And the Winner is: Georgian Cinema

At the closing ceremony it was all about Georgian Cinema. Although the Tbilisi Film Festival is an international festival with an international competition and showcases films from all around the world, it has a strong focus on local films as well. And therefore at the closing ceremony last weekend the main role in Cinema Amirani was played by Georgia's well-established award winning directors and their possible future successors – the young filmmakers.

And the next generation of Georgian filmmakers did get international acclamation this night from Jury members. “Georgia will become an important player in cinema,” said Christian Routh, member of the pitching jury for Feature Films. “I saw so much enthusiasm among these young filmmakers.”

Directors, producers and writers had the chance to work on their projects for two days before presenting them in an open pitch. Ulrich Gregor, member of the jury for Best Georgian Film said, “Georgian cinema is in good shape, especially regarding the future.”

A Georgian feature film wins the international competition

Since Georgian cinema is important at the Tbilisi International Film Festival it was no surprise that the winner of the Golden Prometheus for the Best Feature Film in the international competition was a Georgian movie: “House of Others” by Rusudan Glurjidze, one of the two local contributions to the competition.

The film tells the story of a family after the war in Abkhazia moving into a foreign house, abandoned by its inhabitants who had to flee together with the whole village. The mother starts to install herself in the house, wanting to make it her own, whereas the father hesitates and is unwilling to get comfortable in a house belonging to others. Although the conclusion in the end remains vague, the movie fascinates with its cool aesthetics and precise camera work. Thanks to unreal staging and the lack of historical references, “House of Others” is more a timeless oeuvre about home in general than about the situation in Abkhazia.

The films in the competition, debuts by definition, were in general of high quality. A lot of them telling the story of women fighting for their independence. The outstanding Croatian movie “Quit staring at my plate” is one such case, about a young woman living with her parents and handicapped brother who has to find her place after she suddenly becomes the breadwinner. Or the Bulgarian contribution “Zhaleika” in which a teenage girl doesn't fit into the conservative society of her remote village. The second Georgian film in the competition, “Ana's Life” also tells the story of a single mother struggling for a better life – but it goes over the top with its dramatic twist towards the end of the movie.

Help for Georgian filmmakers

For the young, funding for Georgian cinema is a problem – a problem that was also mentioned at the closing ceremony. As a symbol of the issue, the Georgian Panorama of the festival has been sponsored by an Azeri Bank for the past three years, its logo prominently displayed at the closing ceremony. Clearly, a Georgian sponsor couldn't be found.

The winner was the project “Border Games,” a parody about the absurdity of some borders. Remarkably, it was the only project among the seven which told a story related to the recent wars in Georgia and the unsolved problems with borders. The other filmmakers chose topics like the struggle of a young couple in a difficult social situation, or a priest who gets punished by the Orthodox Church for inappropriate behavior. Maybe for the international members of the jury, Georgia is more associated with war and conflicts even today, than for playing a role in the real life of the majority of young Georgians.

Audience recognition

Georgian movies were very much in the focus of the audience's interest. The screening of the two Georgian contributions in the competition were so crowded that even festival guests struggled to find a seat in the big hall of the Amirani Cinema. Equally popular were screenings of contemporary European films by well-known directors. The new movie of the Belgian Dardenne brothers, “The unknown girl,” almost filled the theater with 450 seats on a Saturday afternoon.

This is a clear sign of the large number of film lovers in Tbilisi. But it also shows that the Tbilisi Film Festival is still mostly a festival for the local audience, for various reasons: some of them financial, some of them organizational. But the not because of the program: the quality of the movies in the competitions is fantastically high.

Lukas Mäder

08 December 2016 21:23