×

Film Review: ‘Tangerines’

Zaza Urushadze's poignant, accessible film is a seriocomic drama set in war-torn Abkhazia.

With:

Lembit Ulfsak, Giorgi Nakashidze, Elmo Nuganen, Mikhail Meskhi, Raivo Trass, Zurab Bealishvili. (Russian, Estonian dialogue)

A small-scale, poignant and accessible anti-war statement, Georgian writer-director Zaza Urushadze’s “Tangerines” spotlights regional conflict in 1992 Abkhazia, as one longtime rural resident who’s refused to flee takes in two wounded fighters on opposite sides. Beautifully shot by Rein Kotov, this seriocomic miniature won the audience award and a directing prize at last year’s Warsaw Film Festival, and is sure to accumulate more acclaim en route to niche international sales. Biz could be helped by the recent bump in attention to its otherwise little-noted setting: At its uppermost tip, Abkhazia is less than five miles from Winter Olympics host Sochi, but it might as well be 5,000, since the disputed territory’s borders remain tightly closed.

Once ethnic/nationalistic strife commenced in the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, a large local minority of Estonian extraction mostly bowed to pressure and left for their ancestral homeland. A stubborn holdout is carpenter/grandfather Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak), who’s stayed behind partly to help neighbor Margus (Elmo Nuganen) harvest his annual tangerine crop. Worrying when the fighting will reach them, they don’t have long to wait before it does — just outside Ivo’s doorstep, there’s a shootout between Georgian and Russia-backed North Caucasian forces that leaves several dead.

To avoid attracting reprisal violence, the two men bury the victims and hide their vehicles. But they can only do so much to control the animosity that moves right into Ivo’s home, between temporarily bedridden survivors Ahmed (Giorgi Nakashidze) and Nika (Mikhail Meskhi). Ahmed, a Chechen mercenary, is particularly keen on avenging his fallen comrades by killing the Georgian Nika — at least once they’re both ambulatory again. But the long period of forced cohabitation during recovery has its collectively humanizing effect. While the protags can’t prevent the outside world from wreaking further havoc, they gradually grow connected to each other in ways that transcend geographic, ethnic and religious divides.

With nearly five-decade screen veteran Ulfsak setting the wry, soulful tenor, “Tangerines” balances humor and seriousness in deft fashion, its delicacy abetted by all thesps and design contributions — a sole exception being the rather bombastic power ballad running over the final credits. Shot in the western Georgia region of Guria, the film, with its gorgeous landscapes, further underlines the pointlessness of organized human bloodshed in the larger context of nature’s bounty.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Tangerines'

Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Feb. 7, 2014. (In Warsaw, Palm Springs, Fajr film festivals.) Running time: 83 MIN. Original title: "Mandariinid"

Production:

(Estonia-Georgia) An Allfilm and Cinema 24 presentation in association with Estonian Film Foundation, Georgian National Film Center, Estonian Ministry of Culture, Eurimages and MTU Otaku. (International sales: Allfilm, Tallinn, Estonia.) Produced by Ivo Felt, Zaza Urushadze. Co-producers, Artur Veeber, Tatjana Mulbeier.

Crew:

Directed, written by Zaza Urushadze. Camera (color, widescreen), Rein Kotov; editor, Alexander Kuranov; production designer, Thea Telia; costume designer, Simon Machabeli; sound, Valter Jakovlev, Harmo Kallaste; sound designers, Kallaste, Ivo Felt; assistant director, Eliso Chanturia. 

With:

Lembit Ulfsak, Giorgi Nakashidze, Elmo Nuganen, Mikhail Meskhi, Raivo Trass, Zurab Bealishvili. (Russian, Estonian dialogue)

More Film

  • 4127_D015_00199_RC(l-r) Laura Carmichael stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Beats 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo: Last Blood' on Thursday Night

    “Downton Abbey,” the movie continuation of the hit TV series centering on the Crawley family, has won Thursday previews with $2.1 million from 2,800 North American locations. Meanwhile, Brad Pitt’s space drama “Ad Astra” has launched with $1.5 million in previews, while Sylvester Stallone’s action-thriller “Rambo: Last Blood” scooped up $1.3 million at nearly 2,900 [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renee Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Benedict Andrews (L) and US actress

    Kristen Stewart on the 'Insane Gall' of Directors as 'Seberg' Arrives in San Sebastian

    SAN SEBASTIAN – On Friday, Kristen Stewart and Benedict Andrews’ political thriller “Seberg” plays at the 67th San Sebastian Film Festival, where it opens Perlak, a section dedicated to the Spanish premieres of major international films. The star and her director addressed the media prior to the screening in the festival’s first high-profile press conference, [...]

  • Les Miserables

    Ladj Ly's Cannes Prize-Winner 'Les Miserables' Is France's Oscar Submission

    Ladj Ly’s politically charged drama “Les Miserables,” which won the Jury Prize at Cannes, has been chosen by France’s Oscar committee to enter the international feature film race. In one of the most competitive years for French movies, “Les Miserables” beat out Celine Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” the 18th-century-set romance which won [...]

  • David Kehrl neuer Head of Acquisitions

    'Resident Evil's' Constantin Names Acquisitions, International Co-Production Chief

    David Kehrl is to join Constantin Film, Germany’s leading independent movie producer and distributor, as the head of acquisitions and international co-production. He will report to Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the executive board at Constantin Film, which produces the “Resident Evil” movies. Starting in February, Kehrl will be responsible for the acquisition of international theatrical [...]

  • The Plague Season 2 Spanish TV

    Telefonica, Atresmedia to Create Content Factory Behemoth

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — In a game-changing move for Spanish-language production Telefonica, Europe’s third biggest telco, and Atresmedia, the original co-creators of “La Casa de Papel,” are uniting to create a new joint contents production giant. Aimed at gaining more scale and uniting talent relations – writers, directors and producers – the 50/50 joint venture will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content