Levan Zakareishvili’s second film about his native Tbilisi trails his feature debut “They” by a good 13 years. The war in Abkhazia and the economic crisis and political chaos of the intervening years, during which time “Tbilisi-Tbilisi” was shot and reshot, have left their mark. The film is a little rough around the edges, but has gained an angry realism that is very immediate and compelling. Festivals are likely to welcome this small, personal work.
A young filmmaker named Dato (Giorgy Maskharashvili) has no money to make a movie, so he hangs out drinking and brooding all day while his wife teaches music at a conservatory. He is also writing a screenplay. Excerpts from his script, shot in black-and-white, are cut into his story. While some scenes work better than others, each dramatizes the lives of people struggling to live in Tbilisi today.
In the outdoor market, Dato notices his old screenwriting teacher, an educated older man who is now reduced to selling margarine in a stand. As he ironically comments, professors are selling margarine while salesmen have become ministers. Everything is for sale, and culture has no value at all. The teacher has donated his dissertation on world cinema to an old woman who needs paper to wrap up her sunflower seeds.
In a grittier episode Tedo, a young pickpocket, has to pay off a crooked cop or be beaten by him. Tedo’s sister Elza is a drunken prostitute mistreated by men. Even more dramatic is the tale of Nona, a girl who became mute when her parents were killed in Abkhazia. She begs for coins to buy food and medicine for her sick brother, only to be robbed by Tedo’s gang.
All the stories, including the framing story about Dato and his friends, are skillfully interwoven so that, in the end, they become one long narrative about contemporary life in Georgia.
Archil Akhvlediani’s lensing, much of it shot with a shaky hand-held camera on iffy film stock, gives the feeling of reading a diary written by an acute observer who is saddened and outraged by the whole situation.
Merab Akhvlediani does a masterful job editing the heterogeneous material together into a watchable whole. Despite some overly scripted bits, the overall feel is realistic. There are occasional problems with dialogue being out of sync.