A bitter dispute between factions of the Georgian film industry is coming to a head at the Berlinale. Many leading Georgian filmmakers and industry professionals have joined the independent Georgian Film Institute (GFI), which was launched in opposition to state body, the Georgian National Film Centre (GNFC), amid accusations of censorship and creative interference.

Both outfits are at EFM and both are insisting on their right to represent Georgian cinema in the festival.

GFI is pushing two titles in official selection: Forum Special’s Mother And Daughter, Or The Night Is Never Complete from director Lana Gogoberidze, about her mother, filmmaker Nutsa Gogoberidze, and Levan Akin’s Panorama title Crossing, a Georgia-Sweden-Denmark-France-Turkey co-production. Mother And Daughter producer Salomé Alexi-Meskhishvili is president of GFI.

However, a GNFC spokesperson said as “this film received financing from the GNFC, [there is] a contractual obligation for the producers to show it first with the GNFC.”

“Fake reality”

GNFC has accused GFI of “promoting a fake reality”, its spokesperson told Screen International. They said the reforms at the centre instigated by culture minister Tea Tsulukiani — and to which GFI is objecting — were in response to “past bad governance, total lack of transparency in financing, nepotism and violations of film-related laws and other regulations”.

Former GNFC head Gaga Chkheidze was dismissed in March 2022. “The GNFC remains committed to fostering an environment conducive to the growth and prosperity of the Georgian film industry,” the spokesperson claimed.

They defended the appointment of Koba Khubunaia, former deputy head of the National Centre for Crime Prevention, as acting head of GNFC, pointing out his “solid background in the field of public finances”.

However, GFI claims many of the key decisions at GNFC are being taken by TV presenter Bacho Odisharia, appointed deputy head of the department at GNFC last summer.

“The goal is clear, using the funds provided by the state, such as GNFC, for propaganda films, or at the very least, not supporting the production of critical films,” said the group in a statement.

GNFC is at the Berlinale with European Shooting Star Salome Demuria, whom the GNFC spokesperson claimed is “facing bullying from individuals associated with the so-called boycott”.

This charge was refuted by GFI representatives who pointed out Georgia’s original Shooting Star candidate Taki Mumladze — who had been active in protests against government censorship — went through a painful experience in December 2023 when she was told she was not eligible to participate. This is said to have happened because Georgia had not signed the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, and the talent was no longer entitled to benefit from this programme, co-financed by Creative Europe.