October 2017, arsenal cinema

Georgian Cinema - 
From the Arsenal Collection

RAMDENIME INTERWIU PIRAD SAKITCHEBSE, 1978

For many years now, Arsenal has maintained a close, special relationship with Georgian filmmaking. Since Erika and Ulrich Gregor, founders and long-time heads of Arsenal, were able to see films from Georgia on their visits to Moscow, Georgian films have regularly formed part of the programs of both the Arsenal cinema and the Forum. This enduring interest in Georgian cinema means that Arsenal's collection of around 130 Georgian films is now the second biggest collection in the world outside of the country itself following the Russian state film archive Gosfilmofond and thus plays an important role in preserving Georgian film history.

The films shot in the Georgian republic already made a striking impression within Soviet film production due to their idiosyncratic style and joy at spinning fanciful yarns. They are characterized by their satirical perspicacity, ingeniousness, and frequently surreal humor. While Georgian cinema is closely linked to the country’s artistic traditions, it is still highly topical and precise in its observations.

Three Georgian films from the Arsenal collection were able to be digitally restored with funding from the Foreign Office's Cultural Preservation program. DIDI MTSWANE WELI (Great Green Valley, 1967) by Merab Kokotschaschwili, RAMDENIME INTERWIU PIRAD SAKITCHEBSE (Some Interviews on Personal Questions, 1978) by Lana Gogoberidse, and SGHWARZE (At the Border, 1993) by Dito Tsintsadze will be presented at Arsenal with their directors in attendance, together with 14 additional films from our collection that stem from the 20s all the way until the 90s. The most recent film by Otar Iosseliani, CHANT D'HIVER (2015), rounds off the program. Lana Gogoberidse's film is framed by a film by her mother Noutsa Gogoberidse, Georgia’s first female director, and a film by her daughter Salomé Alexi. A panel discussion will take place on 2.10., where Erika and Ulrich Gregor will discuss Georgian film history and archival work with Khatuna Khundadze (Georgian Film) and Susan Oxtoby (University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive). Stefanie Schulte Strathaus will moderate the discussion.

RAMDENIME INTERWIU PIRAD SAKITCHEBSE (Some Interviews on Personal Questions, Lana Gogoberidse, 1978, 1.10., with guest Lana Gogoberidse) Sofiko is around 40 and completely absorbed in her profession. As a journalist, she interviews a wide range of different women about their living conditions and desires, while she herself also makes a considerable effort to maintain the fragile balance between professional fulfillment and family obligations. Lana Gogoberidse tells a sensitive story of the connection between the private and the political in almost documentary style and with dynamic camerawork. With its focus on the everyday struggles of an emancipated woman, RAMDENIME INTERWIU PIRAD SAKITCHEBSE is regarded as one of the first feminist films of the Soviet era.

DIDI MTSWANE WELI (Great Green Valley, Merab Kokotschaschwili, 1967, 2.10., with guest Merab Kokotschaschwili) is a drama influenced by Italian Neorealism that follows an outsider who is torn between tradition and progress. Shepherd Sosana works on a collective farm, looking after the livestock in a remote mountain valley. Deeply rooted in the land of his fathers, he thrives on being close to nature and lives according to its laws. Yet his wife Pirimse is drawn to those who follow the rhythm of the new era and wants to separate from her husband, who has become a stranger to her.

BUBA (Noutsa Gogoberidse, 1930, 3.10.) Racha is a highland area where people have struggled for survival for centuries now. The meagre harvest has only just been brought in when the men leave their wives and children behind to climb up into the valley, remaining at the mercy of nature and its dangers for months on end. Noutsa Gogoberidse’s film superposes images of a shining, socialist future onto the existing patriarchal order. 

KREDITIS LIMITI (Line of Credit, Salomé Alexi, 2014, 3.10., with guest Salomé Alexi) By all accounts, the elegant Nino leads a comfortable existence, but cracks have appeared in the beautiful façade. She took out a loan to fulfill a long-held wish and is unable to repay it, with her life now revolving around finding money, flogging heirlooms, getting extensions the loan, and keeping her creditors sweet. Despite the heavy theme, Salomé Alexi tells her heroine’s story in tender, pastel-colored images and always has a precise eye for the amusing moments in her travails.

MONANIEBA (Repentance, Tengis Abuladse, 1984, 4.10.) A respected gentleman is buried with all the honors, yet his corpse is dug up the very next day and put on display in the garden of his bereaved family. The woman who desecrated his body is taken to court, but the trial is more about settling old scores with the elderly man and addressing the misuse of power during the Stalinist dictatorship. The slightly more liberal political situation before the Perestroika in Georgia enabled the film to be made, although it was still only approved for screening after a three-year delay.

