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Discovering Georgian Cinema

September 26, 2014 - April 19, 2015

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Download the exhibition brochure (PDF).

"Discovering Georgian Cinema is the kind of ambitious exhibition that reminds us how much of film history is yet to be written.”—San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Georgian cinema is exotic and, like the mountainous terrain celebrated by the Russian writers Lermontov and Tolstoy, can be forbidding as well as fiercely beautiful. It is also largely unknown.”—New York Times

Discovering Georgian Cinema is truly an opportunity for discovery— a chance to explore the rich cinematic heritage of a place that has produced many wonderful films during the past century. You will encounter an impressive range of stylistic approaches and thematic concerns, from antibureaucratic satires of the Soviet system to philosophical studies rooted in a humanist tradition, as well as lyrical depictions of Georgia’s spectacular landscape. The series was inspired by BAM/PFA’s significant holdings of Soviet Georgian films, which led me to undertake extensive research at archives throughout the world to assemble a selection of the best films for this touring series, the largest retrospective of Georgian film ever mounted in North America.



The retrospective, which includes some fifty programs and will continue through spring 2015, surveys the cinematic tradition that has emerged from this distinctive cultural milieu during the past century. Spotlighting the talents of individual directors, the programs concentrate on three main periods of film production: the wonderfully creative films of the silent era; the flowering of narrative filmmaking that began in the mid-fifties with Tengiz Abuladze and Rezo Chkheidze’s award-winning Magdana’s Donkey and is well represented here by a concentration of films from the 1960s to the 1980s; and the new wave of Georgian cinema, which demonstrates the talents of the young filmmaking
community today.

Susan Oxtoby, Senior Film Curator

Friday, September 26, 2014
7:30 p.m. Blue Mountains
Eldar Shengelaia (USSR, 1984). Digital Restoration! Eldar Shengelaia in person. Part Jacques Tati, part Ermanno Olmi, this inspired satire by one of Georgia’s leading directors is a charming and disarming critique of bureaucracy. (97 mins)

Saturday, September 27, 2014
6:30 p.m. Twenty-Six Commissars
Nikoloz Shengelaia (USSR, 1932). Imported Print! Eldar Shengelaia in Person. Judith Rosenberg on piano. Set against a backdrop of oil derricks and sand dunes, this impressive silent-era feature about the geopolitical struggle for the control of oil fields is still relevant today. Preceded by Work at Oil Derricks and Oil Extraction, a fascinating 1907 look at Baku. (77 mins)

Saturday, September 27, 2014
6:30 p.m. Twenty-Six Commissars


Saturday, September 27, 2014
8:30 p.m. The White Caravan
Eldar Shengelaia, Tamaz Meliava (USSR, 1963). Imported Print! Eldar Shengelaia in person. Shephards battle the elements and manmade temptations in this strikingly shot Georgian work, an entry into the 1964 Cannes Film Festival. (97 mins)

Sunday, September 28, 2014
4:00 p.m. Repentance
Tengiz Abuladze (USSR, 1984/1987). Imported 35mm Print! Nana Janelidze in person. One of the first Russian films to deal with the terrors of the Stalin era, Repentance combines symbolism and surrealism for this look at a paranoid dictator. “Mordantly funny . . . as artful as it is sobering” (NY Times). (153 mins)

Monday, September 29, 2014
7:00 p.m. An Unusual Exhibition
Eldar Shengelaia (USSR, 1968). Eldar Shengelaia in person. A sculptor aspires to a life of creativity, but finds reality—in the form of conformity, bureaucracy, and compromise—far more difficult. A tragicomedy of daily proportions, and one of Georgian cinema’s best-received works. (96 mins)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
7:00 p.m. Will There Be a Theater Up There?!
Nana Janelidze (Georgia, 2011). Bay Area Premiere! Nana Janelidze in person. Part historical essay, part re-created biography this film uses the tragic circumstances of the twentieth century as a backdrop for the chronicle of a Georgian family. Preceded by Janelidze’s The Family. (80 mins)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
7:00 p.m. Will There Be a Theater Up There?!


