Hospitality in Georgian Cinema

How Estonian Ivo, Georgian Nika and Chechen Ahmed met is, perhaps, one of the most emotional stories in Georgian cinematography, founded on humanity—the foremost principle of the mankind.

At first glance, Tangerines, a 2014 Oscar and Golden Globe nominee in the Best Foreign Film category, is a response to political, cultural and ethnic conflicts. However, with human values at the forefront of the film, the reason for confrontation is mostly hidden between the lines.

Movie: „Tangerines“  Director - Zaza Urushadze

It is not by accident that two wounded strangers come together with a moral authority under the same roof—a person who is capable of mercy, forgiveness and love.

Contemporary lifestyle and rhythm have transformed a variety of traditions, resulting in shift of priorities. Determination and hard work have gained considerable significance in the modern-day industrial world. However, certain characteristics are ingrained in the genetic code and continue to be an inseparable part of the national identity. This is precisely why we are often characterized as “hospitable Georgians”.

Movie: „Tangerines“  Director - Zaza Urushadze

Even though hospitality is currently associated with a Georgian feast, its significance is rooted in our historic past, cultural heritage and the everyday. That is why it is no surprise that this 21st-century film is based on the same ideals that Vazha-Pshavela was writing about two centuries ago. It is simply impossible for Ivo’s words in Tangerines not to remind you of a famous line from the Stumar-Maspindzeli (Guest and Host) poem: “He is my guest, this day, though he owes me a sea of blood.”

“As I watch the film, I realize that it has been directly influenced by Vazha. Perhaps, all Georgians are influenced by him subconsciously,” says Zaza Urushadze, the director.

Movie: „Tangerines“  Director - Zaza Urushadze

Film language is a living body, with its tools varying and developing with every era. What remains unhinged is the themes that humans have been interested in for decades—something that has bothered them or simply been an inseparable part of life. That is why the tradition of hospitality, which is a cornerstone of our identity, has been an equally relevant part of film in every era.

Vazha managed to become the greatest humanist of all time, a thinker of an infinite scale, who created the kinds of masterpieces that continue to be fruit for thought for others to this day. While Zaza Urushadze created a modern interpretation of one of the most significant themes for Vazha-Pshavela, Tengiz Abuladze merged the plots of Aluda Qetelauri and Stumar-Maspindzeli and created a film in 1967 that is unlike any other with its feel and narrative style.

Movie: „Vedreba“ Director: Tengiz Abuladze

Numerous parts of Vedreba ((Plea) are based on excerpts from the epic, but the screen play does not really repeat a single poem or epic—the narrative style simply carries us through the imaginary world of Vazha’s poetry. Vedreba is an attempt to bring poetry to life, through which the director brings forth the very philosophical issues that Vazha’s works are infused with.

Hospitality in Georgian film has been means of depicting an everyday life and true nature of humans. In 1975, Rezo Ckheidze, director of Georgian Film, persuaded Valiko Kvachadze, who had just returned from Moscow, to make a short film. Inspired by Shio Aragvispireli’s work, the director decided to bring Ghvinis Qurdebi (Wine Thieves) to life—a story of Elibo, who catches shepherds in his wine cellar and ends up joining his uninvited guests to sing Mravalzhamier, as his hospitality outweighs the anger.

Movie: „Wine-thiefs“ Director: Valerian Kvachadze

Culture of hospitality varies by region in Georgia. Imereti has always been unique in that sense, which is why it has been featured in both literature and film. It is precisely the uniqueness of Imeretian character that made Nana Mchedlidze’s Imeruli Eskizebi (Imeretian Sketches) so very authentic. The film is a combination of sketches and miniatures, united by a central character, grandmother Mariam, who inspires the viewer to feel all the things that are frequently lacked by modern humans.

„Imeruli Eskizebi“ Director: Nana Mchedlishvili

Every generation is familiar with winged words from the film. We can all still hear how the happy grandmother calls her neighbors, Fatsia, Nastia, Tamara, Vaso, Valiko, from across the fence upon arrival of her grandchildren. Grandmother, the most reliable person both for her family members and villagers, treats the penniless beggar, Olia, with particular care and respect, as she welcomes him and generously shares the lunch she has prepared for her grandchildren over a spotless tablecloth. Years later, what brings her children and grandchildren together in that same courtyard is her warmth, love and care, which only the beloved grandmother is capable of.

Movie: „Corn Island“ Director: George Ovashvili

Georgian film, which artfully brings to life the theme of hospitality among many others, will be a guest of honor at the 64th Valladolid International Film Festival. The retrospective of Georgian films will feature up to 20 films from the past two decades, including Shantrapa, Shemtkhveviti Paemnebi (Accidental Date), Simindis Kundzuli (Corn Island), Skhvisi Sakhli (House of Others), Name, Patardzlebi (Brides), Dede and others.ფილმი შანტრაპა რეჟისორი ოთარ იოსელიანი, ფილმი სხვისი სახლი რეჟისორი რუსუდან გლურჯიძე, ფილმი შემთხვევითი პაემნები, რეჟისორი ლევან კოღუაშვილი   „Shantrapa“ Director: Otar Ioseliani                                          „House of Others “ Director: Rusudan Glurjidze                             „Blind Dates“ Director: Levan Koghuashvili

Considered as a major celebration of auteur cinema since 1956, the festival will host Keti Machavariani in the international jury.

“To me, hospitality is associated with one of the most unforgettable memories of a shoot I had in Ditsi and Dvani, villages on the border of occupied territories. I even have a photo in which locals residing on the very border are handing us fresh fruit from their magnificent orchards through their window shutters. Despite being destined to leave these orchards very soon, they still considered themselves as our hosts in this difficult time.”

ფილმი პატარძლები რეჟისორი თინათინ ყაჯრიშვილი, ფილმი ნამე რეჟისორი ზაზა ხალვაში, ფილმი დედე რეჟისორი მარიამ ხაჭვანი   "Brides"    Director: Tinatin Kajrishvili                                              „Name“ Director: Zaza Khalvashi                                                       "Dede"  Director: Mariam Khachvani

Keti Machavariani will be one of our guest-hosts in Valladolid, Spain. As she hands our wristband to one of the representatives of the world of cinema, Georgia will gain the status of a future host .

“What would be my advice to someone that has never been to Georgia before? First of all, I would recommend visiting my favorite regions, Kakheti and Imereti, to taste Georgian wine and listen to Georgian polyphonic singing. The next stop should be Fabrika, where you are bound to be convinced that Georgia is truly a part of Europe. And finally, walk a lot—but in places where ordinary people do.”

Author: Mariam Kanchaveli