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Screening the Nation: Georgia, 1918-2018

Posted in Film on Aug 20, 2018

Still from Mikhail Kalatozov’s Salt for Svanetia (1930)

"Georgian film is a completely unique phenomenon, vivid, philosophically inspiring, very wise, childlike. It has everything that can make me cry and I ought to say that this – to make me cry – is not an easy thing."

                                                               - Federico Fellini 

From its earliest days, Georgian cinema, with its unique blend of experimentation and life, lyricism and ideology, idiosyncratic authorial pursuits and profound philosophical questionings, has been attracting the attention of both film professionals and the general public. First rising to prominence in the 1920s, as part of the trailblazing Soviet film industry, Georgian cinema quickly established itself as one of the European cinema’s most distinctive voices. At home, the cinematic muse quickly assumed a central place in the nation’s cultural pantheon: cinema became the most revered of all the arts in Georgia, developing into an art-form that expresses not only this nation’s creative potentials, but also its existential, political and all other considerations.

Georgian cinema reached its high point in the 1960s, with many of its directors becoming regular prize-winners on the international film festival circuit. The most highly awarded authors of the Golden Age of Georgian cinema include Mikhail Kalatozov, Tengiz Abuladze, Otar Iosseliani, Sergei Parajanov, Eldar and Giorgi Shengelaia, to name but a few.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Georgian film industry suddenly came to a halt. Contrary to this nation’s aspirations and hopes, the country’s reclaimed independence in 1991 brought with it a prolonged period of interethnic conflict, political instability and economic hardship. As a result, many of the country’s leading directors left the country in search of more propitious working conditions and creative environments.

The founding of the Georgian National Film Centre in 2001 marked, however, the beginning of the revival of this nation’s once thriving film industry, supporting a new generation of filmmakers keen to reflect on the state of the nation post-independence. While Georgian films of the early 2000s are preoccupied by themes such as the civil war, exile and loss, the films of the 2010s have opened the national screen to an extraordinary array of new topics, ranging from various microsocial concerns, intergenerational relations, gender politics and ethnic, sexual and other minority issues. In a society still plagued by the legacies of authoritarianism, civil war and poverty, Georgian cinema has once again become a public forum for the country’s perennial negotiation of its position between tradition and modernity, freedom and authoritarianism, East and West.

Find out about the''Screening the Nation: Georgia, 1918-2018' programme by clicking here.