Adding Georgia to your travel bucket list could be your best decision in 2020. Georgia is home to some of the most stunning attractions sites, beautiful landscapes, and several prominent artists. Notably, the European country prides itself as a source of some of the greatest movies in the world. Georgian cinema reflects the country’s current affairs and history, especially the soviet era. The production of Georgian films started in the early years of the 19th century, with some movies maintaining their popularity across the post-soviet nations. So, as you explore the magnificent paradises hidden in the country, be sure to watch the following Georgian movies.
1. Father of a soldier
If you love Georgia and its people, the Father of a Soldier is undoubtedly worth your time. It remains one of the best Georgian movies about WWII for its vivid depiction of the effects of war and a unique family bond. Revaz Chkheidze directed the black and white film based on a script by Suliko Jgenti. Selected for the 4th Moscow International Film Festival a year after release, the film has also won several awards at Rome International Film Festival.
The story is about a farmer, Giorgi Makharashvili, embarking on a journey to find his son, Goderdzi, who was wounded on war. Goderdzi recovers and is sent back to war before his father sees him. A father’s love for his child is boundless, and so Giorgi opts to stay in the Soviet army until he meets his son. Giorgi and his comrades enlisted in the motorized unit go to Germany, where he finds his son in the course of the battle. Unfortunately, Goderdzi is wounded and dies in the arms of his father.
2. Blue Mountains
Another contributor to the popularity of the Georgian cinema is the Blue Mountains-a 1983 comedy-drama film directed by Eldar Shengelaia and starring Ramaz Giorgobiani. The movie is about a young author, Soso, attempting to penetrate Georgia’s Soviet-controlled bureaucracy to get his novel published but faces neglect at every turn.
Every employee at Soso’s publishing house seems too busy to read his manuscript and keep on shuffling it from one department to another. Surprisingly, they are not engrossed in their direct responsibilities and are too busy to note that their building has serious structural flaws. Eventually, the building collapses, and the publishing agency is moved to a modern building, but the employees’ attitude towards their work doesn’t change. Soso’s struggle doesn’t seem to end any time soon. Georgians love the “Blue Mountains,” and it’s common for the modern population to incorporate some phrases from the film in their conversation.
Georgia boasts some of the most famous painters in the world, including the self-taught primitivist Niko Pirosmani. “Pirosmani” is a 1969 Georgian biological art-drama movie directed by Giorgi Shengelaia and is based on the life of Niko. Niko’s works were underestimated during his lifetime but gained massive popularity after his death. Surprisingly, some of his paints are now worth millions.
The film shows Niko’s early years, paintings, antisocial tendencies, and extreme poverty. You will also see some clear shots of the old quarters of Tbilisi, where Pirosmani lived since middle age, surviving on meager earnings from painting jobs. The film also touches on Niko’s attempts to engage in trade, regrettable courtship, and loneliness, late recognition, and bitter end. If you have been looking to delve into the life of the self-taught but most prominent Georgian painter, be sure to spare some 81 minutes for this movie.
4. In Bloom
Directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Grob, “In Bloom” is a recent addition to Georgian cinema. The 2013 film starring Lika Babluani and Mariam Bokeria premiered at 63rd Berlin International Film Festival and won the CICAE prize.
The film happens in Tbilisi in 1992 during the Georgian Civil war and a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s about two fourteen-year-old girls, Nina and Eka, inseparable friends who decided to ignore societal customs and escape their turbulent families. Nina lived a rough life at home due to her alcoholic father, while Eka, whose father is in jail, lives with her mom and elder sister. The two teenagers have to grow up quickly as they encounter arranged marriages, patriarchal traditions, domestic abuse, and public violence.
Zaza Urushadze directed and produced the Tangerines in 2013, intending to addressing conflict, reconciliation, and pacifism. The movie was filmed in Guria, Georgia, and it’s set in an Estonian village during the 1992-1993 Abkhazia war.
Upon the breakout of war, the villagers fled to Estonia, except two friends, Margus and Ivo. Margus intends to harvest his tangerine crops while Ivo concentrates on making wooden crates to pack the unpicked tangerines. One day, a fight breaks out between Georgian soldiers and Chechen mercenaries in front of Ivo house, leaving one survivor from each side. Ivo takes the wounded soldiers and nurses them back to health. Ivo secures pledges from the swearing soldiers not to carry out any vengeance in his home. With time and under the tutelage of Ivo, the two sworn enemies set their antagonism and hatred aside and start recognizing the honor and humanity in each other.
6. Salt for Svanetia
Salt of Svanetia is a 1930 Georgian documentary movie directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. It documents the life of Svan people living in an isolated and harsh environment of the mountainous region of Svaneti.
The movie begins with a depiction of class conflict before concentrating on the daily routine of the Svan people, including sheep rearing, barley threshing, and the production of wool and yam. The movie also focuses on the salt shortage, a situation that forces animals to lick animal and human urine. The climax of the film is when the Soviet constructs a road to connect the isolated region to civilization.
7. My Happy Family
My Happy Family is a recent addition to the list of Georgian movies directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Grob. It’s common for a family of three generations to live under one roof in Georgia, which is a largely patriarchal society. In this movie, Manana, a middle-aged mid-wife and a mother of two, shock everyone in her household when she decides to leave them and live on her own. Manana’s decision remains a mystery to her family throughout the plot. However, it becomes clear to the audience that she intended to challenge the religious expectations of women in her community.
