The Caucasus Film Festival runs through March 31 in Tbilisi. (Poster courtesy: Caucasus Film Festival.)
A week-long Caucasus Cinema Festival is underway in Tbilisi. In a region marked by discord during the post-Soviet era, the festival strives to promote peace-building by highlighting cultural commonalities.
The driving force behind the festival is Claire Delessard, who serves as a Regional Conflicts Adviser for the Northern and Southern Caucasus attached to the British Embassy in Tbilisi. The EU is helping to fund the film series.
“Caucasian people had always been living together without division lines for centuries,” Delessard said in an email interview. “We thus wanted for people to remember these times through cinema.”
The festival kicked off on March 26 with a screening of one of the most famous films made during the Soviet era, Sergey Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates (Sayat Nova). Made in 1968, the film is a dream-like fantasy that recounts the life and death of an 18th century Armenian bard. (A drastic departure from the state-approved style of Soviet realism, the film helped earn Parajanov four years of prison camps in the1970s.)
Another Parajanov classic, The Shadow of Forgotten Ancestors, a story of family rivalries set in a Ukrainian Hutsul village, will also be screened during the festival.
“This film is not only an historical lesson for us, but also a cinema masterpiece,” Delessard said.
Other films in the lineup include Highlander, a 1992 film directed by the Ossetian director Murat Djusoev that depicts life in the mountains of the Caucasus. The oldest film being screened is a Georgian silent picture from 1929, My Grandmother, directed by Kote Miqaberidze, while the most recently released film is 2010’s Precinct (Sahə), an Azerbaijani drama involving romance and career choices.
The “global Russian” website Snob.ru, the online platform of oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov’s Snob Magazine, is reporting a funny story about Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and the Venice Biennale. The exhibition at the Azerbaijani pavilion, it seems, has been put on hold after Aliyev personally draped over a sculpture by participating feminist artist Aidan Salakhova.
The reason? Aliyev found the work demeaning to women.
Arriving on opening day – an unusual practice for a head of state, writes Snob's Maria Shubina, but an understandable one, this being only Azerbaijan’s third time at the festival – Aliyev examined the exposition. One of Salakhova's works, titled “The Book,” depicted a black oval of a woman’s head and torso in Islamic dress, with no distinguishable face and protruding white hands that appear to hold the Quaran. It was at this point that the president reportedly declared that such a work could not represent his secular nation’s attitude toward women, and covered it with a sheet.
Salakhova’s work in the Biennale, if Snob’s illustrations are to be believed, also features a vaginal-shaped black-and-white sculpture known as “The Black Stone.” Her “Destination” series, to which “The Book” belongs, includes a piece where the traditionally-dressed woman holds a double-sided penis - a giveaway, one might suspect, that Salakhova is anything but an Islamic propagandist.
“Reading irony, seeing double entendre – all of this is, undoubtedly, not for presidents,” Shubina writes, adding the incident has produced so much buzz for Salakhova, it is as though she and Aliyev were in cahoots.