Dede (2018)

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Directed by Mariam Khatchvani
Country: Georgia

Mariam Khatchvani’s feature debut, Dede, is an expansion of her 2013 short film Dinola. The story takes place in 1992 Georgia, in a remote mountainous Caucasian region, Svaneti, where the unalterable, long-established tradition consent men to prevail, relegating women to housework and silence. Not happy with this procedure, Dina (Natia Vibliani) refuses to marry David (Nukri Khachvani), who just returned from the war zone in the company of his good comrade Gegi (George Babluani). The latter is the man Dina fell in love with. Besides hurt in the feelings, David is also ashamed as the wedding is cancelled and he fears to become the laugh of the village.

Following a tragic incident, Dina and Gegi eventually run away to his village,  eloping and having a son. However, the happiness doesn’t last long since Gegi is killed and her children taken away by her strict father, who, according to the unwritten laws, has the right to claim the child. Dressed in black for an indefinite mourning period, Dina earns the reputation of a black widow. They say she killed two men already, but apart from the gossip or what the other villagers may think, Girshel (Girchel Chelidze) is decided to take her as a wife, once again using the male-centric power at his disposal. At least he is a good man and really loves her. What can he do to make her love him too?

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Impeccably photographed by Konstantin Esadze, the film impels us to ponder about how women are still mistreated in some regions, hampered from having an active role in any intellectual or creative affairs. It brings to view other pertinent aspects such as the absence of school or the belief in ancient rituals to heal, refusing medicine.

Inspired by her grandmother’s story, Khatchvani really dug into her roots, releasing a very personal, strongly feminist, and deeply felt film. The director addresses vital topics with a competent execution, which only failed in creating a bit more dramatic frisson in some essential parts of the story. I would say that, in this case and due to the power of the message, the whole is slightly more engrossing than the individual sections of the film.

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Scary Mother (2018)

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Directed by Ana Urushadze
Country: Georgia / Estonia

I found agreeably surprising this disturbing opus orchestrated by Georgian filmmaker Ana Urushadze. “Scary Mother”, her auspicious feature debut, is not a horror film but could definitely have been. Instead, Ms. Urushadze devises a tense psychological drama film, addressing trauma, repression, male domination, and mental nebulosity in a controlled way.

The story, set in Tbilisi, follows Manana (Nato Murvanidze), an undisclosed yet genial middle-aged writer who lives with her husband and children in an old apartment building, which, despite looking like an old pre-war factory from the outside, offers all the comfort in its interior.

Manana owns a sublime imagination, being capable to create astonishing tales that effectively combine the fantastic and the obscene. They are the consequence of dark, destructive, and sanguinary ideas, which she writes on her arm in maniacal impulses, a strange habit that comes from her loveless childhood. The character is so delirious, insecure, and cryptic, that our interest is incessantly turned to her.

The only person she trusts to share her novel is Nukri (Ramaz Ioseliani), a stationery shop owner who lives across the street. As a literary critic and editor, he eagerly pins for publishing her work since he’s quite sure to have a masterpiece in hands. However, this intention is thwarted by Anri (Dimitri Tatishvili), Manana’s intolerant husband, who gets embarrassed with her filthy, cheap pornography, as he likes to describe it. Exceedingly censor in regard to her looks, Anri constantly mentions carelessness in his wife’s behavior to make her feel terrible.

At the time she had to choose between writing and family, the traumatized Manana visited her father, Jarji (Avtandil Makharadze), an estranged, insensitive translator who never loved her. To make things worse, the hallucinatory attacks assault her more often, and we find her ‘reading’ the tiles of her shower with impressive descriptive precision. In urgent need of a new environment to write and gain mental stability, she moves into Nukri’s and an unprecedented love scene is memorably depicted.

Usurping most of the screen time, Ms. Murvanidze proved to be a great fit for the role, winning the Asia Pacific Screen Award for best performance by an actress. I wish her ‘madness’ were taken to those extremes where we would be able to address “Scary Mother” as a creepy film.

Even with fear encircling the story, I had the feeling that the director, besides clarifying the obscurity with a too descriptive finale, could have gone deeper in the real/imaginary duality. Still, her work comes filled with uncanniness and several neurotic moments boosted by Konstantin Esadze’s glowing cinematography and Nika Pasuri’s eerie score.

