30 years have passed since the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict but it is still a bloodstained, unhealed pain. Representatives of various fields of art try to reflect this sore point in their works: there are many musical, literary and film samples that convey this issue and many artistic and documentary films have been shot. War remains forever in people's mind, even decades after its end, that is why it is always relevant and it is more interesting to present it in a new way.
Documentary film is one of the good ways to bring the problem to the public. Every country has its share of misfortunes that are important to understand. Working on a documentary film review is quite difficult, because it involves not actors but ordinary people. The main thing in the documentary is to analyze what topics the work deals with and whether it succeeded in properly discussing the topic for which it was filmed.
Maradia Tsaava's debut documentary "Water Has No Borders" (2021) presents this topic differently. The main character of the film is neither the IDPs, nor the soldiers guarding the territory but the violent Enguri Hydro Power Dam, the only link between the two nations. The 1993 conflict split it into two parts. One part is in the territory of Abkhazia and the other is in the territory of other Georgia. Without each other, they are non-functioning, that's why both parties unconditionally agree to its work.
A journalist and independent documentarian comes from Tbilisi to Zugdidi to see the dam in order to learn more about the infrastructure and its workers, however, during the filming period, she has the desire to cross the border with the workers working at the hydroelectric power plant and photograph the other side as well, which is not so easy, so she has to spend months in Zugdidi. While waiting for the pass, she collects exciting stories.
The stories are told by HPP workers of different ages, different professions, different social statuses and, therefore, different life experiences but they have one thing in common – this is the dam. Enguri HPP can unite completely different people and make them move in one direction for the future of their native dam. The director allows each character to speak, express his opinion, talk about what is important to him. The author only intervenes in the conversation by asking questions, so their emotions and feelings are transmitted to the audience without distortion, although the population needed to tell more stories to become more convincing and reach the hearts of the audience more.
The positive side of the film is the topicality of the topic, a rather difficult problem is presented from a different angle without any politicization. The author does not represent her own attitude. The words are uttered with the utmost care and observation, so that neither side would be painful and incomprehensible.
The film is shot like a reportage. In this case, the director is in the role of a journalist, asking questions, and the HPP workers are the respondents who answer and all this is bound in the form of a film in the end which does not leave the impression of a documentary film at all. The director herself can be seen in almost every shot, and if she is not seen, her voice can still be heard, which makes the work more undervalued.
As for the structure, the director tried to put in as much as possible to make the film more spectacular, but unfortunately, it all turned into a real mess, the work came out chaotically scattered, not united by a single adventure, and most of them fail to deliver the drama that the director intended for the audience. However, the film aimed at a very big task. The work does not follow a particular line. At the beginning, there are a few words about Enguri HPP, but if this film is a documentary and serves to introduce the dam, then why does it only give us scant information about it, and if the main topic is the stories told by the workers, it is not fully revealed and fully shown either. Finally, the third topic and the closest to the title is border crossing, although this is also less developed in the work. One scene goes into another without even having time to finish. Some moments look fragmented.
The author's rude request about why they don't give a pass is also incomprehensible. However, it is not at all surprising that six men were not allowed to shoot the film when people are not allowed to see their sick mothers and siblings. The workers’ eyes show how cautious they are about this topic, they avoid speaking out loud and they say all the words related to crossing the border in moderation and against this background, the director's persistent efforts to find herself on the other side of the border look a little insolent.
The author is not aware of the price at which ordinary people have to move to the other side. Every approach to the border and attempt to cross it, whether legal or illegal, is associated with great fear and stress. Every moment thinking whether they will reach their destination safely. It's easy to observe it from a distance and draw conclusions but when all this becomes your daily life for years, this film can no longer evoke any emotion, because none of its topics are fully resolved. If this film was not able to awaken the feelings of Georgian viewers and make them think about the problem, then what should be said about the foreign viewers for whom Georgia is either an American state or a republic within Russia. Will the goal of the documentary be considered achieved in this case? Of course, no.
What the movie doesn't really complain about is the music and cinematography. The abundantly used songs created the appropriate mood. Near and far views of Enguri dam are amazing. Sometimes the cameraman uses drones for filming, which radically changes the perspective and opens the same world from another angle. There is something magical about it. It makes you want to see the violent dam up close and feel its mysterious power, which so quietly unites people and forgets the existence of borders. In the film, the narration of the characters is covered by the shots of Mingrelian landscape and the dam, making it easy to remain anonymous for those who did not want to tell the story openly and all this was a good decision against the background of beautiful views.
Water plays a special role in this documentary work. Water, as a living element, a symbol of freedom, with its character, mood and means, manages to make you look at the scale of human life in a new way. Everywhere you look, it is everywhere, beautiful, exciting and dangerous. Thanks to it, Abkhazians and Georgians do not cut ties with each other. If it weren't for its insatiable desire to strive for freedom, even water would have a border.
The ending is unconvincing and leaves the audience with more questions than it can answer. leaving unanswered questions is completely inappropriate for a film of such purpose. Instead of justifying its title and being a ray that someday the artificial border will definitely disappear and relatives will be able to share each other's joy and pain without hindrance, as well as being the hope with which people away from their homes live, this work turned it into a distant prospect.