Issue no: 1145
• APRIL 26 - 29, 2019 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... Georgian Justice Minister, EU Migration Official Discuss Visa-Liberalization Challenges NEWS PAGE 2
A Georgian on Russians’ Minds: A Story of Stalin’s Popularity
FOCUS ON ISRAELI-GEORGIAN RELATIONS Discover just how invested Israel is in Georgia's bright future
POLITICS PAGE 4
EU4Climate Kicks Off in Georgia POLITICS PAGE 6
Alarming Lead Levels Measured in Georgian Children
Georgian Supra Traditions Introduced in Tokyo
BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
study released this week by UNICEF Georgia has once again raised the alarm on lead in the country. The headline: 41% of Georgian children have elevated blood lead levels. The study tested the blood of 1,578 randomly selected children two to seven-year-olds across Georgia. The results indicated that 41% of children have 5 micrograms or higher of lead per deciliter in their blood. Of these, 25% have 5 - 10 micrograms, and 16% of children had 10 micrograms or higher per deciliter. No level of lead exposure is safe for humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter or higher are considered to be particularly worrying. UNICEF’s Maia Kurtsikidze told OC Media in October 2018 that the study would be broad enough to provide a representative picture of nationwide lead exposure. The concern is especially acute for children, who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead. Continued on page 10
SOCIETY PAGE 9
Eifman’s ‘Rodin’ Ballet: A Masterpiece CULTURE PAGE 15
Connecting Thoughts: CinéDOC-Tbilisi Int’l Documentary Film Festival Returns in May Image Source: UNICEF
CULTURE PAGE 15
APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
Georgian Justice Minister, EU Migration Official Discuss Visa-Liberalization Challenges BY THEA MORRISON
eorgia’s Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani met with Simon Mordue, Deputy Director-General of Migration and Home Affairs Department of the European Commission, in Tbilisi on April 24 to discuss EU-Georgia visa-free travel challenges. The Ministry of Justice reports that Tsulukiani provided Mordue with the measures carried out by the Georgian government to reduce illegal migration. The Minister assessed the meeting as very important as it gives Georgia a chance to address difficulties in this field together with the EU officials. “Visa-free travel is a unique possibility for our citizens to enjoy greater choice in tourism and we should do our best to preserve it,” Tsulukiani noted, while recognizing that some Georgians have been misusing the system. “We need to make some changes in order to ensure that those who enter the Schengen Area and come back on time are able to continue using these benefits,” the Minister stated. One part of the legislative amendments has already been implemented by the government in order to maintain visafree travel with EU countries, and, she noted, the Parliament of Georgia has
Image source: Justice Ministry of Georgia
adopted a law that envisages criminal liabilities for promoting illegal migration. In addition, Tsulukiani said that by 2020, Georgian passports will come in full line with European standards and so will prevent Georgians from being
able to illegally cross the border of an EU-member state. Tsulukiani emphasized again that the visa-free regime is for short-term visits only and not for work purposes. Simon Mordue also had a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Georgia, David
Zalkaliani. The meeting focused on cooperation between Georgia and the EU in the field of migration. Special emphasis was placed on the political and practical importance of visa-free travel to the country's European integration.
