Cine Club Touches on Hardships New and Old

A packed hall at the Amirani cinema on Tuesday saw audience members of all ages and nationalities come together to get a taste of Georgian culture and cinema heritage. The presence of the director of one film and the daughter of the deceased director of the second, ready to answer questions, added to the feel of something special and unique.

The monthly Cine Club, organized by Nonna Sagaan Gubler and Tobi Walsh, hosted the screening of two thought-provoking mini-films. The first, a black-and-white silent film (overlaid with a strange composition of spacy 1980s instrumental) was called ‘Buba.’ It was directed by the first female director in the Soviet Union, Nutsa Gogoberidze who, following this and a second – feature – film, was named an ‘enemy of the people’ and sent to the wastes of a Siberian prison for 10 years. Her films were banned and buried in the Moscow archives. ‘Buba’ was found by chance two years ago by her daughter, Lana Gogoberidze who, upon retrieving it, began a world tour showing the film to audiences in London, New York and elsewhere.

‘Buba’ shows combined- and sometimes cleverly overlaid- film clips first to present the religion and nature of Georgia, and then with a focus on the true lifestyle of the Rachan villagers of the 1930s, a far cry from the Soviet ideal. As I watched the villagers working in their fields and homes, relying on nature and bare hands and feet to survive, it raised the question within me- was life happier or unhappier back then, when times were harder, when a harvest could fail at the hand of God (ie, a landslide or unexpected snowfall), when children started work at the age of two, collecting nettles for the community soup, when the men had to leave the village for an entire season to cut and sell wood because the harvest had failed? Times were certainly tough- but communities worked together, respected one another; worked for the common good. Children were worked hard by their elders, knowing only the land, perhaps receiving little or no schooling. But I can’t help but compare their healthy strong sun-kissed bodies and smiles to those drawn pale faces with eyes glued to screens we so commonly see these days. Whatever a modern audience may think of the lifestyles portrayed by Gogoberidze in her masterful documentary, it is clear that in those 30 minutes we have a preserved cultural treasure.

The second film, ‘Felicita,’ touches on the modern theme of female migrant workers. Of the population of around 4 million Georgians, 1 million, Salome Alexi, the film director and granddaughter of Nutsa Gogoberidze states, live and work abroad. 62% of those working out of the country are women. Most are women who cannot return home due to their illegal immigrant statuses. Filmed in Ananuri, a riverside village outside Tbilisi, ‘Felicita’ tells of one such woman, whose husband has died in a car crash, leaving behind three young children. As she cannot leave her post in Italy as a babysitter, instead she calls him to mourn his death in loud and at times both amusing and upsetting terms via mobile and loudspeaker while the straight-faced villagers look on. As I understand Georgian, I could see a lot of detail was lost in the simple English subtitles. Otherwise, I found the film poignant- a sad reality presented in an almost banal way.

This was my first visit to a Cine Club screening. I’ll definitely be going again to enjoy this powerful window into the past and present reality of the wonderful country in which I live.

Katie Ruth Davies

19 May 2016 20:47