Saturday, October 4, 2014
6:30 p.m. Little Red Devils
Ivan Perestiani (USSR, 1923). Judith Rosenberg on piano. Three daredevils volunteer as scouts in the Red Cavalry—and encounter famed anarchist Nestor Makhno—in Perestiani’s entertaining silent film, which borrows from the American adventure styles of Douglas Fairbanks. (100 mins)

Saturday, October 11, 2014
5:30 p.m. Three Lives: Parts 1 & 2
Ivan Perestiani (USSR, 1924). Judith Rosenberg on piano. Distinctive location shooting, inspired compositions, and beautiful use of natural light lend an atmospheric, almost documentary quality to this silent work set in late nineteenth-century Georgia. (150 mins)

Sunday, October 12, 2014
4:00 p.m. The Case of Tariel Mklavadze
Ivan Perestiani (USSR, 1925). Imported Print! Lecture by Peter Rollberg. Judith Rosenberg on piano. This courtroom drama about social injustice combines an innovative use of flashbacks with elements of subtle satire and melodrama. A “masterwork of emotionally compelling narrative filmmaking”(Sergei Kapterev). (98 mins)

Friday, October 17, 2014
7:00 p.m. Magdana’s Donkey
Tengiz Abuladze, Revaz Chkeidze (USSR, 1955). Eisensteinian flair merges with an inventive Georgian musical score in this tale of a widow, her three children, and a donkey. Winner, Best Fiction Film, Cannes 1956. (67 mins)

Friday, October 17, 2014
8:30 p.m. Molba
Tengiz Abuladze (USSR, 1967). Poetry and song combine in this black-and-white work, based on two epic poems by Georgian writer Vaza Psavela. “Magisterially shot” (National Film Theatre of London). (80 mins)

Sunday, October 19, 2014
4:00 p.m. Georgian Kulturfilms
Introduced by Nino Dzandzava. Judith Rosenberg on piano. This special program showcases recent efforts to digitally restore examples of the kulturfilm boom of the late 1920s and early 1930s, films made by young cinephile directors in Soviet Georgia. A fascinating sampling of silent cinema from Georgia. (104 mins)

Saturday, October 25, 2014
6:30 p.m. Eliso
Nikoloz Shengelaia (USSR, 1928). Live Music by Trio Kavkasia. One of Russian and Georgian cinema’s greatest silent-film achievements, this historical epic evokes the tragic fate of a nation pacified in 1864 by the Tsarist Russian Empire. Features beautiful portrayals of Caucasus customs and celebrations. Special admission prices apply. (80 mins)

Sunday, October 26, 2014
4:00 p.m. Eliso
Nikoloz Shengelaia (USSR, 1928). Live Music by Trio Kavkasia. One of Russian and Georgian cinema’s greatest silent-film achievements, this historical epic evokes the tragic fate of a nation pacified in 1864 by the Tsarist Russian Empire. Features beautiful portrayals of Caucasus customs and celebrations. Special admission prices apply. (80 mins)

Saturday, November 1, 2014
6:00 p.m. The Wishing Tree
Tengiz Abuladze (USSR, 1977). Over twenty stories make up this episodic Georgian pastorale, set in the pre-Revolutionary birthplace of the famous painter Pirosmani. “Coordinated with the utmost consideration for what pleases the eye” (Hollywood Reporter). (108 mins)

Sunday, November 2, 2014
4:00 p.m. Pirosmani
Giorgi Shengelaia (USSR, 1969). This poetic, visually stunning biography of the great Georgian primitive artist Nikoloz (Niko) Pirosmanishvili won the Grand Prize at the Chicago Film Festival. “A splendid and innovative work of poetic biography” (New Yorker). (85 mins)

Saturday, November 8, 2014
6:00 p.m. Buba
Noutsa Gogoberidze (USSR, 1930) Imported Print! Judith Rosenberg on piano. Long suppressed and nearly written out of film history, this exceptional documentary was an artistic collaboration between Georgia’s first female director and the noted avant-garde painter David Kakabadze. With Felicità (2009), a deadpan, hilarious short on the work of women. (69 mins)