The sides discussed a future plan of joint measures that would ensure uninterrupted functioning of the visa-free regime. Zalkaliani stated that the meeting was very fruitful, adding Georgia always reacts quickly to all the concerns of the European partners regarding challenges connected to the visa-free regime. “At the meeting, we talked about specific plans that will minimize and reduce the facts of misuse of visa liberalization by citizens of Georgia,” Zalkaliani said. The visa-free regime with the EU took effect on March 28, 2017, meaning all Georgians holding biometric passports can enter the Schengen Area for 90 days within any 180-day period for vacation, business, or any other purpose except work. Georgians are able to travel without visas to the following 22 EU member states: Belgium, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Greece, France, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Georgians can also travel without visas to four non-EU-member states (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) as well as four Schengen candidate countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Croatia). Exceptions for visa-free travel include Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Celebrating Easter as a Georgian
s the church plays a huge role in Georgia, it comes as no surprise that Easter is one of the most important holidays of the year. The streets of Tbilisi are left empty as thousands of Georgians head out of the city to celebrate Easter over the weekend with a variety of unique traditions. Unlike in many other countries where eggs have become commercialized chocolate products, the easter eggs in Georgia are actual eggs and they are red. Many Georgian households use madder roots and onion peel to dye eggs a deep red color on ‘Red Friday’ (Good Friday) before sunset. Symbolizing Christ’s resurrection and eternal life, Georgians will crack the strongest eggs on Easter Sunday morning by tapping them against the eggs of another family member. The person with the least broken eggs wins. Grass is another symbol of Easter in Georgia that can often be found decorating the Easter table. Called Jejili, the freshly grown grass symbolizes new life and renewal. Many Georgians will visit various
Image source - Go Kartli
church services held across the Easter weekend in often packed churches. The Saturday evening before Easter Sunday is one of the most important church services, celebrating the appearance of
the Holy Fire in Jerusalem. During the service, they perform a ritual called ‘Litonioba’ which involves praying, listening to the Catholicos-Patriarch and waiting for the ‘Holy Fire’ to be brought
by the delegation. On the morning of Easter Sunday, it is a tradition to greet one another with “Christ has Risen [Kriste agdga]” before even saying hello. If someone says this to you, you should reply “Indeed He has Risen! [chesmaritad],” before continuing the conversation. Of course, no Georgian celebration is complete without food. A special dish is traditionally prepared on Easter Sunday called ‘chakapuli,’ a lamb-meat stew. ‘Pska’ is also popular. ‘Paska’ is a kind of bread cake with raisins, nutmeg, saffron, cloves, cinnamon, and other spices. Perhaps the most unusual Easter tradition takes place on Easter Monday when Georgians visit the graves of their relatives, which has a significant meaning for many families. So many people travel to graveyards on Monday that public transportation to cemeteries is free, traffic jams are common and parking is near impossible! Georgia’s history makes this tradition even more significant. During the communist reign, many churches were destroyed and religion was heavily dis-
Abkhazians Collect up to 3 Tons of Stink Bugs BY THEA MORRISON
ocals from Georgia’s Russianoccupied region of Abkhazia have collected up to three tons of the dangerous-toagriculture pest, the Asian Stink Bug (Brown Marmorated Bugs) which destroyed nearly the whole hazelnut harvest in Georgia and occupied Abkhazia last year. Locals from the occupied region started gathering the pest after the Russian side stated last year that they would pay Abkhazians 1000 Russian Rubles ($15.5) per kilogram of Asian stink bugs. De facto Prime Minister of the region Valery Bganba stated that apart from
using pesticides, the method of collecting the pest by hand is safer and helps to save money. “Unfortunately, in recent years, we have not been able to boast a healthy phytosanitary situation in the country. The plants are attacked by many kinds of pest, including the Asian bugs,” he said, adding that if the works are not intensified, the situation will become hopeless. Russia helps breakaway Abkhazia in order to prevent the spread of the pest on their territory. Last year Russia prohibited the import of certain products due to the "critical phytosanitary situation" in occupied Abkhazia, which was later removed after the situation got better. The so-called Abkhazian minister of agriculture, Amiran Kakalia, noted
that the Russian Federation provided 4,800 liters of pest control products, adding more aid is expected in May. “More than 10,000 pheromone traps and additional knapsack sprayers will be sent to us,” he added. Asian stink bugs also created many problems in Georgia. The pest destroyed more than half of the nut and hazelnut harvest in the western regions in the last two years. De facto Abkhazia leaders, along with Russia, accuse Georgia of artificially creating the pest and spreading it to the breakaway region. Brown Marmorated bugs were first reported in Russian-backed breakaway Abkhazia in 2016, which inflicted significant damage to the nut harvest, the only income of the local population.
