Since its inaugural edition at the 60th Thessaloniki Film Festival in 2019, the Meet the Future program has offered a look ahead to the next generation of emerging film talents set to make waves in Greece, the wider Mediterranean region and beyond.
After training the spotlight on up-and-coming documentary filmmakers from Serbia, who presented five projects in post-production to industry guests at last year’s Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, the focus shifts this year to Georgia, a country that’s seen its cinema profile rise in recent years on the strength of directors including acclaimed docmaker Salomé Jashi, whose arresting feature “Taming the Garden” (pictured) played in the Sundance World Cinema Documentary Competition.
Yianna Sarri, the head of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival’s industry arm, Agora, considers herself “one of the biggest fans of Georgian cinema for many years now.” “They make beautiful cinema,” she said, adding that she had “this [Georgian focus] in mind for a very long time.”
In collaboration with the Georgian Film Center, Thessaloniki presents five up-and-coming Georgian documentary filmmakers who will present their next projects during a special Meet the Future showcase on March 15.
Here are this year’s participants:
Next project: “Mugamati”
Producer: Tamta Gabrichidze
Synopsis: In Joseph Stalin’s hometown, a huge statue of the leader was secretly removed from its plinth in the middle of the night. Now nobody knows its exact location. Unfatigued Stalinists, trying their best to return the statue to its rightful place, decide to change course of action and hire a group of old musicians, believing their “magical” music might help them in their quest. For the musicians, this is a chance to prove the worth of their music; that it deserves not to be forgotten. They will do anything to find the statue and return it to the yard of Stalin’s home museum.
Gabrichidze: A few years ago I found out about a tiny and beautiful garden. It was so impressive to discover that this little garden and the people there are an analogy for the big world we live in. On one hand an old generation, on another hand young people. The joys and sorrows, the future and the past: all is gathered there. This little garden is a chance for me as a director to spread my wings and experiment with topics which are most interesting for me at this very moment of my life. This film is going to be a musical documentary with mystic elements. It will talk about the present, past and the future, which one day will become the past – briefly, about the circle of life.
Next project: “Blueberry Dreams”
Producers: Parachute Films (Georgia), Y.N Productions – La Cuisine aux Images (France)
Synopsis: In Samegrelo, a Georgian region bordering the de facto state Abkhazia, tensions have persisted since the 1992 conflict. There, a family has staked its future on cultivating a blueberry field; the first harvest will determine if they succeed or lose everything. The parents, Soso and Nino, want to ensure a good life for their children, but their young sons, Giorgi and Lazare, have dreams beyond this uncertain land. Through the intimate observation of the everyday – of hardship, family joy and future reflections – in this volatile border zone, we observe how life unravels and how children find their own way.
Mikaberidze: “Blueberry Dreams” started when I met first time my cousins in Abkhazia, a self-proclaimed republic within Georgia occupied by Russia. There are two boys living in a completely closed territory and they dream big. When Giorgi was about to be born, they bombed the hospital; it’s still in his mother’s memory. The region still has Russian border guards. From time to time they arrest people who take land and steal cattle. And I was wondering how it’s possible to put everything at stake for a volatile land. The father told me the land is the most important thing, it’s the future. But with what is happening in Ukraine, the fear is bigger than ever that it will happen again in Georgia. “Blueberry Dreams” is a film about kids who live in a very unstable zone with big dreams and shows how borders and conflicts affect their imagination.
Next project: “Performance”
Producer: OpyoDoc Production Company
Synopsis: Theater is just a moment in time. It lasts only for a second and cannot be preserved – as soon as the performance is over, it’s gone forever. In the same way, the memories of a theater in a provincial Georgian town, where the filmmaker’s grandmother staged several performances, are fleeting. Looking through archival footage, the director goes back to her childhood years, thus finding herself closer to her grandmother. Finding the people connected to this past and filming their lives as they are now is an act of performance in her grandmother’s name.
Tsaava: The idea is to go back to the very last years of my grandmother’s life, when she moved to a small town to stage several performances. This was the time of darkness – post-war Georgia, hit by ethnic conflicts and civil war. The country was ruined, left without any electricity, gas or food. My grandmother, already in her elderly years, moved into a freezing home all alone to work and keep the theater alive. The performances I will use in the film show the reality of the country in those times, forcing leading actors to leave the country and flee to Europe, to find jobs to survive. Along with the archive footage I’m going to use, I plan to search for a leading actress, my grandmother’s favorite, who moved to Italy. I want to document her life now and what she has gone through, to support her family back in Georgia. War is considered a male duty, but afterwards, in the post-war reality, often women have to take over responsibility, and this story is mostly never told. In Georgia, women were the ones who took the main burden on their shoulders to save their families and they still are the leading force for the country to survive.
Next project: “The Fortress”
Producer: Shorena Tevzadze
Synopsis: On a fortress oddly built to look medieval, David, the castle’s founder, holds various patriotic activities, from martial arts camp for children to a sculpture festival. Thirteen-year-old Giorgi, one of the boys attending the camp, disobeys the strict rules, hoping to have fun during his stay. Yet the camp’s nationalist conditioning manages to somehow have the desired effect on him. The film observes this absurd microcosm and offers us an illustration of a male-dominated contemporary Georgia, balancing between past values and future expectations.
Tevzadze: I went through quite a long journey before I decided to make this film. Everything started in 2015 when my friend invited me to attend the final competition where her 10-year-old son was jousting in the ring. This was not an Olympic sport discipline, but at the Georgian national martial arts school, which is quite popular and appreciated in my country. I’m also the mother of a boy and those scenes of the final competition became quite thought-provoking for me. Soon I understood that the school was not the setting of my film, and I started filming when the national martial arts students (tweens and teens) went for summer holidays in the fortress. The film observes the boys and the owner of the fortress at the same time as a microcosm of male culture with its legends and myths, art and politics.
Latest project: “How the Room Felt” (screening in the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival)
Producer: Salomé Jashi (Jashi Film)
Synopsis: A group of lesbians get together regularly at a football club canteen in a Georgian city, to hang out, to party, to hug each other and to discuss existential issues. It’s a cozy, safe space for these young women in a society that’s not known for embracing its LGBTQ+ community. Discrimination, exclusion and violence are part of the daily reality for these sports enthusiasts and their girlfriends, whether on the streets or, in some cases, within the family. When they’re together, they find the love, warmth and safety they need to fully be themselves. The director’s camera skims the outer walls of this protective bubble, making palpable the extraordinary atmosphere between the women in this room – as the mood shifts from celebratory and elated, to intimate and lethargic, to lively with debate.
Kapanadze: It was my first day in the city of Kutaisi when I accidentally encountered a small group of young people. It was late at night. They invited me to join them. We drank cheap liquor and chain-smoked all the cigarettes in the world. The old red radio in the corner of the kitchen would lose signal from time to time, cutting the music out. There were four of them: Lana, Anuka, Sopho and Anano. Through the conversation, I discovered that Lana and Anuka were professional football players. The smoky kitchen with wooden walls and soft warm lights felt cozy. “Sometimes I am a woman, sometimes I am a man, more like I’m both and none,” Lana said. The red radio went on again, playing “Within” by Daft Punk. I suddenly felt at home in a city I had never been before, among people I had never met before. I wanted to capture the atmosphere, the feeling there. And I also wanted to make their environment visible in the film. The struggles, dialogues and small stories of this unique community reflected the social and political situation of the country and their city. The film invites viewers to just spend some time in this atmosphere, to chill with the protagonists and to feel like a member of this self-made family.