Chkonia's helming debut is a cynical take on TV contests

HELSINKI, Finland — Debut director Rusudan Chkonia’s “Keep Smiling,” a deeply cynical comedy about a corrupt mom on a TV beauty and talent contest, was chosen Tuesday as Georgia’s nomination for best foreign language Oscar consideration.

The Georgian-French co-production had its local premiere last week at the Batumi Art House Film Festival.

Made on a micro-budget, the film weaves a wickedly funny tale of the hollowness of contemporary Georgian political culture as a group of desperate mothers battle it out on a TV show to win an apartment and $25,000 in cash.

With a cast of characters that ranges from the matronly Inga (Nana Shonia), who wins the cookery contest, to sexy failed violinist Gvantsa (Iamze Sukhitashvili) to a politician’s beautiful wife Baya (Shorena Begashvili), who isn’t even a mother at all, the film is a modern morality tale.

Sleazy show producer Otar (Gia Roinishvili) becomes the focus for the women’s hostility as he puts them through increasingly humiliating challenges to ratchet up ratings.

The film, which screened this month at Venice, looks ripe for festival play and foreign language remake territory.

Tamara Tatishvili, head of the Georgian National Film Center, told Variety: “We thought that the film stands out with artistic quality, strong acting skills and interesting narrative collision of drama and black humor. It is a brave directorial debut for Rusudan Chkonia, another female director emerging from our territory.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the five nominees for best foreign film on Jan. 10. The 85th Academy Awards ceremony takes place Feb. 24.

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