Rati Oneli: City of the Sun

One more good example from the wave of the new, well deserved, praised Georgian documentaries that offer an artistically formed interpretation of life and people in the country in the Caucacus. This time the location is Chiatura, a dying city that used to live from its mining industry. It is now falling apart, a future is difficult to see – and yet the population tries to find ways out of the misery.

A miner goes to perform in local amateur theatre, when he is not underground. A music teacher – apart from when he is teaching and performing local songs, and some he has composed himself – hammers to destroy abandoned buildings to set free metal that he can sell. Thirdly two young women run to stay fit.

These are the characters in a film that makes them represent the society falling apart. Their stories are intertwined and you follow

them into sequences: the miner in the theatre, the teacher at rehearsal lessons etc. But the ambition of the director goes beyond the character description, he wants to create an elegiac atmosphere in his narrative construction. He is in and out of buildings, he is up – many drone shots – and down on ground and underground. He plays with light and shade, he puts the characters (especially the miner) in positions, where we as viewers are invited to be with them, to interpret the sad life situation they and the city is in.

It feels too much sometimes, there is a bit of cinematic overkill and a pretty schematic montage, where you don’t really get close to the characters – expect for a longer sequence towards the end where the music teacher comes to what used to be ”Ministry of Communications”, where a party is being held, where the guests dance, where he, the music teacher sings ”I long for you, for you my magnolia”, and his own composition. And there he is afterwards, alone, eating the remains from the table. Here there is a sense of true presence contrary to scenes, which are too much ”did you get it viewer”, like the three miners underground toasting the greyness of the city and their life, and the scene at the end where you follow a man from behind his back walking to see the demolition of a concrete building.

The impressive film is in competition in Sarajevo this coming week.

Georgia, 104 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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