Saturday, November 8, 2014
6:00 p.m. Buba


Sunday, November 9, 2014
4:00 p.m. Our Courtyard
Rezo Chkheidze (USSR, 1956). The picaresque village comedy is updated for Georgia’s postwar urban realities in Rezo Chkheidze’s lyrical tale of life, love, and collective labor inside a chaotic Tbilisi apartment block. Stars future filmmaker Giorgi Shengelaia. (89 mins)

Monday, November 17, 2014
7:00 p.m. Street Days & Women from Georgia
Levan Koguashvili (Georgia/US, 2009) Bay Area Premiere! Levan Koguashvili in person. This eye-opening, compelling documentary sheds light on the hardships experienced by Georgian women in America. Followed by Street Days, a powerful character study of a drug addict struggling to survive in Tbilisi. (143 mins)

Monday, November 17, 2014
7:00 p.m. Street Days & Women from Georgia


Tuesday, November 18, 2014
7:00 p.m. Blind Dates
Levan Koguashvili (Georgia, 2013). Levan Koguashvili in person. A forty-something bachelor seeks true love, even if he is still living at home with his parents, in this whimsical Georgian love story. (95 mins)

Thursday, November 20, 2014
7:00 p.m. Amerikanka
Leo Esakya (USSR, 1930). Imported Print! Introduced by Nikolay Mikhailovich Borodachev and Peter Bagrov. Judith Rosenberg on piano. A rediscovered archival treasure from famed Russian studio Gosfilmofond, this Potemkin on Park Row is a stylistically original piece of revolutionary propaganda, which tracks the radical activities of an underground print shop. (76 mins)

Thursday, November 20, 2014
8:45 p.m. Khabarda
Mikheil Chiaureli (USSR, 1931). Imported Print! Introduced by Nikolay Mikhailovich Borodachev and Peter Bagrov. Judith Rosenberg on piano. Set in Tbilisi, Khabarda is a satire that plays on the tension between petit bourgeois values and the incoming sweep of Communist ideology. Another rare, rediscovered find from the archives of Gosfilmofond. (64 mins)

Saturday, November 22, 2014
6:30 p.m. Salt for Svanetia
Mikhail Kalatozov (USSR, 1930). Judith Rosenberg on piano. A snowbound, rock-hewn village in the harsh Caucasus is the setting for his bracing, rhythmically cut early masterpiece from the director of I Am Cuba. Nature, politics, and cinema combine in this salute to “the dynamic sublime.” (66 mins)

Saturday, November 22, 2014
8:00 p.m. A Nail in the Boot
Mikhail Kalatozov (USSR, 1930/1932). Imported Print! Judith Rosenberg on piano. The saying “For want of a nail, a war was lost” is brought to dynamic, stirring life in this rapid-fire look at the Red Army. Another early masterpiece from the director of I Am Cuba. Followed by Patrick Cazal’s documentary on the director, Hurricane Kalatozov (2010). (128 mins)

Saturday, November 22, 2014
8:00 p.m. A Nail in the Boot


Friday, November 28, 2014
5:30 p.m. The Cranes Are Flying
Mikhail Kalatozov (USSR, 1957). Mikhail Kalatozov’s stunningly visualized drama of young love and ambition destroyed by war. A key work of both the post-Stalin era and all of world cinema. Winner, Palme d’Or, 1958 Cannes Film Festival. (95 mins)

Saturday, November 29, 2014
5:30 p.m. I Am Cuba
Mikhail Kalatozov (Cuba/USSR, 1964). Made in 1962 as an act of Soviet-Cuban friendship, and written by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, this is an extraordinary example of "pure" cinema in the service of politics. "A deliriously one-of-a-kind movie, wildly schizophrenic in its bizarre mix of Slavic solemnity and Latin sensuality" (Telluride Film Festival). (138 mins)

Saturday, December 6, 2014
6:00 p.m. Flight of the Sparrows
Teimur Babluani (USSR, 1980) New 35mm Print! A fistfight on a crowded train triggers something far larger in this intriguing Georgian allegory, one of Georgian cinema’s standout works of the eighties. (60 mins)

