Discovering Georgian Cinema Opening at TIFF Bell Lightbox May 8
Discovering Georgian Cinema, a touring retrospective of this exotic and hard-to-see national cinema, runs at the TIFF Bell Lightbox from May 8 to May 19. Covering three distinct periods of Georgian cinema – the silent era, the narrative film era, and the contemporary Georgian new wave – the series features rare prints secured from archives the world over.
Sometimes these national cinema retrospectives are a bit like eating your cinematic broccoli – probably very good for you, but not so exciting. This is not the case with Discovering Georgian Cinema. This rich and varied retro reveals a distinctive national cinema that is exciting, beautiful, and full of depth.
Co-organizer of Discovering Georgian Cinema Susan Oxtoby, former director of programming of Cinematheque Ontario and now Senior Film Curator at UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, sat down with Pretty Clever Films to talk Georgian cinema.
A retrospective of any national cinema first begs the question why? Why this body of work, why now, what does it mean to those of us in other parts of the world.
Oxtoby is quick to answer. “It’s just a wonderful body of work in world cinema and one that isn’t often seen in North American. Georgia has a really strong arts community and it’s a country of rich cultural traditions, with a distinct language of its own. All the conditions are right for the creation of a strong national cinema.”
“The University of Berkley holds a large collection of Soviet Georgian cinema in a collection of rare archival prints. Georgia is contemporarily experiencing a cinematic ‘new wave’ with a lot of beautiful, lyrical films being made and several important film festivals have begun in Georgia. The timing seemed right,” says Oxtoby.
One of the startlingly things about the entire retrospective is both the number of silent films included and the quality of those films. “Those silents are made to a really high standard, with quite a formal quality,” says Oxtoby. “Georgia continued making silent films well into the sound era, even as late as 1934. These silents set the stage for showing the richness of this body of cinema.”
An interesting phenomena that Oxtoby observed while looking at breadth of Georgian cinema is a continuity of filmmaking. There is an actual continuity when filmmaking seems to be something of a family business. “We see instances of familial lineage, where there are multiple filmmakers within a family. That extends beyond as well, where we see a lot of people looking at other people’s work and you can see that exchange in the films.”
A common pitfall of the national cinema retrospective is the highlighting of purely political films that, while substantive, can leave audiences feeling a bit alienated. But the scope of these Georgian films avoid that trap. “Georgian films are political in the sense of Georgians addressing a national character that is specifically their own, but once filmmakers are doing that the films become quite universal.”
Having shown in Berkley, New York, and Washington, D.C., Toronto is the final stop on the North American tour for this stunning collection of films. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this varied and rich retrospective which is truly a discovery.
Discovering Georgian Cinema will be playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox from May 8 to May 19. For a complete schedule and to purchase tickets, visit tiff.net.