Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Botso: Teaching Hope and Music
the final twenty minutes Wachtang “Botso” Korisheli was allowed to see his
father, the prominent Georgian actor imparted the life lessons that would later
guide a disproportionate number of his Morro Bay students to careers as professional
musicians. He also sculpts. With the help of Korisheli’s students and alumni,
Tom Walters celebrates Korisheli, the teacher, artist, and father in Botso: The Teacher from Tblisi (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
one time, Platon Korisheli and his family were held in high esteem by Stalin,
but that tragically changed. Growing up as the child of an enemy of the state
was not easy. Having served as a trench digger in the Red Army, a particularly
dangerous and menial duty assignment reserved for conscripts of his status, Korisheli
tenaciously made his way west after war.
fate and the Soviet State would deny Korisheli a reunion with his mother, he
forged a teaching career and started a family in Morro Bay, California. Like
Korisheli’s grown son before them, his young adopted daughters are amongst his
most promising music students. Probably the most celebrated Korisheli graduates
are Kent Nagano, the Grammy winning music director of the Orchestre Symphonie
de Montréal, as well as his sister, pianist Joan Nagano, and cousin Nancy
Nagano, the San Luis Obispo Symphony’s principal cellist. The tradition
continues with Nagano’s ten year old daughter, who is among the notable soloists
at Botso Fest, the gala reunion concert featuring Korisheli’s former students.
ninety years old himself, Korisheli is clearly doing something right. Walters
and writer-co-producer Hillary Roberts Grant caught the big moments, like Botso
Fest and his emotional return to Georgia after decades away. However, the best
scenes capture Korisheli working with students. We can readily see he is a
dynamic but supportive instructor, who helps his young charges connect with the
soul of the music. Contrasting sessions recorded five years earlier with recent
lessons, Walters also demonstrates the sort of commitment Korisheli inspires in
his students and documentarians alike.
is a very nice film that offers some timely
lessons on the importance of musical education and the grim legacy of
Communism. Strangely though, Walters never really gives us a big musical
crescendo, cutting away and truncating the Botso Fest command performance,
featuring young Miss Nagano (who clearly did her delighted teacher proud). Nor does
he ever ask Korisheli about the state of contemporary Georgia, particularly
with respects to Russian military belligerence (arguably a bit of an oversight,
given the way recent history has repeated in Ukraine). Nonetheless, it is well
worth viewers’ time to meet Mr. Korisheli and listen to his story of hope and music.
Warmly recommended for students of music and history, Botso opens this Friday (10/10) in New York at the Quad Cinema.
Labels: Documentary, Wachtang "Botso" Korisheli