admirer of Satyajit Ray's films, the Apu triology in particular, Nana says she is impressed by the quality of films made in India and invites Indian filmmakers to shoot in Georgia. “We are a small country, not too well known abroad. But Georgia is full of beautiful landscapes, which offer a huge variety to any filmmaker. Georgia is as beautiful as Switzerland,” she declares.

Georgian Ambassador Zurab Katchkatchishvili, who was present at the Goa film festival, pointed out that it would cost Indian filmmakers a lot less to shoot in Georgia than elsewhere in Europe. The Government too will spread a red carpet for Indian filmmakers with tax incentives and other facilities on offer, he said.

“I am expecting an Indian delegation to visit Georgia in the near future,” he said later during an interview. “If things go well, we may see production of Indian films there.” Nana and the Ambassador hope that the investment from Indian filmmakers too can go towards reviving Georgian cinema to its former glory.

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Published on January 13, 2011
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