Discovering Georgian Cinema, Parts I and II
September 23–December 21, 2014
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive joins forces with The Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film to present the largest-ever retrospective of Georgian cinema in the United States. This passion project, undertaken by successive curatorial staffs at the two organizations over more than 20 years, is a two-part series bringing together 45 programs—in prints sourced from multiple archives throughout Europe, the U.S., and the republics of Georgia and Russia—encompassing the history of Georgian film production from 1907 to 2014. The exhibition traces the development of Georgian cinema from classics of the silent era to great achievements of the early sound and Soviet era, through the flourishing 1980s and the post-Soviet period to today.
Throughout the turbulent history of the last century, Georgian cinema has been an important wellspring for national identity, a celebration of the spirit, resilience, and humor of the Georgian people. These filmmakers, working across a broad range of styles and thematic concerns, have created everything from anti-bureaucratic satires of the Soviet system, to philosophical studies rooted in a humanist tradition, to lyrical, poetic depictions of the region’s spectacular landscape. Discovering Georgian Cinema illuminates not only Georgia’s rich cinematic heritage, but how that tradition can be traced through to its modern incarnation: equally personal, equally bold, and eternally unique.
PART I: A FAMILY AFFAIR
September 23–October 16
Part I of the series focuses on one of the particularities of the Georgian cinema: the remarkable lines of familial relationships that weave through and connect its cinematic production from the 1920s to the present, where we find several third-generation filmmakers active.
PART II: BEYOND THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
November 22–December 21
Part II of the series blends old and new by showcasing classics from the silent era by early masters such as Ivan Perestiani, Kote Mikaberidze, and Vasil Amashukeli. We continue to explore the great achievements of the early sound and Soviet era, including key works by Otar Iosseliani and Sergei Paradjanov, and highlight both the flourishing 1970s and 1980s and contemporary works with a personal appearance by of one of the leading lights, Levan Koguasvhili.
Film notes are adapted from research and writing by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Film titles are listed with English translations first, followed by [Georgian] and, where applicable, (Russian).
Discovering Georgian Cinema is a collaboration between the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Organized by Susan Oxtoby, Senior Film Curator, BAM/PFA, and Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, MoMA. Special thanks to the Georgian National Film Center, Tbilisi; the National Archives of Georgia, Tbilisi; and Sofia Babluani; Nino Chichua; and Candace Ming, Intern, Department of Film, MoMA.
The presentation at MoMA is made possible by the Georgian Government.
Major support is provided by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.
Prints courtesy of BAM/PFA, Icarus Films, GNFC, Tbilisi Film Studio, and BFI.
Related Film Screenings
Beth Custer Ensemble Accompanies Kote Mikaberidze’s My Grandmother
Held in conjunction with MoMA’s Discovering Georgian Cinema exhibition, this special presentation, introduced by Nikolay Mikhailovich Borodachev, the Director of the Russian state archive Gosfilmofond in Moscow, features a live performance by Beth Custer Ensemble of an original score commissioned by Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA). With thanks to the International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.
My Grandmother (Chemi Bebia/Moya Babushka)
1929. USSR. Directed and cowritten by Kote Mikaberidze. With Aleksandre Takaishvili, Bella Chernova, E. Ovanov. Mikaberidze’s satire of Soviet bureaucracy is a genuine piece of grotesquerie, a Georgian version of the antic experiments of FEKS (the Factory of the Eccentric Actor). The film’s most memorable character is a wide-eyed, wild-haired wife of a bureaucrat, caught up in a frenzy of bourgeois living. Her equally comic husband, modeled after Harold Lloyd, personifies the indolence and irrelevance of a State system that resembles nothing so much as a roundtable defended by benighted stooges. When the husband loses his job, he learns the value of a “grandmother”—a slang term for the boodle that moves the table round. This irreverent blast, complete with Constructivist sets and deconstructivist slapstick, has lost none of its bite. Russian intertitles; simultaneous English translation. 65 min.
Brma Paemnebi (Blind Dates)
2013. Georgia. Directed by Levan Koguashvili. With Andro Sakhvarelidze, Ia Sukhitashvili, Archil Kikodze. A prime example of contemporary Georgian cinema, this entertaining romantic tragicomedy tells the story of fortysomething Sandro (Sakhvarelidze), who still lives at home with his parents and seems to have no luck at finding true love. The plotline takes its twists and turns as Sandro and his best friend (Kikodze) meet and date various women. Their misadventures, and Sandro’s home life, are beautifully observed by Koguashvili and his frequent writing partner, Boris Frumin, who has a gift for presenting fictional lives with an air of authenticity and whimsy that captures life’s everyday challenges. In Georgian; English subtitles. 95 min.