Image source: s3.wp.wsu.edu
couraged. Because of this, many Georgians instead went to graveyards to pray, a tradition which has outlasted communism and become a part of the Easter celebrations. After arriving at a grave, it is tradition to light a candle and roll one of the red eggs across the grave whilst declaring “Christ has risen! Indeed he has risen!”. This ritual is performed three times before a supra is set up at the graveside with many toasts with wine dedicated to the deceased. The occasion is celebrated, not mourned, as they are happy to sit once again at the table with their departed. It should be noted that the government is looking to outlaw the practice of eating and drinking at the graveside, though it is unclear how this will be received or prevented in reality, especially in the regions. When the celebrations are finished, wine is poured on the grave, a custom called “knocking over a goblet.” Although foreigners are often stunned by such an action, Georgians believe it means they won’t be alone after death as their relatives will also visit them at their resting place.
APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
A Georgian on Russians’ Minds: A Story of Stalin’s Popularity BY EMIL AVDALIANI
ccording to results released by independent pollster Levada Center on April 16, approximately 70% of the Russians consider the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to have played a completely positive or relatively positive role in Russian history. This is a considerably higher number in Stalinadmirers when compared with the 54% figure recorded in 2016. Historians and Kremlin critics say that under Putin, who has been in a leading role (as President or Prime Minister) since 1999, the Russian authorities have sought to play down Stalin's crimes. While he has criticized Stalin at times, Putin praised the dictator at least once in the past as an "effective manager" and said in June 2017 that the "excessive demonization" of Stalin is "a way of attacking the Soviet Union and Russia." The recent findings were met with irony and concern both in Russia and globally. Many still wonder how a man with the dossier of millions killed under his rule can be acclaimed as a true leader by the majority of Russians. This says a lot about Russian thinking nowadays. Communism was rejected even in the late 1980s, as modern Russians are way better-off materially than in Soviet times. And yet, the Soviet leader
Image source: thetimes.co.uk
is gaining more and more popularity. Many in the West attribute this rise to the fact that economic life in Russia now getting harder: foreign policy has been unsuccessful, resulting in a number of Russia’s neighboring countries falling away (at least partially) from Russian geopolitical influence. Moreover, there are signs that discussions have begun to circulate within the
Russian intellectual elite that the country’s foreign policy and, generally, its course of economic and political development should be reconsidered. In that sense, many believe that Stalin’s popularity is solely based on the fact that Russians are disenchanted with the modern ruling elite. This might be true to a certain extent, but we should also consider another
development in Russia: the centralization of power around a certain group of people headed by the incumbent President Vladimir Putin. It is a general rule in history that a leader, in order to prove himself, relies on historical factors. The Russia political elite, through its new laws on internet restriction, limitation of government criticism, etc., uses examples from Rus-
sian history when all of this was the order of the day. In other words, Stalin’s rule is a good instrument to show to the Russian public that what is happening in the country now already has a historical precedent. In fact, western approaches to Stalin’s popularity miss out on one crucial element: within the context of Russian history, Stalin has arguably been the most successful ruler. It had been a centuryold issue for Russian rulers to exercise strict control over a large space, and lack of economic resources and effective bureaucracy always hindered the development of Russia. Stalin confronted Russia’s inhospitable geography and managed to build a state apparatus which was pretty much capable of controlling the entire geographic expanse. He also set out to resolve what had been a nightmare to his predecessors, the Romanovs: Russia’s industrialization, putting it on the same level as its military and economic capacity and the same level as in western states. Indeed, under his rule in 1929-1953, the Soviet Union was transformed into a superpower. Economic troubles existed, but he nevertheless managed to impose almost total control over the union. As such, what we witness in modern Russia is quite logical: the underlining of the greatness of Stalin based on Putin’s quest to uphold his current centralization policies, as well as Stalin’s major achievements within the context of Russian history.