Sunday, December 7, 2014
4:00 p.m. The Swimmer
Irakli Kvirikadze (USSR, 1984). An amusing and artfully crafted tale of three generations of long-distance swimmers, and the several decades of Georgian history their lives represent. Preceded by Kirikadze’s The Jar (1971), which transposes Pirandello’s story to rural Georgia. (134 mins)

Sunday, December 7, 2014
4:00 p.m. The Swimmer


Saturday, December 13, 2014
6:30 p.m. Saba
Mikheil Chiaureli (USSR, 1929). Judith Rosenberg on piano. This silent comic melodrama on the evils of alcohol was filmed on location in Tbilisi, and serves as a rare glimpse of that city circa 1929. (100 mins)

Sunday, December 14, 2014
4:00 p.m. Paradise Lost
Davit Rondeli (USSR, 1938). Imported Print! This hilarious satire on the follies and parasitic lifestyles of the fallen nobility was termed the best Georgian comedy of the 1930s. A rare chance to see Soviet Georgian silent film comedy. (85 mins)

Thursday, January 22, 2015
7:30 p.m. Otar Iosseliani’s Early Films
Otar Iosseliani (USSR, 1958–64). Imported Prints! A rare chance to see the early films by one of the great Georgian filmmakers, Otar Iosseliani. Titles include Akvareli, Song About a Flower, April, and Cast Iron. (93 mins)

Saturday, January 24, 2015
6:30 p.m. Falling Leaves
Otar Iosseliani (USSR, 1967). A young boy gets his first job (in a wine factory!), and soon observes that corruption is the best way to get by. Falling Leaves is typical of the best Georgian films in seeming light and low-key at first, until the satire begins to cut very deep. (91 mins)

Saturday, January 24, 2015
8:15 p.m. Once Upon a Time There Was a Singing Blackbird
Otar Iosseliani (USSR, 1971). Iosseliani’s wry comedy, set in Tbilisi, follows a young musician who is perpetually in a hurry and late for every appointment because his life is so full of chance encounters. A genial, uplifting song to all those who choose life and love over lesser things, like work. (80 mins)

Thursday, January 29, 2015
7:30 p.m. Pastorale
Otar Iosseliani (USSR, 1975). In this exquisite film by Georgian director Otar Iosseliani, a string quartet’s visit to a small village is treated with the gentle satire usually associated with the Czech New Wave. “Iosseliani is (Georgia’s) greatest director” (Tom Luddy). (94 mins)

Saturday, January 31, 2015
5:00 p.m. Some Interviews on Personal Matters
Lana Gogoberidze (USSR, 1977). Imported Print! Lana Gogoberidze in person. A bold mixture of documentary and social-psychological drama—and the first film to make mention of Stalin’s camps—Some Interviews on Personal Matters makes powerful statements about women, work, family, and marriage that earned it international acclaim as the first feminist film of Soviet cinema. (95 mins)

Sunday, February 1, 2015
2:00 p.m. The Day Is Longer Than the Night
Lana Gogoberidze (USSR, 1984). Imported Print! Lana Gogoberidze in person. The history of Georgia in the twentieth century is reimagined through the life and times of woman in Lana Gogoberidz’s moving drama, which premiered at Cannes in 1984. (105 mins)

Saturday, February 7, 2015
8:30 p.m. My Grandmother
Kote Mikaberidze (USSR, 1929). Gogol meets Chaplin in this riotous, scathingly antibureaucratic satire, one of the eccentric high points of Soviet silent cinema. Stop-motion bits of puppetry and animation, as well as expressionist decor and camera angles, make My Grandmother seem like a blast from the future, not the past. (65 mins)

Friday, February 13, 2015
8:40 p.m. The White Caravan
Eldar Shengelaia, Tamaz Meliava (USSR, 1963). Imported Print! Back by Popular Demand! Shepherds battle the elements and manmade temptations in this strikingly shot Georgian work, an entry into the 1964 Cannes Film Festival. (97 mins)

