Big ambitions, large-scale projects, rural people, government missteps and endless waiting. Nino Orjonikidze and Vano Arsenishvili's full-length documentary, “A Tunnel” (2019), demonstrates clear evidence that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
The film reflects the never-ending cycle of construction of the Moliti railway station in Kharagauli district. This large-scale and pompous project of the government and Georgian Railways changes the local population’s agenda and falls from inactivity to a deconstructive situation over time.
The camera was turned on immediately after the announcement of the railway project and did not turn off for six years, thanks to which we can see the changing attitude of the population, the unsuccessful efforts of the government, slowly exploding mountains, uprooted forests, destroyed terrain and out-of-control construction.
At a glance, we understand and perceive with complete clarity how much the Silk Road project is needed for Georgia, especially since such projects are vital for small countries like Georgia but all the details need to be clearly perceived and understood before the result. The construction of Moliti railway station only shows us the inevitability of the local population's suffering.
The socially difficult situation is accompanied by the expectation of the implementation of the project among the population, the expectation that high-speed trains may soon pass by their homes, the expectation of an event that was decided, planned and implemented independently of them.
Building the railroad is one piece of the puzzle. During the course of the film, the focus shifts to people, their everyday life, uncertainty, anger. The government comes along and says, "We've got to build a railroad here," and a full stop. This is "not subject to appeal." The impoverished local population is forced to accept the situation because they have no leverage or resources to resist.
The villagers get together, share information with each other, saturated with the words: "maybe," "that's what I heard," "I think," "I don't know for sure," "perhaps" and gradually, the "discussion" of the poor people’s problems takes on the appearance of a complete utopia.
The directors’ hidden, subtle cynical echoes make the film more tragic. At the beginning of the film, we can see shots of how solemnly the Silk Road project was announced by the Prime Minister of the time, with its scorching sun, fluttering elms, photographers, televisions, golden scissors placed on a red pillow and a hearty "Speech." Time passes, the project is delayed for so long that the country's high-ranking official changes, and we are already listening to the speech of the new prime minister, with the same content, joy, waving flags and high-flown words. Years pass, and the situation in Kharagauli is the same, one high-ranking official is replaced by another, and from the finale or non-finale of the film, it is more likely that the second will be replaced by the third, the third by the fourth, and so on.
The small village of Kharagauli is slowly being filled with Chinese workers. They disrupt the harmony of the locals, create an unusual situation and further strengthen the fog of uncertainty around them. The problem between Chinese workers and Georgians is the language barrier. They don't understand us, we – them, and so we build the "Tower of Babel" in an incomprehensible way.
The Chinese workers explain to us, the Georgians do not understand, which creates tension and the exchange of information is not possible. The main reason for this is the government. It is clear that both sides are caught in the government's trap and are heading towards uncertainty. The problem of information exchange occurs not only with each other but also with the government. There is almost no dialogue between the people and the government. The population could not hear what the future promises, the vagueness and misunderstanding of which were not caused by their wrong steps and actions.
Technological progress, civilization, being in active contact with the world is necessary and a modern person cannot escape from this situation. Tunnels, hydroelectric power plants, reservoirs are necessary for human comfort, but what results can be brought by such rude interventions in nature?
The global problems facing the world seem scary. How the landscape, relief, climate changes. The end might justify the means and the mass destruction of nature is somehow explained by the result. with a result that is not seen in this particular situation. It is unattainable. Therefore, this action has no justification.
In the end, it turns out that this "grandiose" project remained "grandiose" only in the idea and was not implemented in reality. It turns out that geological studies were not carried out in full and that the station is a monument of cultural heritage and could not be demolished. A project started in uncertainty continues with uncertainty and its end is also uncertain.
After six years of shooting, the film is finished, but the story is not finished. The point is to understand nothing because more time leads to more questions, with even fewer answers and more angry people. The decision of the directors to finish the film despite the course of the story is the right one.
This particular story has many sides and "truths" - Georgians, government, working personnel, etc. For 90 minutes, the directors stubbornly portray the position of Georgians alone. Their subjective attitude is understandable, because they are the authors themselves and perceive the situation in this light. The director means the author and the author shows what he wants, what he believes and what he wants us to believe.
"A Tunnel" can hardly be called only a documentary film. Here, the artistic style is combined with the documentary and, in parallel with the real story, we also come across passages of artistic cinema. That is why the visual twists do not break the overall fabric of the film.
The existence of such films is important both for the development of documentary cinema and for the full perception of bitter reality. The six-year filming process ends with the same premise as it started – Kharagauli district is "Waiting for Godot." A powerful film about idle construction, wrong actions told from the right angles, full of bitter reality, adventures of real people, wrong construction decisions and further stagnation of already stagnant regions.