Bettina Brokemper of Cologne-based Heimatfilm, the German co-producer of Lars von Trier films including “Melancholia” and “Antichrist,” has boarded “Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry,” the third feature from rising Georgian filmmaker Elene Naveriani, which was selected for the Rotterdam Film Festival’s CineMart co-production market.
Based on the novel by Georgian author and feminist activist Tamta Melashili, the film tells the story of a single woman in her late 40s stuck in a small, backward-looking town who discovers love for the first time.
Naveriani, who directed the Rotterdam premiere “I Am Truly a Drop of Sun on Earth” and the Locarno prize winner “Wet Sand,” told Variety that when she first read Melashili’s novel she “imagined how powerful it would be to see this story on the screen, how empowering and controversial.”
“The main character of the story, Etero, is a feminist in her own way – without even realizing it,” she said. “She struggles in her present with painful experiences that she has endured in her past. She was always invisible, but since the death of her brother and her father she has somehow rebuilt herself. She has guided her life to stay away from men. She runs a household supply store with products she knows only women would come to buy. She leads a simple but fiercely independent life.”
Though Etero’s aim “isn’t to revolutionize the world,” added the director, “every day she wins a tiny revolution by confronting the role people try to assign to her.”
“Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry” is a timely story in which body politics and sexuality will play a key role.
“Culturally and socially, as women age their bodies are considered ‘out of date’ in contrast to younger bodies that are fantasized by heteronormative patriarchal culture,” said Naveriani. “Etero carries her voluptuous, big size and curvy body with confidence. She doesn’t let herself be affected by conventional beauty standards. She likes herself, she loves her full body, her breasts, her hips. She feels attractive. Her conviction is first and foremost personal, but her stance is truly revolutionary.”
Tapped for the lead role is Georgian thesp Eka Chavleishvili, who starred in Naveriani’s Locarno Cineasti del presente selection “Wet Sand.” “When I read Etero’s story, for me it was clear that Eka Chavleishvili was an actress who was able to embody her life,” said the director. “Her rigor, sensibility, and the approach towards the acting was fascinating. Eka has strong charisma and a strong presence in front of the camera that is captivating.”
“Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry” is produced by Thomas Reichlin and Britta Rindelaub of Geneva-based Alva Film, whose credits include Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner “Hive,” and co-produced by Bettina Brokemper of Heimatfilm and Ketie Danelia of Takes Film, who produced Levan Akin’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight player “And Then We Danced.”
“Our country as well as the world faces the big challenge of femicide. Every other day women are facing hate, aggression and death; female voices are fading without being noticed,” said Danelia. “Our film is a magical love story, full of surprises and real human emotions. I cannot explain how proud I am to be a part of a strong and independent Etero’s journey with such a visionary director and a powerful co-production team.”
“With ‘Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry,’ Elene intends to highlight women who are often left in the shadows, who do not have examples of their desires and independent lifestyle in films,” added Reichlin. “We are convinced that the way Elene wants to tell the story of Etero is in line with the current concerns of society.
“The importance of making this film is reinforced by the nomination of ‘Wet Sand,’ her latest film, for the best film category at the Swiss Film Awards. This wonderful news pushes us to go ahead in supporting the production of ‘Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry’ so that Elene can go all the way and make the film a success.”
The Rotterdam Film Festival’s CineMart co-production market runs Jan. 30-Feb. 2.