Venice Became A Showcase For All His Films

The 2011 Venice Film Festival started on August 31st and came to an end with the awards ceremony on September 10th. Russian director Aleksander Sokurov’s “Faust” was one of the critics’ top choices among the 23 in competition films at Venice this year and received the highest prize -.

The Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica, internationally better known as the Venice Film Festival, is by far the oldest film festival still taking place today. Nowadays, if the Berlin Film Festival is considered the political, Cannes – the most international, then the Venice Film Festival is known to be the most elitist. It is held on the resort island of Lido, with its tourists and holidaymakers, hotels, casinos and bars in the evening lights of the Adriatic lighthouses and yellow buoys lagoons, behind which stands a fairy-tale city of wonder.

Every year in the month of September, more than two weeks, the wind of the Adriatic waving national flags of the “Palazzo del Chinema” – the Palace cinema. Evening hall of the Palace is filled the most prominent film personalities, famous actors and actresses come from different countries, and numerous journalists from newspapers around the world. And the crowd of faithful fans of the movie crowd barrier at the dazzlingly lighted entrance …

Each year, the Venice Film Festival awards the Golden Lion to the best film, screened at the festival, and the Volpi Cup to the best actor and actress. To this day the Golden Lion remains, along with the Cannes Palme d’Or, one of the few trophies in the film world that comes anywhere near Hollywood’s golden man, the Oscar.

The world’s most prestigious film festival, which was founded by Count Giuseppe Volpi, first took place in 1932. It  included foremost films, which became classics in the history of cinema, such as “It happened One Night” by Frank Capra, “Grand Hotel” and “A nous la liberte” by René Clair. Prominent personages of this first show were the actors that appeared on the great screen through the projected films and guaranteed great success for the festival in every aspect, bringing over 25 thousand spectators to the halls. Some of the greatest stars of the age were present, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable,  Norma Shearer, Ronald Colman, Loretta Young, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford.

In the first film festival in Venice, the organizers attracted the participation of 9 countries, which have submitted for the competition 29 films and 14 short films, mainly from France, Germany, the USSR and the United States. The Soviet film, Russian Nikolaj Ekk’s “Putevka v jizn” (The Road to Life) was included in the list of the best.

From 1932 till now, mostly the main prize owners become European films, including Soviet Union/Russian films.

The Soviet Union Films have great achievements, but not all the films and filmmakers are widely known to the public. As time passes by, many greatest directors stay in shadow or remain forgotten by  broad society.

Though far better known in Europe than in the United States, one of Eastern Europe’s most remarkable directors, Otar Iosseliani was nominated at Venice Film Festival several times.

Otar Iosseliani claims a bevy of international awards and a devoted fanbase, and commands a formidable amount of respect in film circles for his cinematic craftsmanship.

Multi award-winner at the Cannes, Venice and Berlin Film Festivals, Otar Iosseliani was born on February 2nd 1934 in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia (Soviet Socialist Republic at that time), where he studied at the State Conservatory and graduated in 1952 with a diploma in composition, conducting and piano. While still a student, he began working at the ‘Gruziafilm’ studios in Tbilisi, first as an assistant director and then as an editor of documentaries.

In 1961 he graduated from the State Film Institute (VGIK) of Moscow, with a diploma in film direction. In 1958 he directed his first short film “Akvarel”. Iosseliani’s first medium-length film “April” (1961)  was denied theatrical distribution and was banned by the local government. This led Georgian film director to stop filmmaking for a while.

His next work, five years later, was film “Giorgobistve” that was presented at the Critics’ Week at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival and won a FIPRESCI award there. This movie was highly praised at the Cannes Film Festival and earned him international appreciation.

His troubles in Georgia continued with “Pastorali” (1976), when the film was shelved for a few years and then granted only a limited distribution, Iosseliani grew sceptical about getting any artistic freedom in his homeland. “We Georgians are stubborn and endure everything until we fall over” – said Iosseliani and he has gone far with this approach.

Indeed, “Pastorali” received an award at the Berlin Film Festival four years later. Following Pastorali’s success at the 1982 Berlin Film Festival, the director moved to France, where in 1984 he made “Les Favoris de la Lune” (The Favourites of the Moon).This was the first film he shot in the West. The film was distinguished with a Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Since then Venice became a showcase for all his subsequent films. In 1989 he again received a Special Jury Prize for “Et la Lumiere Fut” and in 1992 the Pasinetti Award for Best Direction for “La Chasse aux Papillons”.

After the disruption of the Soviet Union he continued to work in France where he made the documentary “Seule Georgie”(1994) which was followed by the sardonic and allegorical Brigands – Chapitre VII (1996).

In 2002 Ioseliani won a Silver Bear for best director at Berlin International Film Festival for the film   “Lundi Matin” (Monday Morning).  In 2010 the “Chantrapas” was released. Inspired in part by Iosseliani’s own experiences, Chantrapas (the name comes from a Russian phrase for a stubborn ne’er-do-well) was an official selection at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Iosseliani’s films are full with his own brand of humor, containing a unique sense of nostalgia and poetry.  Some motifs are common to all of his films: love for drinking, talking and singing among friends, hatred of work in any routine sense, the despising of bureaucrats, love for women, the presence of plants and animals among the human.

He is unwavering in his preference for working with “real” people rather than actors, whom he finds “unbearable.” Iosseliani’s films are musical in their form and structure, music plays an essential part not only in his soundtracks, but also in plots.

Like any great director, Iosseliani’s strong opinions about his filmmaking process reveal little patience for minor details such as budgetary limitations or scheduling. “I’m not really a director. I’m a ballet master! If He decides, up there, that you should make a film,” says Georgian filmmaker “all you’ve got to do is make it.”

By  Tamar Kakulia

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