A Natural Producer: Tornike Koplatadze


This summer, Masters graduate of University College London in Ethnographic and Documentary Filmmaking, Tornike Koplatadze chose the Tserovani Internally Displaced Person (IDP) Settlement as the topic for his graduation film. The decision speaks for itself: the 23-year-old young man returns to his home country and expresses interest in the people whose lives became intolerable due to the Russo-Georgian War of 2008.

Koplatadze is the producer, director, cameraman, interviewer, and editor of the film. The assistance rendered to him by the university was a professional camera along with the necessary equipment. The student coped with all the other tasks connected with the shooting of the film independently. This is the maximum requirement of the university towards its students, and aims at testing and observing student commitment and dedication to the film-making sphere.

Nine Years of Displacement, Tornike’s 22-minute film, was presented to the diploma awarding body. The work of the Georgian graduate was well-received and he was granted the full right to continue his professional work in documentary film directing.

The above-mentioned film was screened only for the diploma awarding body and so seeing it was quite a task for ‘outsiders’. Therefore, I was most pleased to be invited to the premiere screening of Nine Years of Displacement by St. Anthony’s College, University of Oxford. The School of Russian and Eastern European Studies (REES) of University of Oxford has a special Georgian Studies program, funded by the Shota Rustaveli National Foundation, where Georgian and foreign scholars participate and present their research to wider audiences. Koplatadze’s graduation film was screened within the frameworks of the given program.

The screening of Nine Years of Displacement, held in the Syndicate Room at St. Anthony’s, was attended by the university professors and students from different countries. The event took place in the Research Center of Russian and Eastern European Studies and among the audience were Russian students who participated in post-screening discussions, having a much more civilized attitude towards the conflict than the world commonly expects from the Russian political establishment. The slightly confused tone of said students in addressing the audience was definitely preconditioned by the fact that the aggressor was their home country and, unlike Russian politicians, they didn’t find it as difficult to admit the truth.

There is always a temptation in films of a similar plot to load the script with heartbreaking scenes; to display in full the violent imagery and devastating nature of war. This technique, though very effective, at the end of the film often leaves a sense of insufficiency. Such and even graver scenes are shown almost daily in the coverings of war and terror-stricken zones. Yet, Koplatadze refused to be allured by such methods, instead focusing on the people; his camera picks out the tortured faces of these people, it reflects their deep sorrow and spiritual pain, which even nine years later is undiminished and incurable.

The natural working manner of this emerging director is both tangible and rewarding. The characters express their thoughts directly and sincerely. The director gives them full freedom of action; he doesn’t interfere in anything or direct anyone. This is an extremely just film, which neither darkens the colors nor appeases anything with artificial optimism.

The scenes with 14-15-year-old teenage girls are particularly memorable. Nine years ago, they were small girls, thus their memories of fleeing their villages alongside their parents are rather vague. The girls focus more on their present state: they describe how monotonous and dull life is for each dweller in the settlement, where adults are predominantly unemployed, and the everyday life of teenagers is cloudy and uninteresting. They seldom have reason to enjoy their lives: perhaps at a summer camp or by attending the rare concerts held in the settlement. Those are their biggest adventures. They are unable to visit the capital, even though it literally borders Tserovani. Attending a film premiere or a performance is an unrealizable dream. Many of the talented youngsters wish to continue their studies at universities, but it seems the chances are slim due to a lack of opportunities or finances. What an injustice and loss for the future of the country!

These youngsters have a completely different attitude towards the surrounding world and their futures: they often talk about the freedom of spirit and name personal independence as the most important priority. The film depicts the reality of how these hardships can affect people, demonstrating bravery and the ability to withstand all difficulties. It seems that war and displacement helped these teenagers to become stronger-willed persons. They love life with all their heart and actively seek out self-assertion, desiring to exploit their talents to the full.

The fact that Koplatadze is a sharp-eyed documentary filmmaker is proven by his film, but also needing highlighting is his rare artistic expression as revealed in this film. I believe he should also try to work on feature films, to uncover his rich potential and experience to the fullest extent. This impression was dictated by a one-minute scene from Nine Years of Displacement, when the camera changes its focus from a celebration held in commemoration of Independence Day to the background consisting of foreign guests and high officials, where some children are fighting. How relentlessly they fight, until a man their fathers’ age comes and appeases them. They apologize to each other and the ‘conflict’ is solved.

This, at one glance an ordinary scene, evokes a very serious problem. Naturally, it won’t happen in the near future, but it is bound to in the coming years. Our greedy neighboring country will dismount these barbed-wire belts and Georgia will regain its own torn away regions… could anyone have imagined that Britain, Spain and France would have given up their colonies so easily?! Even aggressor countries have their time limits. The same will be the case with Russia!

Here shouldn’t be forgotten the scene we witnessed at the University of Oxford after the screening of the film by Tornike Koplatadze, Nine Years of Displacement, when the new generation of Russians seemed to feel remorse – and this is quite a meaningful fact!

Giorgi Laliashvili, London

11 January 2018 19:15