The New and Sad Soul of Georgia
Tinatin Gurchiani Interviews Young People for a Movie About Interviewing Young People for a Movie About Interviewing...
One of the pleasures of this documentary, which is set in the republic of Georgia and mostly involves interviews with young people (between 15 and 25), is, admittedly, touristic. But this is good tourism: a tourism with no spectacles, no attractions, no monuments, no starchitecture, no stunning landscapes or magical cityscapes. This is tourism of a country's soul. And this soul, the Georgian soul of our times, has a specific tone, color, and structure of feeling that's been shaped and reshaped by historical developments (the collapse of the Soviet Union, a recent war) and economic conditions (the emergence of Georgian capitalism, the crash of 2008).
The context for the interviews, which number 13 and usually happen in the kind of rooms you'd expect to find in an abandoned building, is a casting call for a movie about the young people of Georgia. Of course, the casting process turns out to be the movie itself. And what a strange movie it is. After watching the first 10 or so minutes, you begin to feel that the director, Tinatin Gurchiani, has no goal, no program, no agenda, no beginning, no end for the stories that are told by these young people. (Breaking the youthful hegemony is one old man, who knew that the producers were looking for young people but decided to answer the casting call anyway—and it worked! He is in the film for a good four minutes.)
The movie seems to throw all its components up in the air—the interviews in the shabby rooms, the heartbreaking conversations at home, the moments on a busy city street, the heavy prayers in a church, the intimate exchanges in dark Soviet-era apartments, the humans mingling with cattle in a busy market, the impenetrable walls of a prison in the middle of a town, the awkward meeting in a rural hall, the dancing and loud techno in a packed nightclub. We watch all of these scenes drift across the screen in much the same way you watch autumn leaves that have been whipped up into the air by a sudden gust of wind.
But by the third part of this film, you begin to feel the strong pull of a unifying meaning. Something is there, but we can't tell what it is. The young woman who had a baby so that she could become a more responsible and productive person? The boy who admits that he is too sensitive about the lives of animals to be a real farmer? The young man who is willing to fight for his country? The woman who is preparing to confront the mother who abandoned her as a baby? Or is it that old man who never says a word as he lovingly strokes the big head of a cow?
Only in the film's last five minutes do we finally see the source of this narrative pull and the force that unifies the whole picture. We see that all of these seemingly random stories, confessions, conversations were in fact flowing in one direction toward a single conclusion. And that single point, which is not happy but pragmatically somber, is the philosophy of the new Georgian soul, which finds itself somewhere between the old world of farm animals and grannies who do not understand why the youth like to wear torn jeans, and the globalized world of internet gambling, text messages, and hiphop. Indeed, in one scene we watch a young man drive down a steep rural road while listening to the boom-bap of Georgian hiphop. This is where they are now.