TSCHEMI BEBIA (My Grandmother, Kote Mikaberidse, 1929, 5.10., with a live piano accompaniment by Dudana Mazmanishvili) A bureaucrat who’s been made redundant is advised by a friend to find a "grandmother" while he searches for a new job – which means patronage. Kote Mikaberidse's experimental satire about bureaucracy and nepotism was the first film ever to be banned in Georgia and was unable to be shown for nearly 40 years. The constructivist studio sets, effusive acting style, satirically exaggerated depiction of the working process, stop-motion and other animation techniques, shifts in speed, distorted camera shots or ones at a tilt, and the running commentary on the occurrences depicted via a chorus of marionettes were all reason enough for the censors to accuse the film of "formalism".

DWADZATJ SCHESTJ KOMISSAROW (Twenty-Six Commissars, Nikoloz Shengelaia, 1932, 6.10., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) In early 1918, a first Soviet government was formed in Baku/Azerbaijan, a "Council of People's Commissioners", which nationalized the oil sources. This government was put down after three months and its 26 commissioners were arrested and shot. The fate of these 26 commissioners forms a heroic legend which this film also reflects upon. In epic images full of emotional power, Shengelaia reveals the mechanisms of the collective psyche, as the film shifts in tone effortlessly between tragedy and satire.

PASTORALI (Pastorale, Otar Iosseliani, 1975, 7.10., with guest Otar Iosseliani & 19.10.) A quartet of musicians spends the summer in a village and the children of the family who has rented them rooms in the attic are drawn to these visitors from the city. Iosseliani tells this story without giving the impression that any story is being told at all, continually adding new threads and inserting what feels like an infinite number of starts of new stories. PASTORALI was held back by the Soviet authorities and the film’s German premiere finally took place at the International Forum of New Cinema in 1982, the year when Iosseliani emigrated from the USSR.

CHANT D'HIVER(Winter Song,Otar Iosseliani, 2015, 8.10., with guest Otar Iosseliani) In his most recent film, Otar Iosseliani tells a story that revolves around the French Revolution and the closing of refugee camps in contemporary Europe, down-and-outs and weapons dealers in Paris, war and friendship, and how all these things fits together, narrated in his inimitable style, at once nimble and melancholy. CHANT D'HIVER is a powerful late work of impressive freshness and considerable aesthetic freedom, in which director and actor Pierre Étaix (1928–2016) makes his final screen appearance.

AMBAWI SURAMIS TSICHISA (The Legend of the Suram Fortress, Sergei Parajanov, Dodo Abaschidse, 1985, 9.10.) Fantastic visual worlds open out from the rigorously framed, yet sumptuously mounted tableaus used by Parajanov and Abaschidse to retell an archaic Georgian legend. In order to defend themselves against Persian raids, the inhabitants of a remote mountain region attempt to build a fortress. A prophecy says the construction can only be completed if a young warrior allows himself to be bricked into one of the walls while still alive. The lavish images are decked out with countless fabrics, carpets, animals, and works of art, with the film’s characters acting in their midst. 

SGHWARZE (At the Border, Dito Tsintsadze, 1993, 11.10., with guest Dito Tsintsadze) The threat of civil war hangs in the air. An armed conflict is about to break out and the omens are impossible to overlook, there is aggression, hate, propaganda. A young physicist attempts to retain his independence, initially shutting himself away from his surroundings, before attempting to leave the country with his girlfriend, although he is ultimately able to extricate himself from events. Without making direct reference to either his country or to the regional conflicts of the early 90s, Tsintsadze creates a visual no-man’s land about to be dissolved and tells in dark, laconic fashion of a man who would like to remain neutral, but is forced to realize that this is impossible.

CHABARDA (Michail Tschiaureli, 1931, 12.10., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) Before Michail Tschiaureli became famous as the director of epics which fueled Stalin's personality cult, he shot a series of films that have little in common with the ostentatious aesthetic of his later works. CHABARDA is a wild, expressive satire that still bears witness to the artistic freedom in the Soviet Union in the 20s. The film takes the planned demolition of a run-down quarter of Tbilisi as its starting point to explore the theme of the conflict between the petty bourgeoisie and their need to cling to tradition and the revolutionary spirit of the Communist movement. 

MEZCHRAMETE SAUKUNIS KARTULI KRONIKA (Alexandre Rechwiaschwili, 1978, 13.10.) A student from St. Petersburg returns to his home village in Georgia and is asked by the farmers there to defend their rights, as their forest is supposed to be confiscated. After trying to intervene with the local authorities, he is confronted with impenetrable bureaucracy, which only serves the interest of dubious businesspeople. Shot in austere black and white, the second part of Alexandre Rechwiaschwili’s trilogy about the 19th century in Georgia creates a dark, Kafkaesque atmosphere that is characterized by a sense of powerlessness against the dominant apparatus.

NUZA (Alexandre Rechwiaschwili, 1971, 13.10.) When her rich foster mother dies, young orphan girl Nuza is left entirely alone, unprotected and without rights of her own. She flees into the forest, which doesn’t offer refuge, but merely becomes another place of aberration and despair.

DGE (Day, Lewan Glonti, 1990, 13.10.) Lewan Glonti draws on a sensitive, jittery narrative style in this portrait of the aimless daily routine of a young man and the milieu he lives in, often incorporating documentary passages of everyday life. His protagonist describes his dependence on relatives, friends, and the authorities, and his futile attempts to communicate. The film's dominant tones are irony and melancholy and a lively picture of the city of Tbilisi is created almost in passing, while the imminent break-up of the Soviet Union's existing order is already in the air. 

