The Tbilisi International Filmfest “Prometheus” is a young festival. Consequently, it is only the second year that “Prometheus” has been held. Although the cinema of Georgia – a small independent country – previously a part of the Soviet Union, has old traditional roots. Georgian movies between 1960-1980 achieved a great success. The names of Georgian filmmakers -Tengis Abuladze, Rezo Chkheidse, Sergei Paraganov, Eldar and Georgi Chengelaia are familiar to audiences of art house cinema Not to mention the very special Georgian shorts of that period.
About 10 years of cruel political discords and civil war, ruined the economics of the country and upset national film production and distribution. So, for a long time, nothing was heard of that small, but very important island the world cinema. But during the last two years, there have been some notable movement towards recovery. The Government has put a small sum towards the development of the national cinema. Private investors also became involved in film production. So very soon, little by little, all these efforts have begun to work.
The international competition of the Festival included 3 features by Georgian directors. One of them Tzameti (“Silver Prometheus award”), a debut feature written and directed by Gela Babluani, was produced in France. At first sight it looks like a well-done commercial movie with a strong, attractive plot.
A young Georgian illegal immigrant, who works as a carpenter on the roof of the very strange house, accidentally becomes not only the witness, but also the protagonist of its owner’s activities. After the latter’s sudden death, he finds an envelope with mysterious instructions and starts following them. At the end he realizes that he is a pawn in a cruel game, where only one player survives. The young director is surprisingly strong in depicting the atmosphere of the hopeless, miserable life of Georgian immigrants and where the smell of money and blood turns a man into a mad and sweaty beast.
The Fipresci jury prize winner A Trip to Karabakh, directed by Levan Tutberidse, was shot exclusively on private investor’s money. The movie tells the story of the early 1990’s when all the Caucasus were on fire with civil war raging in the streets of Tbilisi. The characters are relevant to their surrounding atmosphere, lost in time and space. The young heroes of the movie have the typical interests of their age— girls music, light drugs. Two of them-Gio and Goglico, deal in drugs from Azerbaidjan. Accidentally they find out the way to get into the Karabakh-Armenia-Azebaidgan conflict zone.
The film is very strong in directing and acting. The special and different characters of Georgian, Armenian and Azeri young people are vivid and recognizable. The sometimes unbelievable situations are made believable through the national characters who are full of self irony.
Less fortunate was a filmmaker of the older generation. Levan Zakareishvili’s shooting of his movie Tbilisi-Tbilisi was prolonged for about 7 years. It depicts the poverty and misery of citizens in the city at the beginning of the ’90s. The film is about a young director, who has no means of shooting a film and walks the streets of his city, which has turned into a big, dirty bazaar, full of refugees and beggars.
All three Georgian movies were notable for their topicality and high level of professionalism. The general programme of the Festival was sufficiantly various. The competition programme of feature films, the Forum of European Cinema, Horizons (awarded to films from different countries), Young German Cinema, Shorts and Documentaries (mostly from former Soviet Union republics). In addition, youth and students programmes were held. The goal of the young moviemakers’ programmes is to search for young talent, broaden their international contacts and develop new cinema traditions.
The movies were shown in two comfortable and modern cinema theatres and in the Georgian Cinema House. However, the Festival staff is not yet skilled, but very enthusiastic and attentive,
A serious minus of the Festival was the absence of a press centre for important sources of information and publicity. The Georgian press and TV almost ignored the event, though people’s interest was pretty high and many screenings were packed. We have to recognise that the organizers of “Prometheus” went through many difficulties- the country is still very weak, just recovering from 15 years of disaster. Let us hope that it will assist intercultural dialogue and support Georgian filmmakers to achieve future success.