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Lana Gogoberidze, Salome Alexi

The daughter and granddaughter of Georgia’s first female director talk about their films, Day Is Longer Than Night and Felicita, which are screening in Busan showcase ‘The Power of Georgian Women Filmmakers’.

Busan’s showcase on The Power of Georgian Women Filmmakers is screening 12 films including A Story Of Mountainous Racha (1930), directed by Georgia’s first female director Nutsa Gogoberidze.

Her daughter Lana Gogoberidze’s Cannes title Day Is Longer Than Night is also screening, while her granddaughter, producer and director Salome Alexi, has medium-length film Felicita in the programme as well.

Lana Gogoberidze and Alexi talked with Screen about their family of women filmmakers.

It’s fascinating that you have a family with three generations of women filmmakers in a country that wasn’t necessarily encouraging this. How much were you influenced by Nutsa Gogoberidze and her films?

Lana Gogoberidze: I cannot speak about any influence because I simply had no opportunity to see my mother’s films. Her movies, as well as her name, did not exist in the history of Soviet Cinema.

By the end of the 1920s, Nutsa Gogoberidze, together with Russian Esphir Shub, was the first Soviet woman filmmaker. She was born in 1903, graduated from philosophy faculty in Yena in Germany, made her first documentary 18-28 together with Calatozof in 1927, followed by Buba in 1930 and feature film Ujmuri - Desperate Valley in 1934.

Then like millions of other Soviet women, she was arrested as “a member of a family of the people’s enemy”. She spent 10 years in prison (several months death-sentenced) and exile, and her films were forbidden.

After many attempts I have found one of them – Buba – in Moscow’s archives. I hope that I’ll find the feature film too. When, last year, it was screened in Tbilisi, then in London, and just recently in New York at MOMA film festival, it became somehow a revelation, critics everywhere were unanimous in their praise for its cinema language, authenticity…

In 1934, at the Censorship Committee Meeting discussing her feature film Ujmuri (it is worth mentioning that Eisenstein and Dovjenko participated in the scenario’s writing) she stated: “We are at the crossroads from which every direction leads us to death” – an incredible declaration for those terrible times.      

It happened so that in the late fifties I was the only woman film director in Georgia and the Soviet Union. Of course my decision was somehow influenced by the fact that my mother, in her past, was a filmmaker.

Salome, were you influenced by your grandmother?

Salome Alexi: To be a filmmaker, it is to dare to have your vision of life, your point of view. This courage I’ve got from my mother. I think what I have got from her; it is the freedom, the non-conventional mode of life, and the idea that you have to live your life as you feel it and not as others would like you to. And not only the idea, but also the chance.

Maybe she got it from her mother? There’s a beautiful story behind Lana and her mother. Noutsa Gogoberidze never told her daughter that in her “first life” before 1937, she was a filmmaker; that she was friends and worked in teams with such great people as Eisenstein, Dovjenko or Kalatosishvili, or the painter David Kakabadze.

As I understand it, Nutsa Gogoberidze adopted a way to forget her past life and to give her daughter the freedom of lightness, of innocence. Not to oppress her daughter with her mother’s so important, so interesting and heavy past.

It is the most beautiful sacrifice that I ever heard about. To lose your glorious hours to create an independent character of your child.

And Nutsa was successful in her modest, difficult and discerning choice. Lana was really turned towards the future, to act and not look back. It is the key of Lana’s energy and I think it comes from this very silent, very secret pact that her mother had with her own life.

In this way of course, we all three have been influenced by each other.

Lana, tell us about your film, Day Is Longer than Night. What made you want to do this film in particular?

I was always interested in the issue of time and woman, society and woman, how the decisive events for the country were reflected on the woman’s psychology, how they influenced her personal and entire life.

That was the reason why I decided to relate a story of an 80-year-old lady who suffered all the horrors of Sovietisation and the violent re-settlement of hard-working and rich peasants; devastation of the mountainous villages. Her personal tragedies – her first and only love murdered; her second husband, who turned [out] to be a murderer, and his suicide.

Perceiving the shape of the film, I realised it is most important not only to simply relate a story, but also to present commentaries by the vagrant musicians as another point of view on the events described. It’s very symbolic that the age of the musicians do not change with years passed.

How did you handle the casting?

Everything in the film revolves around the main character, Eva. From the very beginning it was clear for me that one actress would not be able to play both ages. That was why I encountered a problem – to find to actresses young and old – able to incarnate one character. It was an unbelievably difficult task. Still I think the aim has been achieved. The young and the old Eva are perceived as one person.

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