I don’t like crying in public. However, this Tuesday I bawled in the movie theatre, over one of the best Georgian films I’ve probably seen in a decade. It’s called Keep Smiling ანუ გაიღიმეთ.
The film is good on a universal, not just Georgian scale. In that way it is similar to Iranian film Separation, which depicts a story of one family, living in a particular culture, in particular circumstances, but is so universally human that thought we may never face the settings of these people’s problems, we may feel similar problems in different mise-en-scenes. Similarly, anyone can emphasize with very “Georgian” problems of the film characters.
The film shows cynical, tacky, soulless world of modern western-style entertainment (not a new concept in film, really), but shows it through a prism of a Georgian reality. The film is not just about social and financial problems. It is not just about refugees. It not just about trophy wives. It not just about aging. It not just about lack of love. It not just about forcefully pressing closed society to be open. It not just about politicians who use people’s emotions for their own profit. It not just about private or institutional discrimination. It is about all of these issues and more, logically intertwined together, one contrasting with the other, all of them painful, all of them important.
There are no happy women in Keep Smiling. We see strong women, we see dramatic women, we see shy women, we see firm women, we see women with and without husbands and children, we see rich women, we see poor women but we never see happy women. We see Georgian women.
All is for sale in this film, bread and entertainment for all costs. Emotions, bodies, morals, principles, humanity, all is for sale and we watch this unique, different, strong women being forced into selling various aspects of their personality to get a coveted prize. You as a viewer understand that there is really no other alternative and it hits you with the full force that such patriarchal, collective cultures actually do create situations where an individual, no matter how strong she is, can’t change anything.
Aside from the not-yet-explored content of this film, it is technically better than most of recent Georgian films. Actors mostly act naturally. Editing is wonderful, dialogue is brilliant, camera work is good, though not outstanding; the film is modestly sprinkled with symbols here and there, The script is the star here and nothing takes away from the stories. Drama is built up gradually, in a very classic Shakespearean manner and avid filmgoers will sense towards the end that a tragedy is just bound to happen. It has humor and it does not hit you with a blunt, straightforward messages.
I didn’t cry towards the end, when crying would be obviously appropriate. I started crying after a scene depicting women that cook for the 2008 IDPs, as a part of planned entertainment. The event is being translated on live TV. A reporters asks one of the heroines (who is an Abkhazian refugee herself), “oh, how wonderful that you are cooking for these people, how kind of you, tell our viewers, what do you feel right now?” and the women says “nothing”, while a drunk man in the background comically tells the camera “stop looking, this is not a zoo”. It just hurt me personally, it hurt me as a woman, as Georgian, as a citizen of a post-war country, it hurt me on so many levels of my own, individual identity, that I could not stop sobbing till the end of the film.
The film is subtitled. You can see it in Rustaveli theatre. Don’t bother reserving the tickets, the room is mostly empty anyway…
P.S. my blurry and forced smile.