Dogwoof has taken U.K. rights to the Sundance World Documentary Cinema selection “Taming the Garden,” from Georgian director Salomé Jashi. Toronto-based Syndicado Film Sales brokered the deal. The film, which is currently screening online in the Berlinale’s Forum section, was also sold to Film Kino Text for Germany.
The latest feature from the documentary filmmaker and video artist Jashi, “Taming the Garden” follows the incredible true story of Georgia’s billionaire ex-prime minister who decides to populate his vast private garden with fully grown trees culled from the countryside, enlisting his cohorts to strike deals with the locals before transporting the ancient trees to his estate.
“I embarked on filming this process as Georgia’s whole coastline was involved in implementing one man’s desire,” Jashi said in a director’s statement, explaining how the seed for “Garden” was planted with the surreal image of a large tree floating in the sea. “I wanted to explore what was behind this mesmerizingly strange image; to tell about the ambition of a powerful man, who alters landscapes, moves trees, leaves witnesses perplexed—all for the sake of his pleasure.”
Filming took place over the course of nearly two years. “I would travel with my small team to the coast each month to try to capture elements for the film. It was a challenging process as nothing was properly planned,” Jashi continued. “We were dependent on the natural elements like wind, rain, unexpected circumstances in the workers’ routine, even the general political situation of the day. The process of transplanting trees was very slow and key elements would happen very fast.”
The greatest challenge, however, was convincing the local inhabitants to speak with her. “Since the wealthy man behind the scenes is also the most politically powerful man in the country, they were often scared to even appear in front of the camera fearing possible consequences, the fear which we, like other fragile democracies, have in our blood,” said the director.
The resulting documentary was heralded as a “quiet, beautiful piece of nonfiction poetry” by Variety’s Jessica Kiang, who wrote in a glowing review: “Though this peculiar saga actually happened, Jashi’s film plays more like myth than journalism, as though she is documenting the folklore of the future as it is happening.”
Jashi’s last film, “The Dazzling Light of Sunset,” was awarded the top prize at Visions du Réel in 2016.