UBEDUREBA (The Disaster, Gela Kandelaki, 1979, 14.10., with guest Gela Kandelaki) An accident takes place in a small community in rural Georgia in the 19th century: Anton falls unconscious while working in the fields. The whole community gets together in order to demonstrate their compassion and spends the day in front of the sick man’s house. In line with an old farmer’s tale, Anton’s relatives try to keep the bad luck away from the house, while all those present also compete with one another to confess their beliefs, which soon only seem to consist of mere phrases, however.

IKO SHASHVI MGALOBELI (There Once Was a Singing Blackbird, Otar Iosseliani, 1970, 14.10., with guest: Gela Kandelaki & 19.10.) depicts 36 hours in the life of young musician Gia (Gela Kandelaki), who plays the timpani in the Tbilisi orchestra and is renowned for turning up at the very last minute, as spontaneous human contacts seem more important to him than his work.  Gia is a non-conformist dreamer, entirely incapable for finding a relationship with time that harmonizes with is surroundings. 

TSISPERI MTEBI ANU DAUDJEREBELI AMBAWI (Blue Mountains, Eldar Shengelaia, 1983, 12. & 16.10.) A building in need of repair is home to a Tbilisi publishing house. The editors spend their time playing chess or spinning intrigues, they certainly don't read manuscripts. A young employee bursts into this real socialist idyll with his first manuscript, with the editors' commission only convening to hold consultations about it after a considerable time. No one has read it, but everyone is of the same opinion as the previous speaker: consultations must be held about the manuscript. Via repetitions that appear ever more ritualized, this satire about bureaucracy, bourgeois conformism, laziness, and slackness in real-life socialism progressively accelerates into an absurd, surreal parable.

PIROSMANI (Georgi Shengelaia, 1969, 15. & 17.10.) tells the life story of people's painter Nikolos Pirosmanaschwili (1862–1918), whose naïve art first received acclaim after his death. The loner tries his hand at different professions, observes and paints the world around him, whose petty-minded spirit he is unable to understand. He becomes a wandering painter for hire, exchanges his pictures for food or a place to sleep, and allows himself to be exploited and humiliated. Shengelaia develops both the structure and the aesthetic of the film from the pictures and aesthetic of Pirosmani: tableaus which make the spaces almost look two-dimensional, long shots and stylized genre images. 

DSCHIM SCHWANTE! (Salt for Svanetia, Mikhail Kalatozov, 1930, 18.10., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) describes life in the mountainous region of Upper Svanetia, an isolated region 2000 meters above sea level only accessible during the brief period without snow. The inhabitants of an old village, who were still living in towers from the feudal era in 1929, are forced to carry salt on their backs up into the mountains, over glaciers, and through remote mountain passes. Images of great beauty are contrasted with the difficult living conditions of the mountain dwellers. (hjf/ug/al)

A film series that forms part of the celebrations for the Year of German-Georgian Friendship in 2017, in cooperation with the Georgian National Film Center and with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia.

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour - Cinema in the Plural

08:00 pm Cinema 2


Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte

Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte
Rainer Werner Fassbinder FRG 1971
35 mm 103 min

arsenal cinema: Film in the Present Tense

08:30 pm Cinema 1


Anselmo

Family Dinners

Bertha's Children

Merce Cunningham. First Performance of Stillness (in Three Movements) to John Cage's Composition 4'3'' with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007

Roslyn Romance (is it really true?)

Optic Nerve

Naissance #2

I am Micro

The Watchmen

Shape Shifting

Black

Droga!

Cilaos

1. Part: Past Imperfect – Introduced by Marc Toscano
Anselmo Chick Strand USA 1967 16 mm 4 min
Family Dinners James Otis USA 1997 16 mm 7 min
Bertha's Children Roberta Friedman, Grahame Weinbren
USA 1976 16 mm 6 min
Merce Cunningham. First Performance of Stillness (in Three Movements) to John Cage's Composition 4'33'' with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007
Tacita Dean USA 2007 16 mm 4 min
Roslyn Romance (is it really true?) Bruce Baillie USA 1976 16 mm 16 min
Optic Nerve Barbara Hammer USA 1985 16 mm 16 min
Naissance #2 John Price Canada 2012 35 mm 12 min
2. Part: The Elastic Now – Introduced by Peter Taylor, Philip Widmann, Ulrich Ziemons
I am Micro Shumona Goel, Shai Heredia India 2012 35 mm 15 min
The Watchmen Fern Silva USA 2017 35 mm 10 min
Shape Shifting Elke Marhöfer, Mikhail Lylov Germany/Japan 2014 DCP 16 min
Black Anouk De Clercq Belgium 2015 35 mm 5 min
Droga! Miko Revereza USA/Philippines 2014 Digital file 8 min
Cilaos Camilo Restrepo France 2016 DCP 13 min