Machaidze, Karumidze & Meskhi: When the Earth…

Some facts:

Full title: When the Earth Seems to be Light

Full names of directors: Salome Machaidze, Tamuna Karumidze & David Meskhi. A Georgian/ German coproduction. Produced by Goslab & Jörg Langkau. Co-Produced by Zaza Rusadze, Zazarfilm.

… and a review: Wow is a word I like to use, when I am surprised in a positive way. This film fascinated me totally. From start till end. You never know what comes next. It seems to be free of classical dramaturgical rules, maybe it is not, but it had so much power that I did not notice any. I went with the flow, literally, of the skating youngsters in Tbilisi (and Batumi), with the music that the skates make, with the music that accompanied their moving around, sometimes a requiem, sometimes rap music, sometimes real location sounds again and again, several of them disturbing, being from archive footage of demonstrations in the streets: Priests acting against a LGBT parade, if I got it right.

My old critic head made me think of Juris Podnieks ”Is it Easy to

be Young”, the perestroika film from 1986, when there was a USSR – and, stylistically, the cinéma vérité film par excellence, ”Cronique d’un été” (1961) by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin. As in this film there is a grown-up voice off image that asks the skaters/artists/musicians (they all have some creative side, apart from the skating, which absolutely can be considered an art form, in some case in the film even a burning installation) questions like, ”what is love”, ”what is freedom”, ”is there life after death”… they are reluctant to respond. To use a banality – they express themselves when they skate.

And indeed they do so around a Tbilisi that I saw very little of when I primarily were at Rustaveli Blv. and its close surroundings: devastated, forgotten monuments and buildings, appartment blocks that signal tough living conditions but also night life for youngsters like the protagonists – are they 6 or more?

The narrative style is wild. Shaky, nervous camera movements, quick editing, sometimes in a music video style, sometimes more cinematic with magnificently composed images, where there is a movement of the skaters without you seeing the skates. In amazing sequences like these the film invites the spectator to a visual trip of great beauty. And then cuts to ultra close-ups of faces of the young rebels… Well, are they rebels? Can they change something in Georgia? Do they want to? Or is it enough for them to find places where they can be for themselves, free of daily trivalities, politics and church?

”I love Soviet because nothing functioned”, the most articulate of them says, he is also the one who characterises Tbilisi as a magical city that always looks back, never forward.

The film received the main award at IDFA in the First Appearence Category.

Georgia, 2015, 78 mins.


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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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