Sunday, February 15, 2015
2:00 p.m. Alone, Georgia
Otar Iosseliani (France, 1994). Otar Iosseliani's fascinating four-hour documentary presents the history of this former Soviet republic through interwoven images of landscapes, artwork, the civil war, and clips from other Georgian films. (240 mins)

Saturday, February 21, 2015
6:15 p.m. Big Green Valley
Merab Kokochashvili (USSR, 1968). Imported Print! The modern world comes to one individualistic worker’s forsaken section of the Soviet empire in Merab Kokochashvili’s neorealist village drama, one of the most singularly pessimistic works of sixties Soviet film. A true rarity. (80 mins)

Saturday, February 28, 2015
5:45 p.m. Repentance
Tengiz Abuladze (USSR, 1984/1987). Imported 35mm Print! Back by Popular Demand! One of the first Russian films to deal with the terrors of the Stalin era, Repentance combines symbolism and surrealism for this look at a paranoid dictator. “Mordantly funny . . . as artful as it is sobering” (NY Times). (153 mins)

Sunday, March 1, 2015
3:00 p.m. Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors
Sergei Paradjanov (USSR, 1964). Pagan rituals, demonology, folklore and legend come to life in Paradjanov’s hypnotic, visually striking updating of a Romeo-and-Juliet-like tale of star-crossed lovers in a remote mountain village. “Astonishing . . . extraordinary . . . one of the supreme works of Soviet cinema” (Jonathan Rosenbaum). On 35mm! (92 mins)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
7:30 p.m. The Color of Pomegranates
Sergei Paradjanov (USSR, 1969). 4K Digital Restoration! Introduced by Harsha Ram. A brilliant and magical work that reimagines Armenian history and culture through the life and writings of its greatest poet. "Watching . . . The Color of Pomegranates is like opening a door and walking into another dimension, where time has stopped and beauty has been unleashed” (Martin Scorsese).

Friday, March 6, 2015
7:00 p.m. The Legend of Suram Fortress
Dodo Abashidze, Sergei Paradjanov (USSR, 1985). Imported Print! Introduced by Harsha Ram. Caucasus mountain villagers attempt to repel invaders by constructing an invincible fortress in this mystical epic, which evokes the jewel-like colors and exquisite decor of medieval illuminated manuscripts. “Dazzling! Replete with richness and splendor!” (LA Times). (82 mins)

Friday, March 6, 2015
8:50 p.m. Ashik Kerib
Sergei Paradjanov (USSR, 1988). Imported Print! Introduced by Harsha Ram. A poor singer embarks on a ten-year journey in Paradjanov’s testament to art and the all-conquering power of love. “Wildly beautiful!” (NY Times). (78 mins)

Sunday, March 8, 2015
3:00 p.m. Arabesque on the Pirosmani Theme & Sergei Paradjanov: The Rebel
Sergei Paradjanov (USSR, 1985). New 35mm Print! Paradjanov’s tribute to the great Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani, followed by Patrick Cazals’s tribute to Paradjanov himself. (77 mins)

Saturday, March 21, 2015
6:30 p.m. The Way Home
Aleksandr Rekhviashvili (USSR, 1981/1987). Inspired by Pasolini, this example of Georgian cinema in the eighties takes the viewer along some peculiar roads and across a unique landscape: Georgian history and legend, politics and social stratification, religion and ethics. (83 mins)

Saturday, March 21, 2015
8:15 p.m. The Nylon Christmas Tree
Rezo Esadze (USSR, 1985). Imported Print! A group of mismatched travelers gather to take a bus on New Year’s Eve in actor/director Rezo Esadze’s work of allegorical realism, which uses one night, and one setting, to investigate the moral and social quandaries of Georgia, circa 1985. (78 mins)

Sunday, March 22, 2015
3:00 p.m. The Bittersweet Films of Mikhail Kobakhidze
Mikhail Kobakhidze (USSR/France, 1967–2001). Recommended for ages 8 & up. Free for members. A selection of short allegorical films that recall the work of Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati, and Albert Lamorisse. Titles include The Musicians, The Wedding, The Umbrella, and En Chemin. (61 mins)

