celebrated actor Kakhi Kavsadze states he came of age in a country that no
longer exists, he perhaps should not speak so soon. Putin clearly has designs
to reassert the USSR’s old spheres of domination and Kavsadze’s native Georgia
was one of the first nations he trained his military crosshairs on. Yet,
current events make Kavsadze’s reminiscences of the Stalin era even more
poignant in Nana Janelidze’s documentary, Will
There Be a Theatre Up There?! (trailer here), which screens
during MoMA’s new film series, Discovering Georgian Cinema, Part 1: A Family Affair.
came from a long line of well respected traditional Georgian singers, as Stalin himself
would attest. A letter from the dictator to his revered grandfather has a
special place of irony in his family’s history. Kavsadze’s father was also an
accomplished vocalist and choir-master, but WWII was not kind to him, or
Kavsadze’s family by extension. The senior Kavsadze managed to save scores of
Georgians POWs by organizing a camp choir, but such benign survival strategies
would earn him the label: “enemy of the people.”
his words and occasional songs, Kavsadze revisits his early childhood years,
paying tribute to his parents for enduring their endless tribulations.
Technically, it all takes place in one location, but the hanger-like industrial
building re-purposed as a film studio is remarkably versatile. Janelidze will
often stage dramatic tableaux to illustrate Kavsadze’s recollections, which
frequently seem to stir legitimate emotions deep within the grand thespian.
stories are about as personal as they get, yet they offer tremendous insight
into the nature of the Communist system. Perhaps most telling is the episode in
which a pair of KGB agents came to the Kavsadze home looking for an incriminating
document, but tried to carry off their dinner table instead (fun fact: Putin
was a veteran KGB agent).
Kavsadze is a forceful presence who truly
commands the viewer’s attention. Likewise, Janelidze’s sparse but elegant
approach gives rise to some striking images that often bring to mind Eastern
European cinematic classics, like Wajda’s Everything
for Sale. Despite its relatively short running time (fifty-five minutes), Theatre offers viewers quite a bit to
take in. It is especially fitting that it had a special screening during this
summer’s Odessa International Film Festival, since Georgia has been informally
advising Ukraine how to respond when Russia invades their sovereign territory.
Very highly recommended, Will There Be a
Theatre Up There?! screens this Thursday (9/25) and Sunday (10/5) as part
of MoMA’s upcoming Georgian film series.
Labels: Documentary, Georgian Cinema, Kakhi Kavsadze, MoMA