April 9th is now Georgia’s
official Day of National Unity. This film shows why. Everybody always assumed
good old Gorby would never send in the tanks to crush dissent, but he did in
Tbilisi. Hundreds were severely injured and twenty people died that fateful day,
seventeen of whom were women. While many were beaten beyond recognition, CN and
CS gas inhalation was the primary cause of death. One of the Soviet invaders gets
a glimpse of the true warrior’s spirit in Tornike Bziava’s Clermont-Ferrand
award winning short film, April Chill, which
screens during MoMA’s ongoing Discovering Georgian Cinema series.
As several of the Soviet “soldiers” note,
it was quite a nice day for their ruthless business. The enlisted men duly
follow their orders, chasing democracy demonstrators into barricades, rounding
up and beating anyone who looks suspicious. Like good Communists, most of the
Soviets seem to enjoy the crackdown, including the focal character. However,
the sound of a hand drum and rhythmic counting sparks his curiosity. Within a
battle-scarred Soviet Brutalist building, he encounters a young boy learning to
perform the traditional military-inspired Georgian Khorumi Dance.
He will learn something about dignity and
determination from that boy, but it probably will not be enough to make a
difference for his soul or the Georgian people’s immediate well-being. Chill is a brilliantly shot short film
that viscerally captures the panic and abject terror caused by the Soviet shock
troops. Giorgi Devdariani’s black-and-white cinematography is starkly
arresting. He and Bziava frame the action in inventive ways that create jarring
perceptual effects. Bziava also uses the imposing Soviet-era architecture to
convey a vivid sense of place.
Chill is more of a director’s film
than an actor’s showcase, there is no denying the fierceness of the young boy.
He has the dance chops too. It only runs for a mere fifteen minutes, but it
manages to say quite a bit with great eloquence. Sadly, it is also terribly
timely. In 1989, nobody thought Soviet tanks would roll into Georgia, yet they certainly did. Afterward, nobody thought they would ever return, but they already have.
Now it’s Ukraine’s turn. April Chill shows
viewers just what that entails, in bracingly up-close-and-personal terms. Very
highly recommended, April Chill screens
with The Other Bank this Wednesday
(12/3) and next Wednesday (12/10) as part of MoMA’s continuing survey of
Labels: Georgian Cinema, MoMA, Short Films