The Georgian film program at the 24th Tbilisi International Festival could be said to be the weakest in the history of this festival, although there were "pearls" that stood out and provided the audience with amazing emotions. Such an exceptionally good film was Giorgi Varsimashvili and Jeanne Nouchi’s film "Hotel "Metalurg" (2023), which tells the story of the displaced people from Abkhazia staying in Hotel "Metalurg" (Tskaltubo, Georgia), for whom this building became their home for 30 years.

The legendary American architect, Lewis Kahn, said: "Every building has its own soul" and this statement is directly applicable to hotel "Metalurg" which, as a parent, received refugees fleeing the war.

The authors managed to show us not only the building but also the soul and inner world of the people living in it. Portrayed are seven families, among which mother and daughter are outlined as the main characters. They turned out to be the most outstanding among the residents there. Their difference begins with the way they feel about each other and life. This can be called melancholic optimism. The second reason is that they were the last to leave the hotel, when the government gave the apartments to the people living in the hotel, it was the most difficult for the mother and daughter to move into the apartment, for some reason.

It is clear that Georgian documentary cinema is ahead of feature cinema. This film raised film documentary to another level because it contains what we always demand from Georgian documentarists. This is the author's vision, the position what the film is about. Finally, the "invisibility" of the camera is interesting, when the presence of the camera crew is not felt, during which the characters are more free and natural. All three of these components are performed at a high level in the film.

It is typical for Georgian cinema to personify a building or a place as one of the main characters in the film, although there are rarely such works where the relationship between the people living there and the "main character" is shown. The author is also different from this, at which time we can remember the Maysles brothers’ classic film, "The Gray Gardens" (1975), which shows the relationship between the house and Edith Beale, who lives in it. Unlike this masterpiece, in "Hotel "Metalurg" we can see not only the past result, a melancholic attitude towards the past but the authors tell us about people with a bright future, who, as it turned out, will have their own house. We can see and hear very hard stories about how they settled here, but the characters’ optimistic attitude towards the future can be seen.

Modern cinema often shows the struggle of generations, the struggle of parents and children. Because in our country this debate started in the 19th century between Ilia Chavchavadze and Grigol Orbeliani, and after that, cinema took over this obligation in our reality. We always saw how the elders criticized their younger colleagues, and in the movies, the young generation was neither negative nor a pillar of a good future. All this has not stopped until today. A clear example of this is Levan Koguashvili's film, "Brighton 4th" (2023), where not only a specific generation is criticized, but also future generations as a whole. In contrast, "Hotel "Metalurg" shows us an amazing example of motherhood. Such an entertaining relationship built on carefree, cheerful and mutual respect, which was really worth building a story on.

The mother's attitude shows hope for the new generation, that these children will indeed change everything for the better, a thirst for freedom that no one can ever quench, and most importantly, she has respect for her child as a complete human being. The child shows boundless love and appreciation for everything that her parents have done for her, although she does not shy away from criticism, but despite this, both of them know each other's value. Both understand how much they need to support each other for a better future. 

Giorgi Varsimashvili’s specialness is expressed in another aspect. Along with directing the film, he is also the cameraman and editor of the project. In all three components, he led the case admirably. At the same festival, we could also see a documentary film, "Requiem to the Hot Days of Summer," where the director tried the same but could not cope with these responsible activities. In the role of cameraman, Giorgi creates a wonderful aura on the dystopian environment around which the action takes place, with fabulous and, at the same time, melancholic shots. In terms of editing, he is very restrained, trying not to tire the audience, so he guides with simple, soft editing techniques to make the film enjoyable to watch. In modern Georgian cinema, we are not spoiled by such things, that the author is at a high level in the three main areas of narration (direction, cinematography, editing).

Alfred Hitchcock said: "In a feature film the director is God, and in a documentary film God is the director." At this particular moment, it can be said that "displaced persons are the directors" because they have been "making" this "film" for 30 years in the hotel "Metalurg," but no one paid attention to them. Finally, the directors described these amazing relationships and stories through cinema. They saw what everyone else had been avoiding for three decades. Not only did they see but they reprimanded all the blindfolded people who had done so before, hid the existence of the inhabitants of "Metalurg" but they were still there, because everything ended well, like in a fairy tale.

Hotel "Metalurg" was a pompous building in its time, however, with the passage of time, it turned into a place for homeless people to live. But this building was not only loaded with this function. It has also become a venue for wedding photos and videos. This dissonance was well captured by the director and he was able to show the audience one important thing, how people completely unknown to each other have a silent agreement. One of them uses it as a filming pavilion, and the other for living. For the latter, their arrival and the filming process has turned into a kind of spectacle, a performance, like a traveling theater that went from village to village and managed a spectacle for the population in exchange for a meager donation. There is one difference here. Neither party pays any fees. They may not even communicate with each other. One of them is just watching, while the other is playing, as if they are alone there. Children are the most interactive at this time. If the adults avoid them and stare at other people's holiday from afar, the children are still relatively close to the "guests."

"Metalurg" accepts everyone, allows everyone to use it and thus stands on its feet. In the film, it is the main character – a Soviet period building that sheltered its own displaced children and opened the door for bridal party to take beautiful commemorative photos in its ruined walls.

Saba Makharashvili  

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