Director on shooting debut feature and why the Georgian film industry is improving.

Scary Mother

Georgian filmmaker Ana Urushadze’s debut feature Scary Mother played in competition at Sarajevo Film Festival this week following its premiere at Locarno Film Festival earlier this month. On Thursday evening (Aug 17), the film was presented with the Heart of Sarajevo prize for best feature film at the festival’s awards ceremony.

Screen’s review of the film called it a “bold debut”, and the title has been well received generally here in Sarajevo.

Focusing on a 50-year-old housewife (Nata Murvanidze), the film chronicles her family struggles as she tries to complete her first novel. Treated like a naughty child by her husband, she gets close to alienating the ones closest to her, and begin to near the precipice of a mental breakdown.

Screen: Where did the idea for the story come from?

Ana Urushadze: The inspiration for the idea probably comes from my family. My mother started and stopped writing detective novels several times. My sister also writes, she is into urban fantasy - so this theme of a “woman writer” is familiar to me.

The film has a complicated structure, mixing reality and fiction, how did you make that work?

The story somehow unfolds itself. Some images come and you just write them down, there is not much thinking involved in the process. The thinking comes afterwards - when the first draft is done. Then you start to filter it and try to arrange the storyline more logically. 

How did you pick the setting? The communist-era building the protagonist lives in looks like it could be from a dystopian future

We did location scouting and picked the places that felt right for the atmosphere of the film. It all happened intuitively. We were afraid this building might look too intense, and would make the film would feel exaggerated, but we stuck with our choice.

How did you choose your actors?

This process is also intuitive - you see an actor and you feel that the choice is right so you go for it, and hopefully they will say yes. For this film I really wanted to have Nata Murvanidze to play the protagonist and I had her in mind when I was writing the script. I was very lucky that she agreed, as well as the other incredibly talented and famous Georgian actors - Avtandil Makharadze, Ramaz Ioseliani and Dimitri Tatishvili.

Was it hard to get funding for the film?

I wrote the script, submitted it to the Georgian National Film Centre and got funded.

Was the shoot challenging?

There were problems because we had little time and a small budget, so naturally we had to compromise a lot. We shot in the winter, and if we lost the daylight, we could not do another take because we had a limited number of shooting days. We had to improvise both with actors and with the mise-en-scene, to change a scene or make it shorter. Improvisation is a risky process, but it is interesting and exciting.

What’s your take on the Georgian film industry?

The situation is improving, not regressing or stagnating like it was couple of years ago. I believe there are many talented people with interesting projects and fresh ideas who need to be funded. The main problem is the general lack of money.