Quchis dgeebi (Street Days)
2010. Georgia. Directed by Levan Koguasvhili. With Guga Kotetishvili, Irakli Ramishvili, Giorgi Kipshidze. Filmed against the backdrop of Tbilisi’s old stone walls, lanes, and apartment blocks, this award-winning debut feature presents the world of a middle-aged, unemployed, and drug-addicted protagonist, Checkie (Kotetishvili), with remarkable touches of humor and pathos. Koguashvili’s fine eye for character and intergenerational relationships gives depth to this drama in which, more often than not, it is the women—teachers, medical workers, or family members—who hold society together, balancing men’s foibles. In Georgian; English subtitles. 89 min.
Tsiteli eshmakunebi [Krasnye d’iavoliata] (Little Red Devils aka Red Imps)
1923. USSR. Directed and cowritten by Ivan Perestiani. With Pyotr Yesikovsky, Sofia Zozeffi, V. Sutyrin. Jay Leyda called Little Red Devils “the first Soviet (Georgian) film to compete successfully with all foreign products on the country’s screens.” Set during the Ukrainian War of Independence, the film adopts the styles of American adventure films, à la Douglas Fairbanks (and D. W. Griffith), in narrating the exploits of two daredevil teenagers (brother and sister) and a young black acrobat who volunteer as scouts in the Red Cavalry. V. Sutyrin gives an interesting portrayal of the anarchist leader Makhno, whose band of “bandits” is pursued by Budyenny’s cavalry in the film’s freewheeling recreation of historical events. Silent, with Russian intertitles, simultaneous English translation, and piano accompaniment. 100 min.
Program 113 min.
Work at Oil Derricks and Oil Extraction
1907. Azerbaijan. Directed by Vasil Amashukeli. A documentary on oil production in Baku, then the “black gold” capital of the world. 5 min.
[Puteshestvie Akakiia Tsereteli v Racha-Lechkhumi] (Journey of Akaki Tsereteli to Racha and Lechkhumi )
1912. Georgia. Directed by Vasil Amashukeli. Amashukeli, a director and cinematographer who worked in Azerbaijan and Georgia, is considered the founder of cinema not only in Georgia but in the whole Caucasus. The earliest surviving Georgian documentary featurette from the silent era depicts legendary poet Akaki Tsereteli’s journey to mountainous areas of western Georgia and his interactions with the people living there. Silent, with Russian and Georgian intertitles, and simultaneous English translation. 33 min.
(Otsdaeqvsi komisari) [Dvadtsat’ shest’ komissarov] (Twenty-Six Commissars )
1932. USSR. Directed by Nikoloz Shengelaia. With K. Gasanov, Baba-Zade, Heiri Emirzade. Set against a backdrop of oil derricks and sand dunes, this impressive silent-era feature about the geopolitical struggle for the control of oil fields is still relevant today. “Shengelaia went to the film factory of Azerbaijan, Azerkino, to direct Twenty-Six Commissars...about the 1918 defeat of pro-Soviet forces in Baku, an event that had opened the doors for British and Turkish occupants.... The picture’s stylish pathos and ritualism preceded the monumentalism of the late 1930s–1940s and secured it a place in the annals of Soviet cinema” (Peter Rollberg, Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Cinema). Silent, with Russian, Georgian, and English intertitles and piano accompaniment. 76 min.
Sami sitsotskhle [Tri zhizni] (Three Lives: Parts 1 & 2)
1924. USSR. Directed by Ivan Perestiani. With Mikheil Gelovani, Dimitri Kipiani, Nato Vachnadze. Very different in tone from his Little Red Devils but similar in its directorial approach, Perestiani’s Three Lives was improvised, adapted without a script from Giorgi Tsereteli’s classic novel. Distinctive location shooting, inspired compositions, and beautiful use of natural light lend an atmospheric, almost documentary quality to many scenes in this narrative set in late-19th-century Georgia. The film’s strong cast includes Nato Vachnadze in an early role as Esma, a poor tailor woman. Vachnadze, the real-life mother of directors Eldar and Giorgi Shengelaia, was one of the screen legends of Soviet Georgia. Silent, with Russian intertitles and simultaneous English translation. 150 min; intermission 5 min.
Nash dvor (Our Courtyard aka Our Yard)
1956. USSR. Directed by Rezo Chkheidze. With Sofiko Chiaureli, Giorgi Shengelaia, Leila Abachidze. The picaresque village comedy is updated for Georgia’s postwar urban realities in Rezo Chkheidze’s lyrical tale of life, love, and the pursuit of individual happiness and the collective good inside a chaotic Tbilisi apartment block. Students, scientists, factory workers, and idle gossips call out from the balconies, led by our hero, Dato, a strapping student and factory worker with an eye for the lovely Tsitsino. Inspired by both Italian Neorealism and a swelling pride in what modern Georgia could accomplish, Our Courtyard boasts a star turn by Giorgi Shengelaia, later to become one of Georgia’s most accomplished filmmakers. In Georgian; English subtitles. 89 min.
