Jolly Cinema > 17:45


Nutsa Gogoberidze

Introduced by Salomé Alexi

Music recorded and composed by Giya Kancheli

Nutsa Gogoberidze was born in 1902 the Georgian province of Saingilo (now Azerbaijan). Her father, a teacher, encouraged all six of his daughters to go into higher education. Fluent in Georgian, Russian, German and French, she studied philosophy in Tbilisi, then in Jena (1923-1925). On her return to Georgia she met the young Bolshevik leader Levan Gogoberidze, whom she married, despite her family’s opposition. She was hired by the film studio in Tbilisi, and with Mikhail Kalatozov (born Mikheil Kalatozishvili) co-directed a short documentary against the Menshevik government of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921), Ikh tsarstvo (Their Kingdom, 1928). Her first feature film, the impressive Buba (1930), bears a family likeness to Sol Svanetii (Salt for Svanetia), Kalatozov’s documentary of the same year. The film was banned almost immediately. Shelved in the archives of Gosfil’mofond, it was rediscovered in 2013 and made a sensation at film festivals. Her second film, Uzhmuri (1934), suffered from the repercussions of the dissolution of the Association for Proletarian Writers (RAPP) on 23 April 1932. Her screenplay no longer appealed to the taste of the moment. Sergei Eisenstein, Viktor Shklovsky and Alexander Dovzhenko intervened but the film was banned, then lost. It was found again in December 2018 at Gosfil’mofond. In December 1936, her husband Levan Gogoberidze, from whom she had been separated for years, was arrested on Beria’s orders. He was executed on 21 March 1937. Fired from the studio, Gogoberidze made her living by translating the tales of Perrault, under a false name. She was arrested in late 1937 as “a relative of an enemy of the people”, and condemned to 10 years’ exile, first in a camp in Potma, Mordovia, then in a camp for women in Vorkuta. When she returned from the Gulag, she took a job in the linguistics department in the University of Tbilisi. She died in 1966, having seemingly passed on the baton to her daughter, Lana Gogoberidze, an important Soviet filmmaker of the Thaw generation (and who refers to her mother in her 1978 film, Ramdemime interviu pirad sakitxebze, Some Interviews on Personal Matters). Her grand-daughter Salomé Alexi, a graduate of La Fémis in Paris, made her first feature film, Kreditis limiti/Line of Credit, in 2015.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz


Sunday 30/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

This documentary was filmed in the Ratcha region in the North of Georgia, separated from the neighbouring Svanetia by the peaks of the Greater Caucasus. Buba is the name of a mountain village, whose ancestral poverty would be turned upside down by the arrival of Soviet power. It’s hard not to think of Salt for Svanetia, Mikhail Kalatozov’s documentary filmed the same year on the same subject, and in the nearby mountains. They also shared the same art director, painter David Kakabadze, who had been employed to build the set for Kalatozov’s Slepaya (The Blind Woman), filmed in the same region, and eventually banned. When, in superb shots, Gogoberidze shows us the storming masses of clouds above the Caucasus, or the villagers’ traditional dance, the syncopated montage has a familiar feel to it. The drive of the generation, and the thriving Georgian art scene is undeniable: for the avant-garde groups, Tbilisi was on a par with Leningrad. What is unquestionably unfair is that Salt for Svanetia is so famous and that Buba has remained invisible for decades. It bears comparison beautifully, complementing a constellation in which we also find Luis Bunuel’s Las Hurdes, made two years later. In Buba there are none of the violently discordant images to be found in its two illustrious cousins. We sense in Gogoberidze’s work her attention to and sympathy for those mountain dwellers of an old world, and, as was typical in Soviet cinema, for the children temporarily sacrificed to agricultural work, but who will build Socialism in the future.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Nutsa Gogoberidze. F.: Sergej Zaboslaev. Scgf.: David Kakabadze. Recorded score composed by Giorgi Tsintsadze. Prod.: Goskinprom Gruzii. DCP. Bn.


Film Notes

Rediscovered in 2018, and as yet never screened outside Georgia, Uzhmuri was banned after its release in 1934. Presumed lost, the chances were that it would not surface again. It was made during the turmoil of the transitional period between the dissolution of the Association of Proletarian Writers (1932) and the official proclamation of socialist realism (1934). The screenplay was reworked several times, and a discussion in October 1933 showed that Nutsa Gogoberidze was facing the by-then defamatory accusation of making an agitprop film. In truth, if the film does once again conform to the obligatory theme of ‘old and new’, its poetry and its strong dramatic construction shine out. Gogoberidze switches her focus from the Caucasus mountains to the marshes of Mingrelia, which the authorities want to drain to combat malaria. The opening images of bucolic nature are followed by a world of illness: “Even the trees have malaria”. And the young communists who take on this operation for sanitation find themselves in conflict with local superstitions. Many can’t imagine pitting themselves against Uzhmuri, the Queen of the Frogs who haunts the marshes. She is said to lead anybody who chances upon her territory down into the depths, where she forces them to marry her. Sadly, the film doesn’t show the Queen of the Frogs but instead a kulak; and after some breathtaking suspense, he is defeated. This happy ending did not, however, prevent the wrath of the censors. At the beginning of the film, a beautiful sequence shows a dying buffalo, drowning in the marsh that swallows him up. The children who had been responsible for looking after him are crying, and calling for help. The buffalo’s head, filmed very close, is slowly covered by the mud. Did this harrowing scene, and other brutally pessimistic ones, seal the film’s fate?

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Šalva Dadiani, Nutsa Gogoberidze. F.: Šalva Apakidze. Scgf.: Mikheil Gotsiridze. Recorded score composed by Giya Kancheli. Int.: Kote Daušvili (Parna), Merab Čikovani (Kavtar), Nutsa Čkeidze (Mariam), Ivlita Djordjadze (Tsiru), N. Iašvili (Gocha), O. Gogoberidze (Iagundisa), M. Tsitlidze (Kitsi), I. Slutsker (Gvada). Prod.: Goskinprom Gruzii. DCP. Bn.