The time when the release of a new Georgian film was a special event is long gone. Starting from Tbilisi, where there used to be more than twenty cinemas ending with the highland villages, where there was a mobile cinema set, which was carried by car (and in heavy snow – by cart) to the waiting audience. Today, the premiere of a new film will be shown successfully in any of the few capital's cinema halls, it will go around foreign film festival screens and will be shown in Tbilisi for a while, where people who are interested in cinema in general and can freely pay the ticket price will see it again. The magic that accompanies cinema in a darkened hall, on a big screen, watching a movie with other people is not available to the majority of the population of Georgia.
Director Beso Solomanashvili filmed "Vegetable Garden in the Conflict Zone" (2021) based on the story of the same name by writer Tamri Pkhakadze. The title itself indicates the content of the work. "I wrote the story "Vegetable Garden in the Conflict Zone" in 2004 in the form in which it was published several times and gained popularity but after the war of August 2008, it seemed to me incomplete, so I continued the story. Now it is filled with more intensity and pain although I tried not to lose the hope that lives in any of us" – the author writes in the preface. This really great work was staged in different theaters of Georgia (Rustavi, Meskheti, Ambrolauri, Tbilisi Liberty Theater).
It was the story "Vegetable Garden in the Conflict Zone" that the director chose for the film because he was looking for a suitable topic. Beso Solomanashvili is a film director, Giorgi Shengelaia’s student. He worked in television for a long time. He is also a successful writer who has received many prizes and awards. The subject of his works is often the old or recent history of Georgia, repression and occupation, loyal or traitorous people, cowards and heroes. The director could see the same in this story which is about two brothers living near the occupied territory, one of whom will sell his house and take refuge in America and the other will plant a vegetable garden in the conflict zone and defend it until the end. Along with Beso Solomanashvili and Tamri Pkhakadze, Irakli Solomanashvili also worked on the script of the film. It should be said that as the author has found a completed literary form for the story, so the screenplay has an established film dramatic structure, which transforms literary forms into cinematic ones. That is why the amazing, poetic finale of the story continued in the film and took the form of a concrete story. While writing the script, the authors tried to include real documentary information about the 2008 war in various details. Additionally, documentary footage or the reconstruction of documentary footage is used in the film. The authors really wanted the audience to perceive the film not as anti-Russian but as anti-occupational. Before the film was released, the director said, I want it to be a people's film, a film-action.
For the first time, this film was shown in the village where the main part was filmed, it is Kvemo Gobi, in Kaspi district, which is not a border settlement but not too far from the occupation line. Residents of this village also participate in the film. Then the film began to be shown in different towns of Georgia: Gori, Telavi, Tsalenjikha, Ambrolauri, Lanchkhuti... as well as abroad for Georgians living there. The show was often followed by a conversation with the members of the film crew and a discussion, tears and once again a reminder that you have to take care of your crops yourself, you have to grow your own vegetable garden.
The expressive side of the film is mainly decided in green-khaki color (production designer - Mamuka Esadze). On the one hand, it is the color of nature, and on the other hand, that of the military uniform, which is this color precisely because you cannot distinguish it from nature in the distance. The work of the film cameraman, Gela Chinchaladze (who, along with working in feature films, also has experience working in television) creates the impression of the material captured by a reporter’s camera in a hot spot (journalists’ roles are played by real journalists in the film).
The main character of the film, Robinson, is played by Duta Skhirtladze, an actor and TV presenter well known to the audience. I don't know if it was the right choice, but despite the actor’s masterful performance, I still found it difficult to separate him from his own TV image. Nevertheless, it is his character that leads the story, makes you empathize, sometimes smile, worry, get angry, feel a lump in your throat from helplessness... and think.
The composer Zviad Mgebrishvili specially wrote a song for the film. "Hey, daddy, tell me where are you?" - these words begin this song. Where are you really, my daddy? my brother, son? Where am I when they enter my country with tanks and cross the borders?”
Robinson did not want to take a weapon in his hand, he wanted to work on his father's land. It was him who planted and blossomed a vegetable garden in a deserted place, like Robinson, who shipwrecked on a deserted island. This land is not a desert island, it is the place who needs his defense and Robinson sometimes throws potatoes and sometimes grenades.
In order to become popular, a film must be seen and loved by many viewers, very many. Where the authors managed, they brought the film to the Georgian audience, they themselves accompanied it, because more than the film, they wanted to bring its message to people with all sincerity, feeling, and truth.
Gone are the days when during the construction of a new district of the city, there was definitely a cinema project included in the plan. Now we have to decide many things ourselves, for example, whether we need municipal cinemas or whether a film seen together has the old power to understand the problem once again in an artistic form.