Saturday, March 28, 2015
6:00 p.m. Iliko, Ilarion, Grandmother And Me
Tengiz Abuladze (USSR, 1963). The eccentric inhabitants of an everyday Georgian village bungle their way through four seasons, war and peace, life and death in Abuladze’s sweet-natured, lyric pastorale. (90 mins)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
7:00 p.m. The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear
Tinatin Gurchiani (Georgia/Germany, 2012). Student pick! Interview footage with young Georgians youths is combined with vérité segments of their daily lives in this compelling documentary, framed as a series of casting calls for hopeful actors. Winner, 2013 Sundance Directing Award in World Cinema. (101 mins)

Saturday, April 4, 2015
6:30 p.m. Tangerines
Zaza Urushadze (Estonia/Georgia, 2013). 2015 Academy Award Nominee For Best Foreign Language Film! An elderly civilian finds himself caring for two wounded soldiers from opposite sides in this insightful antiwar parable, set during the notorious 1992 Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. (84 mins)

Saturday, April 4, 2015
8:15 p.m. The Last Crusaders
Siko Dolidze (USSR, 1934). Judith Rosenberg on piano. Ethnographic footage of the remote Khevsuri culture forms a scenic backdrop to this class-struggle drama involving a young Khevsuri, murdered after returning from the big city, and his brother’s quest for vengeance. (68 mins)

Friday, April 17, 2015
7:00 p.m. The Doomed: Russian Soldiers in France
Lev Push (USSR, 1930). Imported Print! Judith Rosenberg on piano. Prison escapes, mutinies, a love affair, and vengeful plots fuel this entertaining silent Russian epic, set among Russian émigrés in Paris after the First World War. (70 mins)

Friday, April 17, 2015
8:30 p.m. Mzago and Gela
Lev Push, Shalva Khuskivadze (USSR, 1934). Imported Print! Judith Rosenberg on piano. Moving from isolated mountain peaks to Tblisi’s thriving streets, Mzago and Gela combines nonfictional ethnography and fictionalized narrative to highlight the move of Georgia’s isolated mountain cultures from rural to city life, tradition to modernity, tribalism to communism. (60 mins)

Saturday, April 18, 2015
6:30 p.m. Susa
Rusudan Pirveli (Georgia, 2010). A quiet young boy weaves his way through the underbelly of contemporary Georgia in this evocative update of the neorealist tradition. “Beautifully captures the way a crumbling locale permeates the character’s lives” (Variety). With Nana Ekvtimishvili’s short, Waiting for Mum. (93 mins)

Saturday, April 18, 2015
8:30 p.m. Discovering Georgian Cinema: Closing Program
BAM/PFA’s eight-month retrospective of Georgian cinema closes with a pair of recent works, Salomé Alexi’s deadpan, hilarious, Felicità, and Salomé Jashi’s artful study of a provincial town, Bakhmaro. (88 mins)

Discovering Georgian Cinema is a collaboration between the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Organized by Susan Oxtoby, senior film curator, BAM/PFA, and Jytte Jensen, curator, Department of Film, MoMA.

The retrospective at BAM/PFA is supported in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Curatorial Fellowship program, which allowed for extensive research, and the National Endowment for the Arts, which helped underwrite the touring series organized by BAM/PFA. We wish to thank our community partners, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble, the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, and the Department of Music at UC Berkeley for their support.

We are grateful to the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, the Georgian National Film Center and the National Archives of Georgia, Tbilisi; Gosfilmofond of Russia, Moscow; ArsenalInstitute for Film and Video, Berlin; Eye Film Institute, Amsterdam; La Cinémathèque de Toulouse; La Cinémathèque Française, Paris; British Film Institute, London; and the Pordenone Silent Film Festival for assisting with research materials as well as archival print loans. Special thanks to our indispensible volunteers and interns: Sophia Babluani and Nino Chichau, at MoMA; and Alix Sandra Blevins, Josephine Sedgwick, Marah Trujillo, Peter Washburn, and Jenny White, at BAM/PFA.