Country declares itself 'safe'

Less than a year after it was at war with Russia, Georgia is planning to capitalize on the international attention it has since earned to promote the Caucasian country as a low-cost co-production location.

The eight-day war last Augustput the small former Soviet republic on front pages around the world.

The war is now a “political rather than military problem,” according to Georgia’s new minister of culture, Nicolas Rurau, who was appointed five months ago and is in Cannes to advertise the country’s attractions as a budget film location.

“The August war with Russia put us on the world map for all the wrong reasons — but now that everybody knows about Georgia we would like to capitalize on this for our film industry,” Rurau, a U.S.-educated lawyer and film school graduate told Variety Friday.

His ministry is prepping a new law that would offer producers of films shot in Georgia tax incentives of 25% with an additional 5% available for films that included significant Georgian cultural content.

The country has brought nine projects to Cannes — five completed films and four in post-production, Rurau said. He added that in recent years there had been several French co-productions shot with Georgian directors. Top Spanish producer Andres Vicente Gomez is due in Georgia in September to begin pre-production on “Vurdalak,” a neo-medieval tale of revenge between bloodthirsty warlords.

And Rurau wants international producers at Cannes to tell him what would bring them to Georgia to make their films.

“We are in Cannes to ask producers what would suit them so that we can design a system that suits their needs,” Rurau said. “We want to (know) the best conditions for co-productions and for foreign investors.”

There are five modern studio facilities in the capital of Tbilisi, including the Soviet-era, now partially privatized Georgia Film Studios. Locations include alpine, desert and maritime, cities large and small, ancient and modern, he added.

Steps have already been taken to appoint film liaison officers in government departments and within the military and police to assist filmmakers.

For those international producers who remain alarmed by last year’s war — or more recent events such as the brief mutiny at a military barracks earlier this month or big opposition demonstrations on the streets of Tbilisi last month — Rurau offers reassurances.

“The two Georgian territories (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) are still occupied by Russian forces but they are sealed off and there are international observers on the ground. There is no immediate threat or even medium-term threat to resume hostilities. It is a political rather than military problem now.”

As for demonstrations — Georgia is a “young democracy that is learning as we go. We are not afraid of demonstrations, the right to self-expression is a protected right,” Rurau said.

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