Five experimental short films on everyday life in Georgia

Plotki (Rejs e.V.), Sakdoc Film and the Centre for Arts and Culture at the Central European University proudly present five Black Shorts from Georgia.

In May 2011, twenty young creative people from across Europe met for the first time in Garikula, Georgia. Some of us had never made a film before in our lives, whilst others had considerable experience in the medium. Each of us arrived with a topic for a possible film in mind and more topics came up as we discussed film, Georgia and the perfect khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread). After some basic training in filmmaking, we split into 5 groups and set off to different parts of the country for 8 days of shooting, before meeting again in Tbilisi to review our footage. After a fortnight’s break, we came together in Budapest and edited the footage over four days. The resulting Black Shorts are as diverse as they are intriguing. The films capture the endearing character of a barber’s shop in Tbilisi; the highflying web of cable cars in Chiatura; the lively theatrics of death in Kutaisi; the second life of objects as scrap metal in-and-around Zugdidi; and a day in the life of an underpass’s resident band in Tbilisi.

Is this really the best way to make films?

Probably not. You might want to choose people with more experience in filmmaking, to give people set roles and to allow much more time for everything – but Black Shorts is about more than just filmmaking. It’s about people exploring a new country through the medium of film, it’s about the interactions between young people from different parts of Europe, it’s about learning how to work with a new medium, it’s about the challenges and joys of group work and about making new friends in countries many of us have never been to before. But most of all, it’s about the joy of spreading a collective rumour (a plotki) throughout the region.

So why Georgia? Why Black?

Black is both a provocative colour bristling with symbolic tension, and the mundane colour of everyday Georgian life found in most peoples’ clothing, hair and the name of the sea. This fascinated us, as it allowed an entry point for exploring everyday life along broad thematic lines that did not exoticise, and yet it still stimulated the artistic imagination. It was suitably provocative, with angry complaints from Georgians outside Georgia demanding we should rather focus on the ‘positive’ aspects such as Georgian folklore. And yet, encouragingly for all involved, it was warmly greeted by those who were the subjects of the films; they were more than happy to have their everyday stories filmed and we became friends. We hope the films did them justice.

Where next for Black Shorts?

The Worldwide Premiere took place in Budapest on June 9th 2011, the films will be published online and the DVD is currently working its way across the continent. Depending on when you read this, you may have missed, or may still have time to catch, screenings in Tbilisi, Berlin, Prague, Garikula, Sofia, Bucharest, Leipzig, Frankfurt/Main and once again in Budapest.

Black Shorts is generously funded by the European Cultural Foundation and The Open Society Institute.

Hair – It’s one of the most visible parts of our body whether black or white, long or short, straight or curly. This black short concentrates on hair as a character and takes place where it is shaped – a barber’s shop in Tbilisi. Nowadays many mainstream salons are alike, but the barber shop in Hairminators retains the ˜white gowned” spirit of old. Waiting involves dominoes, eating, chatting, singing, or even sleeping before the hair which “needs to be organized” arrives (14:25 mins) (A film by Data Chigholashvili, Salome Joglidze and Birgit Kuch)

Chiatura was once one of the most prosperous industrial cities in Georgia, boasting rich resources of manganese. Due its location in a steep valley surrounded by high mountains, Chiatura installed a system of cable cars to transport workers to and from the mines, as well as manganese from the mines to the factories. With deindustrialisation the manganese industry shrank and Chiatura’s population halved, but many of the cable cars still run, establishing a net between the city and its people. Chiatura, my Pride explores how this extraordinary transport system gives character to the city forty years after its installation. (13:43 mins) (A film by Stephanie Endter, Max Kuzmenko, Lisa Müller, Ulrike Penk and Kajetan Tadrowski)

Gulo – is a film that explores the line between death and life, visualising the theatrical happenings and settings surrounding burial rituals. Often death is presented as the ending of life, something feared by people. Contrary to this, Gulo shows the diverse approaches to death and reveals the thoughts of people who are directly connected to the passageway between life and death: “death no longer interests me. I wish I had a different life, I want to be on stage.” Gulo is shot in Kutaisi. (15:41 mins) (A film by Elene Asatiani, Eliane Bots, Mirek Koranda and Sophia Tabatadze)

harvest georgia – Weathered hands move scrap metal from the homes of those who live in and around Zugdidi to the Black Sea port of Poti, and Georgian society moves too, moulding itself around one of the country’s leading exports. From bathtubs, bedsprings and boilers to pots & pans, tin cans and coat stands… in Harvest Georgia the process of scrap metal collecting, weighing and exporting is told through the interaction of these re-valued objects, with those who handle them as part of their everyday lives. (6:37 mins) (A film by Odeta Catana, Ian Cook, Angelika Herta and Zhenya Zakharova)

Under a – Form of government: presidential parliamentary democracy. Official language: Georgian. Population: 4.6 million. Capital: Tbilisi. As the eye deciphers the fading inscriptions in the underground passage and the body instinctively avoids the commercial humdrum, the ear catches the music. Under a is a film about the passage that runs under Tbilisi’s centrally located Freedom Square, and follows a band’s everyday flow in an underground place filled with tunes. (16:07 mins) (A film by Natalia Buier, Madis Kats, Filip Pospíšil and Mikheil Svanidze)

The Black Shorts films are only avaible on