Permanent Travel – Georgia’s Restless Cinema Retrospective

In the last few years, Georgian cinema has been drawing increasing international attention and expectation, which may come as surprise given the size of the country and its complex recent political situation. Georgia is about to celebrate three decades of independence, and throughout its long existence it has been known for its physical, human and cultural diversity. Its geography and history, from the remote village to a dynamic diaspora, favoured both isolation and cosmopolitanism.

Discussing Georgian cinema means also discussing for most of its existence Soviet cinema. A minority of local Bolsheviks (among which a certain Iosef Jughashvili, better known by his Russian war name: Iosif Stalin) stands at the avant-garde of the integration of the country into the Soviet sphere, but the whole of Georgia takes part in this dynamics: polyglot, resourceful and outstanding within the Union, while at the same time culturally distinct and unbending. Its art, including cinema, soon becomes a thriving example of such exceptional nature.
Film-makers such as Nikoloz Shengelaia, Mikhail Kalatozov, Nutsa Gogoberidze and Kote Mikaberidze, in their inquiry of the history and paths taken by their country, in the modernity of the gesture and choices, took on the artistic avant-garde of their time. Stalinism put a stop to that energy, which Georgian cinema would retrieve in the late 1950s with a generation of film directors trained in Moscow: Abuladze, Chkheidze, Lana Gogoberidze, Iosseliani, Esadze, Kvirikadze, and brothers Eldar and Giorgi Shengelaia. In the following three decades, Georgian fiction, documentary and animation films would reflect upon the circumstances of a society divided between the opportunities and the boundaries presented by the empire. Another three decades—those of the young country’s independence—acknowledged how socially and artistically significant its cinema has traditionally been.
Over the course of ten days, we’re only able to cover a few of the works and paths of a film-making that is for the most part unknown in Portugal, where it has almost always been noticed in passing. We chose to select a greater number of films, sacrificing individual highlights. Certain absences (Chiaureli, Esakia, Daneliya, Mchedlidze) will be more noticed, but they all (especially in the case of contemporary productions) result from the limits of a broad selection from the historically rich output of Georgian studios.
This retrospective presents several films that were restored in the scope of the agreement established between Georgia and Russia to return the former’s cinematic heritage to Tbilisi. It is also an opportunity to signal the importance of each film we’ll be showing, when the poor state of the screening copies or its pure and simple unavailability narrow the possibilities of any programme. At the same time, the return journey underlines the travelling propensity of a cinema that is reflective in its nature, and whose discovery we hope may lead us to a more aware and deep relation with its history and present situation. Both restless.

– Marcelo Félix
Curator of the retrospective

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