8. Corn Island
Corn Island is a stunning feat of Georgian cinema presented in a modest way possible. The modesty of the 2014 movie directed by Giorgi Ovashvili is portrayed by the simple setting-a small island floating midway between the shores of Abkhazia and Georgia and two primary characters with virtually no conversation between them.
A hardworking, old, ethnic Abkhazian man sets out with his orphaned, obedient granddaughter to explore an island that had just been formed in the middle of a river, following a spring flood. They take possession of the island, build a simple hut, and plant corn. Soldiers pass by frequently in small motorboats and seem to stare as if transfixed by the lady’s beauty. The two exchange nods with the soldiers and are left to cultivate the land in peace. One day they shelter a wounded soldier and hide him from his pursuers. The story ends in summer when floods destroy the island.
9. A Trip to Karabakh
A Trip to Karabakh, released in 2005 and directed by Levan Tutberidze, is based on the 1992 “Journey to Karabakh” novel by Aka Morchiladze. The story is about a drug deal gone wrong. Two teenage boys, Gio(the main character) and Gogliko, set out to Azerbaijani to purchase drugs. They end up fighting in the Nargono-Karabakh war and being captured by the Azerbaijani militants. Gio is wounded and opts to stay in the Azerbaijani militia while the Armenians capture Gogliko. Throughout the plot, Gio struggles with flashbacks of his relationship with his father and a depressive prostitute in Tbilisi.
10. The Sun of the Sleepless
A top-rating piece of Georgian cinema, The Sun of the Sleepless (Urdiznata Mze), is about a doctor named Gela Bendeliani and his wealthy family in Tbilisi during the Soviet period. Temur Babluani directed the Georgian drama film from 1985 to 1992, dedicating it to his father, who was a doctor. At the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival, Urdiznata mze won the Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution.
In the movie, Gela has limitless forgiveness and generosity and works in a government institution. He is privately researching a cure for cancer; however, the government disapproves of his project, and this had Gela being fired from his job several times. Dato, Gela’s son, is in constant trouble with the law. He loves his father, but neither of them understands each other. Dato succeeds in his crimes while Gela fails in his science projects. In the end, only Dato believes in him.
Repentance is a soviet movie directed by Tengiz Abuladze in 1984. However, the soviet banned the film’s release due to its semi-allegorical critique to Joseph Stalin’s policies. The movie premiered at the 40th Cannes Film Festival, winning the Grand Prize of the Jury, the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, and the FIPRESCI Prize.
The movie starts with a woman baking cakes and a man reading about the death of the town mayor, Varlam Aravidze. A day after Varlam’s funeral, his corpse appears in the garden of his son and is secretly buried. However, the body keeps returning after each secret burial, and police arrest a woman, Ketevan Barateli. Ketevan defends her actions by claiming that Varlam was responsible for the Stan-like regime that saw the disappearance of her father and friends. What follows is a trail that leads to the uncovering of varlam’s wrongdoings via flashbacks.
12. Street Days
Street Days is a modern-day Georgian movie directed by Levan Koguashvili in 2010 and selected as the Georgian choice for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Academy Awards.
The film is set when Tbilisi is struggling with high drug dependence rates. The police arrest Checkie, a 45-year old heroin addict and offers him a good deal that can save him from pennilessness. The police instruct Checkie to introduce Ika to drugs within two days to blackmail Ika’s father. If Checkie agrees, he gets paid but faces a jail term if he refuses. As he needs money, Checkie accepts the deals but thinks otherwise at the very last moment.
13. Magdana’s Donkey
Magdana’s Donkey is a Georgian film co-directed by two young filmmakers, Revaz Chkheidze and Tengiz Abuladze, in 1956. It’s based on a short story by Ekaterine Gabashvili and was hailed as a new wave in the Georgian cinema, having won the Best Short Fiction Award at the 9th Cannes Films Festival.
In the 1890s, Magdana, a window, and her three children live in a shack in a Georgian village. Magdana makes a living by selling yogurt to relieve the pangs of poverty. When her children discover a sickly donkey and nurses it back to health, it seems that the family’s woes are over. The donkey’s owner sees his animal and wants it back. The incident exposes the rotten judicial system and villagers who side with the donkey owner.
14. Great Green Valley
The Great Green Valley (Didi Mtsvane veli) was written by Merab Eliozshvili and directed by Merab Kokochashvili in 1967. The movie is about a Sosana, one of the herders living with their families in a valley. They lead a quiet life until geologists discover minerals in the valley, and the herders are required to relocate to a comfortable village with fertile lands. Whereas everyone is happy to move, Sosana is uncomfortable. He can’t cope with industrialization and seems alienated from everyone, including his family.
15. Keto and Kote
Shalva Gedevanashvili and Vakhtang Tabliashvili directed this Soviet comedy film. It’s based on the play Hanuma by Avksentry Tsagareli. A wealthy Tiflis merchant looks to intermarry with the aristocracy and intends to offer his daughter (Keto)to the broken prince Levan Palavandishvili. However, Keto is in love with Kote- the prince’s nephew and a poet. Kote visits Keto in the guise of a teacher, and both, with the help of a matchmaker Khanuma, manage to outwit the older people and find their happiness.
Georgian cinema boasts some of the most intriguing films known in the former soviet region and outside its borders. The above list comprises pre-soviet, soviet, and contemporary Georgian movies that will give you an in-depth insight into Georgian culture as well as the country’s past and current affairs. The plots are well-structured and captivating, and you are sure to enjoy every second of the films.