Mariam Bokeria and Lika Babluani in Grzeli nateli dgeebi (2013)


(directors: Nana Ekvtimshvili/Simon Gross; screenwriter: Nana Ekvtimshvili; cinematographer: Oleg Mutu; editor: Stefan Stabenow; cast: Lika Babluani (Eka), Mariam Bokeria (Natia), Zurab Gogaladze (Kote), Data Zakareishvili (Lado), Ana Nijaradze (Ana – Ekas Mother), Maiko Ninua (Sophiko – Ekas Sister), Tamar Bukhnikashvili (Natia’s Mother ), Temiko Chichinadze (Natia’s Father), Berta Khapava (Natela – Natia’s Grandmother), Sandro Shanshiashvili (Natia’s brother), Endi Dzidzava (Kote’s Mother), Zaza Salia (Kote’s Father); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Simon Gross/Marc Wächter; Big World Pictures; 2013-Georgia/Germany/France-in Georgian with English subtitles)

“Its two nonprofessional child actors ably reflect the terror of the times.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The film directorial debut of the Tbilisi-born Nana Ekvtimshvili (writer of Fata Morgana) and the second directorial effort of the German-born Simon Gross(“Fata Morgana”) is a good one for these co-directors, as their film turns its attention to how powerless women are in a debased patriarchal society in the midst of chaos and a civil war. It’s based on the experiences of Nana Ekvtimishvili when growing up in Georgia, a newly independent country after the fall of the Soviet Union. The pic is set in 1992, in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. We learn that Abkhazia, on the Black Sea coast, is the country’s war zone for its civil war, where many of the men are fighting.

Instead of telling directly about the war, the neo-realist film focuses on the friendship of the introspective Eka (Lika Babluani) and the outgoing Natia (Mariam Bokeria), two fourteen-year-old friends with different personalities dealing with life in their troubled and violent society, dysfunctional families, long bread lines, domineering and unlikable adults at home and at school, and a depressing loveless society. The coming-of-age pic is about how the adolescent girl friends struggle to survive their harsh childhood (Eka’s dad is in prison and Natia’s dad is a foul-mouthed drunk) and, in particular, when Natia is kidnapped and agrees to marry her older kidnapper named Kote (Zurab Gogaladze) rather than face the shame while her younger suitor Lado (Data Zakareishvili) is away on business in Moscow. The story is punctuated by how the gun Lado gave Natia for protection is used symbolically to show how the gun is valued in Georgian society.

The filmmakers paint a bleak picture of living in such a volatile setting ruled by vigilante justice, and like Roberto Rossellini’s early war films it shows the stench of urban decay and how the average citizen is dazed living in such a jarring landscape. It’s an assured pic that accurately captures that era’s misery in Georgia, and its two nonprofessional child actors ably reflect the terror of the times. Though it’s limited in scope, by its meager drama.