Oscars: Why Georgia's Entry Has a "Direct Connection to the Situation in Ukraine"

Dito Tsintsadze - Required Viewing Publicity-H 2019
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Director Dito Tsintsadze discusses how 'Shindisi,' the country's entry in the best international feature race, brings attention to a "forgotten war" with Russia that he says has parallels with the Ukrainian border conflict.

Based on true events, director Dito Tsintsadze's Shindisi is set during the brief war in 2008 between Georgia and Russia and tells a story about residents of a village named Shindisi who risked their lives to save wounded Georgian soldiers.

Two months ago, the film, which is representing Georgia in the international feature Oscar race, collected the Grand Prix at the Warsaw International Film Festival, where Tsintsadze, 62, also took home the best director's award. His credits include Inhale-Exhale, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Shanghai International Film Festival, and Mediator, which was Georgia's submission to the Oscars race in 2008.

Tsintsadze spoke to THR about why he isn't concerned about his Oscar chances, shining a light on Russian military aggression and why Georgia might be on the cusp of a film renaissance.

Back in 2008, your film Mediator was Georgia's entry in the best international feature Oscar race but failed to land a nomination. Do you think Shindisi has a better chance?

To be honest, I don't think about chances. My goal is to try to bring attention to the Russian occupation, which is the main crisis affecting my country. Also artistically, Shindisi is more focused and has the clearness Mediator did not have. And what is most important, Shindisi has a strong emotional approach.

What would getting nominated or winning an Oscar mean for you and for your country?

Shindisi has a sort of mission for my country — a mission to remind the international community about the almost forgotten war, which I think is the first European war in the 21st century. If it's nominated, there would be more attention towards the film and the Russian occupation.

Many people in the world don't know about the war and that the Russian military is still in Georgia today. It is a creeping invasion, when so-called borders move deeper inside the Georgian territory. And it's happening almost every week…

We don't know what to do — nobody knows, because any signs of resistance can be taken as "aggression" towards Russia and could be used against us, bringing even more troubles.

Just days ago, a well-known Georgian doctor, a traumatologist who went to the occupied area to help a patient, was arrested. And again, nobody knows what to do!

Are there any parallels between the film and the ongoing conflict between Ukraine's government forces and Russia-backed separatists in East Ukraine?

Yes, there is a direct connection to the situation in Ukraine. I am sure if the international community had been more resistant towards the Russian invasion of Georgian territories in 2008, the aggression against Ukraine would not have happened or at least it wouldn't have gone as far.

I decided to make this movie because it is very important today, because nobody knows who will be the next after Georgia and Ukraine.

Does this film say something about contemporary Russia that Russian filmmakers don't say?

I don't know, maybe? As far I can see, contemporary Russia is not a democratic country, and I think there are only a few Russian filmmakers who have the freedom to honestly talk about what's happening inside Russia. I can't recall anybody who talks about Russian foreign policy and its aggression towards its neighbors.

How do you see Georgia's place in contemporary Europe?

Georgia is one of the oldest cultures and one that had been tightly connected to Europe for centuries. Of course, we still have a lot of work to do to develop our democracy, but I am sure that we are on that path and the new generation will make it sooner or later.

Recently, Georgian films have been doing well on the international festival circuit. Is this a renaissance of Georgian cinema?

I think it is early to talk about the renaissance, but it is on its way. As you know, Georgian cinema always had its own special flavor, and young filmmakers continue to bring their vision and energy, which gives me hope.

How efficient is Georgia's film-funding system? Was it difficult to get funding for your film?

State-funding support to the Georgian films is very small. The total size of funding for Georgian films, including features, documentaries, animations and shorts, is around 2.5 million euros [$2.7 million], which is equal to the average budget of a single European film. Despite that, the majority of Georgian films are official co-productions with other European countries, which means they are also getting financial support from European funds.

My film was mainly financed by the state [the National Film Center] and partly by private investors. The budget was quiet low — 1.3 million lari, which is approximately $500,000.