Giorgi Ovashvili is a Georgian screenwriter and film director. His first film, The Other Bank, premiered at Dhaka, Fribourg, Granada, Nuremburg, Paris, Seattle, Tromsø, Warsaw, and Palm Springs, where it won the FIPRESCI Prize. Both The Other Bank and Ovashvili's second film, Corn Island, were selected by Georgia for consideration for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd and 87th Academy Awards, respectively.
In an exclusive interview with Filmatique, Giorgi Ovashvili discusses ethnic conflicts arising from the Soviet collapse, the power of cinema to restore trust, and his next project.
FILMATIQUE: You've made two films to date that address the conflict that arose from the de-facto independence of Abkhazia from Georgia. What does this chapter of Georgian history mean to you?
GIORGI OVASHVILI: Georgia is separated at the moment. In the last 25 years our country has lost a quarter of its territory. In my mind, this is a major psychological problem for Georgian citizens. It all started after the collapse of the Soviet Union, because the beginning of the empire's collapse is when ethnic conflicts emerged within its component parts. Ethnic conflicts were the only chance to stop the process of collapse.
I have spent my entire adult life in this reality. I have been working in this reality and therefore it was impossible for me to avoid the topic. In my opinion, art is a much more powerful tool for restoring trust between people, than politics.
FLMTQ: Does the conflict still exist today— and if so, in what forms?
GO: Abkhazia is under Russian control right now. After the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, Russia succeeded in legitimizing its conquered territories. These territories are free from any military action for now, but relationships between Georgians and Abkhazians essentially don't exist.
FLMTQ: How did you come to embrace cinema as a tool for coping with this dark chapter of history? Do you believe that cinema is unique in its power to foster discourse, or help societies heal, and if so— why? What is it that makes cinema special?