Despite the obvious differences, documentary filmmaker Jule Bertuccelli's wonderful first feature bears a striking resemblance to Wolfgang Becker's GOOD BYE, LENIN! (2003): Both use the deception of an aging mother who pines for the good old days to express post-Soviet attitudes. Here the locale is Georgia, specifically the beleaguered capital city of Tblisi,...read more
Despite the obvious differences, documentary filmmaker Jule Bertuccelli's wonderful first feature bears a striking resemblance to Wolfgang Becker's GOOD BYE, LENIN! (2003): Both use the deception of an aging mother who pines for the good old days to express post-Soviet attitudes. Here the locale is Georgia, specifically the beleaguered capital city of Tblisi, which seems to be forever teetering on the edge of collapse. The electricity is shut off for hours at a time and good luck getting mail or making a long-distance phone call. In the middle of this mess sits elderly Eka (Esther Gorintin), who lives with her daughter, Marina (Nino Khomassouridze), and granddaughter, Ada (Dinara Droukarova). Eka clearly loves Ada, but Marina, who went to engineering school but has been reduced to manning a table at the local market, can't seem to do anything to her mother's satisfaction. Eka reserves her affection for Marina's brother, Otar, a doctor who went to Paris two years earlier. Unable to practice medicine legally in France, Otar has been toiling as an undocumented construction worker, and Eka eagerly awaits each of his letters and sporadic phone calls. One weekend, while Ada is away at her country dacha, Marina and Ada receive word from Otar's friend Niko that something terrible has happened: Otar has been killed in an accident. Over Ada's objections, Marina insists that they keep the news from Eka, and proposes they fabricate letters and phone calls that will lead her to believe that Otar is alive and well. The shock of Otar's death could very well kill Eka and besides, she's no stranger to denial: Still proud to call herself a Stalinist, Ada refuses to admit that Stalin ordered anyone's death and insists that if Papa Joe were still around, Tblisi wouldn't be in the mess it's in. Ada, however, understands Marina's motives more clearly: She knows that when Eka finally learns of her beloved son's death, she'll turn him into a saint and Marina will cease to exist. Anyone who's seen POWER TRIP (2003), Paul Devlin's excellent documentary about continual energy crisis facing Tblisi, will have a good idea about what daily life is currently like in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. But Bertuccelli's heartfelt film affords a unique peek into the hearts and minds of a generation who, after having been awakened from the lie they'd been living all their lives, must now face the aftermath of an entire nation's failure.
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