Decades of Success & Public Adoration: Cinema Legend’s Anniversary

On January 26, the legendary Georgian film Director Eldar Shengelaia turned 85. To mark the occasion, the Georgian Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, Georgian National Film Center and Georgian Film Academy organized a reception on the premises of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection.

“I won’t name the numerous awards that Mr. Eldar Shengelaia has won. I am sure that if one asks anybody in the street, of any age, they will be able to quote a phrase from an Eldar Shengelaia film. I want to thank him for his movies and for his love of Georgia,” Mikheil Giorgadze, Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, said in his opening speech.

Eldar Shengelaia has always focused on the topic of freedom. His protagonists were dissidents who were either imprisoned or put into an asylum under Soviet rule. However, they eventually gained freedom. This striving for freedom is a leitmotif of the great maestro’s creativity. In spite of the huge popularity of his films – mainly ‘Extraordinary Exhibition’ (1968), ‘The Eccentrics’ (1973), ‘Samanishvili’s Stepmother’ (1977) and ‘Blue Mountains or Unbelievable Story’ (1983), none of these masterpieces were screened internationally during the Soviet Regime. Shengelaia, who studied in Moscow, had the opportunity to stay there with great prospects waiting for him. However, the Director was madly in love with Georgia and therefore, came back to his motherland.

‘Mr. Eldar, I congratulate you on this day. I am sure that there is a lot creativity left in store for you. I want to thank you for what you have done for young Georgian cinematographers. Over the past 30-40 years, you have given a lot of joy and optimism to each of our families. Hopefully, Georgian cinema will again regain its past glory,” Zurab Maghalashvili, Director of the National Movie Center commented, as he presented a Kabalakhi – national hood- to the Director.

“I am happy to see you looking so well. I would like to wish you even more fantastic movies in the future,” Zaza Urushadze, President of the Georgian Movie Academy, noted. He presented a tapestry work by Anka Kalatozishvili to the legendary movie Director.

“Life is really full of perils and difficulties. Eldar as a person and by means of his movies leaves us with an impression that his life was been nothing but smooth, or as the Georgian saying goes, full of violets and roses. He looks so free! But his life has not really been that smooth and sweet! Eldar has lived through all the blows of the past. Besides being a professional, I see great personal power and humanity in him that can really make our lives endurable. As Brodsky wrote, ‘we have passed the main path of life together’. We sincerely wanted to do something for our country. In that totalitarian system, we had to endure a lot of cursing and swearing, but we were true to our conscience. In spite of all these difficulties that life served up, Eldar has managed to subdue destiny,” Lana Ghoghoberidze, Georgian Director, his colleague and the representative of the same generation, noted.

“I want to congratulate him on this anniversary. We talk a lot about the creative works of Eldar Shengelaia. However, now, I would like to focus on his personal traits. We have known each other since childhood. During our student’s years, an international commune led by Georgians was formed. We elected Eldar as the President of this commune. Years passed. We arrived in Georgia and everyone suddenly wanted to be a Director. Soon, the Georgian Cinematographers’ Union was established. We expressed our trust once more in Eldar, and elected him as Chairman again. From 1976-1977, the Soviet Union Cinematograph Committee decided to suppress Georgian cinema, claiming that it was not responding to the demands of the Soviet Union. There was and still is the magazine ‘Art and Cinema’, where articles were published against Georgian cinema. Then, our central authorities, and Eduard Shevardnadze in person, did their best to save Georgian cinema. Thanks to the aid of the Cinema Union and central authorities, our cinema survived. Our old cinematographic traditions continued. In the 1980s, Georgian Directors shot such films that the whole world acknowledged. Eldar Shengelaia was a member of the commission that ratified the five-cross flag that Georgia has and takes pride in, among other achievements,” Merab Kokochashvili, his friend and colleague, stated.

“I want to thank everybody for this day. I would like to say that during the Soviet Union, a very interesting Georgian cinema phenomenon was created. Not a single other Soviet country had such a situation – 100 Georgian films were screened in Pompidou, Paris. It was a great achievement. I can tell you that there are a lot of talented young Georgian film Directors. And I believe they will achieve a lot internationally. We are continuing the old tradition of our cinema, and we will the predecessors for the young generation who will create new splendid Georgian cinema,” Eldar Shengelaia noted at the end.

All the film Directors attending the event then took a group photo. Eldar Shengelaia still continues his work. In 2017, he shot one more full-length film called ‘Armchair,’ that premiered at the Moscow International Movie Festival.

Maka Lomadze

01 February 2018 19:47