Landmine Goes Click (2015)

Landmine Goes Click (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Levan Bakhia
Country: Georgia

Movie Review: The English-language “Landmine Goes Click”, set in a remote Georgian mountain region, is a low-budget tale that contains very few positive aspects, both intellectually and cinematographically. Divided into two separate parts, Levan Bakhia’s sophomore feature film addresses nothing else but a double revenge by assembling gruesome situations in an indistinct way. Most of its setbacks were detected during the first part, in which the scenario becomes a ludicrous farce, even if putting some more creativity when compared with the second one, which is a reproduction of situations already seen in other examples within the genre. Three American friends – Chris (Sterling Knight), Daniel (Dean Geyer), and the latter’s girlfriend, Alicia (Spencer Locke) - get into a jeep heading to a former war zone located in Georgia and decide to explore the region. Regardless the fact that Daniel and Chris are best friends for a long time, we’re clarified during the first minutes that Alicia betrayed her boyfriend by having a one-night stand with Chris, who nurtures strong feelings for her and wonders how she might feel about it. She answers it was a mistake and that they should forget the incident for their own sake. However, Daniel discovers the truth and elaborates an evil plan to get rid of Chris, whose jealousy grows stronger. With the help of a newly arrived friend, he assures that Chris becomes trapped when stepping on a landmine ready to explode at any moment. Dumped by Daniel, Alicia who, in the meantime, contently pronounces Chris as her officially new boyfriend, tries to do the right thing in order to free them from the difficulties. With no effective solutions, she’ll have to rely on Ilya (Kote Tolordava), a malicious Georgian stranger who popped up with his useless dog, just to play a few freaking sexual games and then rape her without a bit of condescension. The film then shifts to the uninteresting second part, when Chris, who had survived the traumatic experience, finds Ilya’s place and sets his personal revenge, aiming at the aggressor’s teen daughter. Amateurishly written by Adrian Colussi, “Landmine Goes Click” gets stuck in its own lies and gimmicks while propagating the bad vibes of the principle 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth'. I would call it a coarse deceit.

Corn Island (2014)

Corn Island (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: George Ovashvili
Country: Georgia / others

Movie Review: From the acclaimed Georgian filmmaker, George Ovashvili, author of the masterpiece “The Other Bank”, comes the subtler but no less poignant “Corn Island”, another perspective of the hardships of survival in a piece of land shattered by the cruel war that opposes Abkhazians and Georgians. As explained during the first frames, the title comes from the fact that small islands are formed with rocks and dirt resulting from the annual spring flood of the Enguri River. These islands are blessings to the few local inhabitants who cultivate corn from spring to fall in order to subsist the extreme winter cold. The diligent direction of Mr. Ovashvili together with the astounding work of the Hungarian cinematographer Elemér Ragályi, facilitate closeness when we follow the arrival of an Abkhazian old man (Ilyas Salman) on one of these islands to build a shed and prepare the land for the crop. This is a big effort for his advanced age, but the man finds precious aid in his orphaned granddaughter (Mariam Buturishvili), a helpful, innocent teen who still holds a rag doll in their hands, but commence fearing the avid looks thrown by the soldiers who occasionally pass by boat or pop up in the shore. Uneasiness increases when the old man helps a wounded Georgian soldier (Irakli Samushia), hiding him from the sight of the officials from both factions. Despite the shots heard in the vicinity, the action is limited since the mood here is taken from the suspicion, apprehension, and tension of the soldiers’ visits and the sometimes ominous weather conditions that can spoil their chances of being succeeded. “Corn Island” was conceived in a slow yet detailed way, which suits a story of patience and dedication. Besides portraying a family legacy, the film is also an anti-war letter whose good and clear intentions make us ponder about the whole situation. Wringing sturdy performances, calibrated in terms of narrative, and enveloped by silences that speak volumes, this is another great film from an undeniably stylish filmmaker who keeps surprising.

Tangerines (2013)

Tangerines (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Zaza Urushadze
Country: Georgia / Estonia

Movie Review: Zaza Urshede’s fifth feature film is a moralistic war drama that puts face-to-face Georgians, Abkhazians, and Estonians, during the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. Estonians Ivo and Margus are the only inhabitants of a piece of land fiercely disputed by the parts involved in the war. Their only concern is trying to pick up the maximum amount of tangerines they can, and do business while is possible. After a bloody shooting in front of their land, they were able to save two severely wounded young men, Ahmed, a Chechen mercenary with thirst for revenge, and Nika, a Georgian soldier who was formerly an actor in Tbilisi. Placed under the same roof, the two convalescents will promise to their savior they won’t try to kill each other while inside the house. Little by little the enemies start to open their minds while the appeasers Ivo and Margus were fighting another kind of battle that they call ‘citrus war’. At first, it seemed Ivo was hiding a big secret related to his granddaughter whose picture he proudly exhibited, but the reality was completely different. The film was nicely shot and directed, and undoubtedly well intentioned, conveying properly the idea that there are no villains in war and men are simply human beings, no matter which country they come from or religion they follow. However, the deep changes in the characters seemed too abrupt to form a perfectly credible scenario. The lucid and conscientious “Tangerines”, revealed some heart, soul, and even humor in bitter circumstances but needed more time to properly cook the morality that tries to convey.

In Bloom (2013)

In Bloom (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon Gross
Country: Georgia / others

Movie Review: “In Bloom” is a very particular coming-of-age drama, co-directed by Georgian Nana Ekvtimishvili (who wrote the screenplay partially based on personal memories) and German filmmaker Simon Gross, in their second collaboration after 2007 “Fata Morgana”, though in other molds. The story is set in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, in the early 90’s, right after the new born country has been freed from Soviet dominion. The war is still present through Abkhazia conflict, making the population to rush and quarrel to buy the daily bread. Apart from all these aspects, 14 year-old Eka and Natia, live other type of ‘war’, dealing with family problems and trying to fit in a society completely dominated by men. Despite the unshakeable friendship, their different personalities and very own way of thinking, will take them to distinct life experiences. The cinematography along with the performances by the two non-professional young actors, Lika Babluani and Mariam Bokeria, were simply formidable. However, and despite worthy, the film was not totally satisfying. While some scenes were unforgettable (Eka’s dance, or the disordered line to buy bread), others seemed slightly contrived, especially in its last part, where the strength demonstrated till there, started to decline. Eka’s feminist nature has so much to be appreciated that we keep following her no matter what. Even considering its powerful political, social, and cultural messages, it was through the performances that “In Bloom” surprised me.



The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear (2012)

The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Tinatin Gurchiani
Country: Georgia

Movie Reviews: Tinatin Gurchiani’s directorial debut is a documentary focused on the reasons and motivations of a group of Georgians (ages from 15 to 23), for having responded to a casting call for a movie. After the first banal questions, the filmmaker starts to enter more in the personal life of the participants, being granted with easy access to their homes, dreams, and daily life, which intends to give an idea of current Georgia, former Soviet republic. In these unembellished interviews, each story told reveals to be very contrasting regarding the others. From the simple case of dreaming to be an actor, passing by psychological depression or disillusions of life associated to family problems, and ending in military reasons and war traumas, everything can be a motive to apply for the job. Not always satisfactory, the documentary itself lacks some dynamic, seeming sunk in the same depression of its guests/characters. Technically unimpressive, and with a sketchy approach, “The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear” was incapable to compose the proper big picture of a socially affected and wistful country by gathering the individual stories of a few young inhabitants. I ended up paying more attention to the desolated landscapes and mistreated roads filled with elder people, than properly in what Gurchiani would like to have shown with the sad and despairing realities where traditional and modern coexist.

The Other Bank (2009)

Directed by: George Ovashvili
Country: Georgia

Plot: A young Georgian refugee leaves the safe zone to look for his father.
Review: “The Other Bank” is irreproachable as an artsy achievement. The story tells a lot about the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, relying on mindful compositions to express thoroughly the spirit and people involved. Tedo, a 12 year-old Georgian kid, decides to leave alone for his hometown to look for his missing dad. The trip will be full of good and bad surprises. Whenever things go wrong, Tedo has a technique to make it better. He just closes his eyes tight to imagine a completely different reality than the one he’s actually living. This was the first and only feature film, so far, directed by George Ovashvili. Gripping, memorable and deeply moving.
Relevant awards: Best film (Fribourg, Molodist, Mons, Paris, Tromso, Yerenvan, etc.).