Documentary Festival

Festival Madness at CENN!!!

After months of preparations and moments of wondering “what are we doing?” last week it finally happened. From 5 till 8th of December we hosted the footprints documentary film festival here in Tbilisi. Over 50 movies from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia were shown in two halls from 14.00-22.00 each day. Movies were subdivided in three categories: Man versus Nature, Heroes of Our Time and Cultural Identity and Globalisation.

We had two main aims when this plan first arose. First of all we wanted to support and promote young documentary makers in this region. Documentaries can be an important tool for free and independent media. We believe documentary making can really contribute to better informed citizens and therefore help the strengthening of civil society and democracy as a whole. Only when you know what happens you have the possibility to form and express your opinion. So our second aim was to make a contribution to a better informed audience, about environment, about culture and in general about many inspiring and remarkable human beings in and from the South Caucasus.

Throughout our festival we have tried to entertain and interest people in the themes we were covering. And perhaps it is not wise to say but we had not expected to be so lucky with our first festival. The team of volunteers worked fast, smooth and reliable. Every minute of the day they were hanging around, discussing about the movies, attracting regular visitors of the cinema to come to our festival instead of a Hollywood movie and giving information about the movies in the program.

One of our biggest worries was not to be noticed by media and empty halls. Well, neither of them came true. Every evening we witnessed full halls and media kept us so busy giving interviews we hardly had time to do anything else! All together we estimate we had over 800 visitors all through the festival.

The opening evening was perhaps most spectacular. With our charming host and head of the Jury “Vladimir Lozinski, a well known Australian news maker who filmed all over the world, we announced the winners of the British Council “Hero of My Time”- Award.

Out of the twelve finalists the Jury, Mr. Wiliam Robinson and Roy Wilson and Vladimir Lozinski himself, the final 3 documentaries were chosen. Ms Yevgenia Shekoyan from Yerevan took the first prize with her stunning documentary about a small deaf boy in a deserted mountain area, whose family chose to stay in the village as that would be best for their child. The theme might sound depressing but in the opinion of Jury as well as audience the movie showed great strength and loving family relations, so undeniably this boy and his family are indeed real heroes.

The second prize went to Irakli Tsanava and Levan Jobava, our youngest contestants of only 14 and 16 years old. Irakli and Levani, both living in Tbilisi, Georgia, chose a very daring topic, an evaluation of Georgia since the Rose Revolution. On one hand they filmed the positive improvements in Georgia over the last 3 years. No one can deny that this government indeed invested a lot; in new statues, fountains, second hand yellow busses and smart, fast cars for the new police force. On the other hand there are many things that haven’t changed or perhaps even deteriorated over the last years, mainly affecting ordinary citizens. At the end of the film, after watching a horrifying scene where you see a little street kid being seriously beaten up, the question fills the screen “Sakaashvili: Hero of Our Age?????????”. Jury as well as audience were gripped by the images on screen and though the technical quality was at some points not perfect yet, everyone agreed that these two very talented boys deserved to win a prize, as this documentary really showed the power of documentary making as a tool for discussion.

Third prize went to Igbal Mammadaliev from Baku for his documentary “Voice of Silence”. Purely coincidental, this documentary also showed a deaf child, but in a completely different way from the first prize winner. During the 12 minutes of this documentary you follow the preparation of a young girl preparing for a fencing competition. The documentary is beautifully shot and a pleasure for the eye but the surprise comes at the end when you find out this girl happens to be deaf. Jury as well as audience liked the way this “heroine” was portrayed as a strong sports woman first and her handicap only plays a minor role in the documentary. In a region where people with some form of handicap are usually put down as useless and pitifull this movie showed a refreshing and beautiful change.

It is hard to catch 4 days full of activities and 5 months of hard preparation work down in a few sentences, so obviously this report is anything but complete.

However, we cannot close this chapter of our first independent documentary festival in the South Caucasus ever, without expressing a HUGE thanks to everyone who in some way contributed to this event and to announce that we will try our best to continue the work we started and hope all our participants as well as our audience will continue to film, to discuss and to think. We hope to have sent a sparkle of positivity around, showing there is both a need as well as an interest in Documentary making in the South Caucasus! See you next year at Footprints Documentary Film Festival 2007!!!!??? 

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