Mariam Khatchvani • Founder and Artistic Director, Svaneti International Film Festival

– The filmmaker talks to us about the future of the festival she created

Mariam KhachvaniGeorgian director of the acclaimed feature film Dede [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
on the mountainous region of Svaneti where she was born, turns her attention to film festivals. In its second edition, the Svaneti International Film Festival – co-founded with Teimuraz Chkhvimiani – organized a short film competition and a presentation session of upcoming Georgian projects, judged by an international jury, as well as a series of masterclasses and special screenings, including Brighton 4e [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Levan Koguashvili
film profile
]
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Cineuropa: I would be curious to know what was the first idea behind the decision to found a film festival. What were you trying to accomplish?
Mariam Khachvani: When we started dreaming about it, we wanted to create the Svaneti Residence. I myself took part in similar initiatives, such as the Cannes Cinéfondation for example, and wrote in Ouchguli [a community of five villages] is simply the best. You can really relax here, it’s the most beautiful and authentic place. People who work in the cinema, who write or direct, they need to escape all the noise, I think, in order to be able to concentrate on their projects. When I’m in Svaneti, I always find good ideas.

Last year, this residency focused only on Georgian filmmakers, also due to budget constraints. It was the same this year, but we would certainly like to open it up to international participants in the future. We also want to develop the industrial part, because that is what we need in Georgia. We need this platform. It would be good to invite international industry players and introduce them to Georgian filmmakers. These plans are still in their infancy, but hopefully we will find our way in the next few years.

It’s interesting to be here and see the posters of Dede everywhere, hearing the locals talking about it. You had so much international success with this film. Do you think that helped when creating this event?
It helped me a lot. I got support from the Ministry of Culture, the Georgian National Tourism Administration and the Georgian National Film Center. They already knew me and thought maybe I could create a nice film festival. Tourists like to watch Dede here in Svaneti, because it shows this place and its culture. You can see how life used to be here and still is sometimes. I have to say that I don’t want to focus only on the festival and completely forget about my job. Last year and now, during this second edition, I put a lot of energy into it. But I hope that at some point my staff will take over.

What are you going to focus on next, do you think? This year, you are mainly screening short films, but the opening film was Brighton 4epresented by its director Levan Koguashvili.
Having short films in competition, as well as the development of an industry event, we may add another competition later. The short films work very well with the local public, broadcasting them also allows us to invite some young directors. They are inspired by what they see. I really think that’s how they should start their career: making short films. Now, at least here, that’s not the case – they immediately want to make feature films. But it just doesn’t work! That’s how I started and it helped me a lot.

Have the inhabitants always supported this initiative?
I think they’re glad there’s a festival here, but people don’t go to the movies often in Georgia – at least not to watch arthouse movies. Which, of course, isn’t great. You have to encourage them, show them all those good movies and maybe they’ll remember them later?

Last year’s edition was complicated because of the pandemic, we had to change our dates. Now in the summer we have started outdoor screenings to ‘invite’ people – that way they don’t feel too pressured. They can just come and see, and if they like what they see, then they go to the movies. It takes time to get people’s attention, but I can also say that this year more locals were coming to our screenings. We also had more media coverage this year. Let’s hope it will continue like this.

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