Postoronites’ aka Zdes’ padaiut kamni (Khabarda aka Forward! Get Out of the Way! )
1931. USSR. Directed and cowritten by Mikheil Chiaureli. With Sergo Zavriev, P. Chkonia, Siko Vachnadze. A painter, political cartoonist, sculptor, and theater director who turned to film in his 30s, Mikheil Chiaureli made 25 films between 1928 and 1974. Some of his work was associated with the creation of Stalinist mythology; he received the Stalin Prize six times. Set in Tbilisi, Khabarda, which Chiaureli cowrote with Sergei Tretyakov, is a satire that plays on the tension between petit bourgeois values and the incoming sweep of Communist ideology. The film was immediately criticized for elements that were insensitive to Georgian culture. However, Chiaureli’s contributions to both radical film style and the expressive pictorial quality of socialist cinema remain impressive. Silent, with Russian intertitles and simultaneous English translation. 64 min.
Elisso (Eliso aka Caucasian Love)
1928. USSR. Nikoloz Shengelaia. 87 min.
1969. USSR. Giorgi Shengelaia. 85 min.
Tsisperi mtebi aka Daujerebeli ambavil [Golubye gory] (Blue Mountains aka An Unbelievable Story)
1984. USSR. Eldar Shengelaia. 97 min.
Manqana, romelic kvelafers gaaqrobs (The Machine which Makes Everything Disappear)
2012. Georgia/Germany. Tinatin Gurchiani. 101 min.
Netavi ik teatri aris?! (Will There Be a Theater Up There?!)
2011. Georgia. Nana Janelidze. 55 min.
Ojakhi (The Family)
1985. USSR. Nana Janelidze. 25 min.
Arachveulebrivi gomopena [Neobyknovennaya vystavka] (An Unusual Exhibition)
1968. USSR. Eldar Shengelaia. 96 min.
Ar Daidardo [Ne Goriui!] (Don’t Grieve aka Don’t Worry)
1969. USSR. Giorgi Danelia. 90 min.
1930. USSR. Noutsa Gogoberidze. 39 min.
2009. Georgia. Salomé Alexi. 30 min.
Den’ dlinneje notchi (The Day Is Longer than the Night)
1984. USSR. Lana Gogoberidze. 105 min.
Natvris khe [Drevo zhelanii] (The Wishing Tree)
1977. USSR. Tengiz Abuladze. 108 min.
1929. USSR. Mikheil Chiaureli. 100 min.
Magdanas lurja [Lurdzha Magdany] (Magdana’s Donkey)
1955. USSR. Tengiz Abuladze, Rezo Chkeidze. 67 min.
Ramodenime interviu pirad sakitkhebze [Neskol’ko interv’iu po lichnym voprosam] (Several Interviews on Personal Matters)
1979. USSR. Lana Gogoberidze. 95 min.
Un Dragon dans les eaux pures du Caucase (The Pipeline Next Door)
2005. France. Nino Kirtadze. 90 min.
Motsurave [Plovets] (The Swimmer)
1981. USSR. Irakli Kvirikadze. 105 min.
Robinzonada ili moi Angliysky deduchka (Robinsonada aka My English Grandfather )
1986. USSR. Nana Dzhordzhadze. 76 min.
Lursmani cheqmashi [Gvozd’ v sapoge] (A Nail in the Boot)
1930/32. USSR. Mikhail Kalatozov. 54 min.
Vedreba [Molba] (The Prayer aka The Plea)
1967. USSR. Tengiz Abuladze. 80 min.
Djariskatsis mama [Otets soldata] (Father of a Soldier )
1965. USSR. Rezo Chkheidze. 83 min.
Begurebis gadafrena [Perelet vorobiev] (Flight of the Sparrows aka Migrating Sparrows)
1980. USSR. Teimur Babluani. 60 min.
2005. Georgia/France. Gela Babluani. 93 min.
Que puis-je te souhaiter avant le combat? (What Can I Wish You Before the Fight?)
2012. France. Sofia Babluani. 16 min.
Jim Shvante [Sol’ Svanetii] (Salt for Svanetia)
1930. USSR. Mikhail Kalatozov. 66 min.
Monanieba [Pokayanie] (Repentance)
1984 (released 1987). USSR. Tengiz Abuladze. 153 min.
This special program showcases recent efforts to digitally restore examples of the Kulturfilm boom that occurred in the late 1920s and early 1930s, made by young cinephile directors in Soviet Georgia. Film archivist Nino Dzandzava will present and discuss “four short films united by the concept of the ‘body as machine.’ Siko Dolidze’s Call of the Land (1928), and Kote Miqaberidze and Vasil Dolenko’s You Must Reap as You Have Sown (1930) are dedicated to the urgent problems of a young socialist republic, especially the mechanization of labor on collective farms. Aleqsandre Jaliashvili’s Ten Minutes in the Morning (1930) and Vakhtang Shvelidze’s Collective Farmers’ Hygiene (1934) represent a state policy of promoting physical culture and exercise as a form of healthcare” (Nino Dzandzava, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto).