Shooting Dinosaurs: Ogden on the Georgian Film Industry


Everyone knows that Georgians are fiercely proud of their country, food and history; it is made abundantly clear to any visitor within hours of arriving in this country. Yet Georgians are also enamoured with their cinema industry, and with good reason.

Georgians are an inherently dramatic people, which (from what I’ve seen) makes them natural actors. Not that I’m an expert; I studied drama at school because I was useless at art and downright dangerous in the design technology workshop, and had a small part on a Georgian soap opera last year (as a result of which I now have a devoted fanbase of women aged over 70).

However, the experience at least taught me when people are uncomfortable and very aware that they are on camera...mostly because I looked as though someone had a gun to my head, while the Georgians around me performed with ease. Even people off the street who were roped into being extras suddenly starting acting (in every sense of the word) as though they’d been to drama school with Clooney and Depp. Damned convincing they were, too. I suppose quality actors are necessary due to the fact that Georgia does not have Hollywood’s millions at its disposal; there’s no room for any graduates of the Nicholas Cage school of acting here.

The Georgian films that I’ve seen seem to attempt to paint a very realistic picture of things in this country as they are or were. Nana Ekvtimishvili’s ‘In Bloom’ is a stark portrait of Georgian life in the chaos of the 1990s, while Rusudan Chkonia’s ‘Keep Smiling’ shows Georgian poverty, desperation and misogyny at their best.

But if you ask me, there’s room for improvement.

Not that I’m pretentious in my cinematic tastes; the only times I’ve sat through arthouse films have been to impress various lunatic arty girls in my youth (which was a price worth paying in the end, to be honest). I’m more of a car chase and gunfight sort of chap. I’m not suggesting Georgian films should have more of those, mostly because anybody filming a car chase in this country would have difficulty in conveying to the audience which is the car chase and which is passing traffic, but I do think that Georgia needs to show the country for what it is in its films.

‘In Bloom’ is a fine picture, and deserved the accolades it got; the same can be said for Zaza Urushadze’s ‘Tangerines’. However, neither of these show Georgia the way it is today. The turmoil of the 1990s is over, and really, there’s been more than enough drama in the Georgia of the last five or six years. I’m quite sure that foreign audiences who know little and less about Georgia will fail to understand that the depressing circumstances of post-Soviet Georgia are now little more than memory, and Tbilisi is now the hipster capital of Eastern Europe. The Georgian Ministry of Economics is forever banging the touristic drum, but people will be far more likely to visit this place if they can see it for what it looks like now as opposed to what it once was.

I also think Georgians should do more comedy. Georgians are not a humourless people; far from it, in fact. Personally, I’m not enamoured with Georgian comedy as it is; even after jokes have been translated and explained, I’m still left wondering what was so funny. However, on a personal level Georgians rank alongside the British and the Russians as the funniest people I’ve met. I’m sure Georgians are capable of producing some natural, easy-going comedy movies, which reflect their day-to-day behaviour in ways that the contrived trash produced by people like Amiko Chokharadze never could.

Speaking of behaviour, I regret to say that this is something which also needs to change. Zaza Urushadze and his team embarrassed themselves in Hollywood by play-fighting in front of their waiting limousine and then falling asleep during the Oscars ceremony; hardly the behaviour of professional people who deserve to win such a prestigious award. Likewise, the two bosses of a film company I once worked for here managed to secure invitations to the London film festival’s networking meetings which spanned a week, but spent the time getting drunk on complimentary wine and came back with no useful contacts. People in the film industry must begin to appreciate that it is an industry and should be treated as such, otherwise prospective international co-producers will rapidly lose interest.

Yet I remain optimistic for Georgia’s cinematic future...but more gunfights, car chases and dinosaurs, please.

Tim Ogden

12 May 2016 18:52