CoE Approves 19th Consolidated Report ‘Conflict in Georgia’ BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI
he Secretary General’s 19th Consolidated Report on the Conflict in Georgia was discussed during the 1344th meeting of the Committee of Ministers Deputies of the Council of Europe (CoE) on April 24. The report covers the period from October 2018 to March 2019 and concerns the difficult situation in terms of human rights on the occupied territories of Georgia during the reporting period. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Lasha Darsalia delivered a speech at the session, paying special attention to the occupied territories, installation of barbed wire fences and other illegal processes of raising artifi-
cial barriers along the occupational line. He noted that such actions affect the daily lives of the local population and deprive them of fundamental rights such as freedom of movement, property, rights to education in the native language and more. Darsalia informed the Committee about the death of Georgian citizen Irakli Kvaratskhelia on the Russian military base in the occupied Abkhazia region in uncertain circumstances, noting this “indicates once again that it is necessary to consolidate efforts to end the violations of human rights in the occupied territories and put an end to impunity.” He also spoke about the support received for the "Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili List" and the necessity of imposing sanctions on the persons included there in order to prevent further gross violations of human rights and ethnic vio-
Image source: Ministry of foreign affairs of Georgia
lence in Georgia's occupied regions. He also called upon the Russian Federation to comply with the fundamental principles and norms of international law and the 12 August ceasefire agreement. The Deputy Minister focused on the pressure put on victims of the occupation regime in Akhalgori district; on activist Tamar Mearakishvili living there and the discrimination on ethnic grounds, which clearly demonstrates the difficult situation of human rights in the occupied territories. Taking into consideration the situation on the territories, he underlined the need for immediate responses from the international community and the need to introduce international observation mechanisms on site. Darsalia informed the Committee of Deputies Ministers of the so-called “law” made by the Sokhumi occupation regime that envisages the death penalty for large quantities of drug export, import and / or transit. Attention was also put on the steps taken by the Georgian authorities towards peaceful resolution of the conflict. The importance of the Geneva International
Discussions was underlined in this process. The Deputy Minister also spoke extensively about the Georgian government’s steps towards a confidence-building engagement policy. During the review of the Conflict in Georgia Report, statements in support of Georgia were made on behalf of the EU and GUAM. The European Union expressed regret over the failure to comply with the decisions within the agenda of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers' Deputies "Council of Europe and Conflict in Georgia," including the decision of 2 May 2018. The EU expressed concern about the illegal presence of Russian military units in the occupied regions and enlarged military exercises and the restriction of free movement. The closing of socalled crossing points for unprecedented periods was especially marked as having caused the local population particularly serious humanitarian difficulties. The EU statement also expressed concern over the fact that in the frames of the Geneva International Discussions, Russia and the participants from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali are not participating in
the discussion of IDP issues. The European Union supports the cochairs' appeal for the Geneva International Talks to resume the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings immediately and unconditionally. The EU also expressed its concern over the impunity facts following rough violations of human rights in the occupied territories and called upon Georgia to investigate the tragic deaths of Georgian citizens properly and to enforce justice. The EU also calls upon the Russian Federation to unconditionally and fully fulfill all the provisions of the August 12, 2008 Ceasefire Agreement and ensure unrestricted access for the EU Monitoring Mission to Georgia's occupied territories. A statement was also made on behalf of GUAM expressing concern about the situation in Georgia's occupied territories in terms of the human rights situation. The Permanent Representatives of the Council of Europe member states also spoke at the hearing, supporting the continued practice of consolidated reports in future.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
Georgia, Serbia Eager to Advance Cooperation
Image source: MFA of Georgia
BY THEA MORRISON
eorgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani and his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic signed a joint declaration in Tbilisi that aims at advancing cooperation between the two states. The document was signed during Dacic’s visit to Tbilisi. In addition to the declaration, a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia and the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Serbia was signed. During the face-to-face meeting, the foreign ministers of the two countries discussed mutual cooperation issues in various fields. The high-level bilateral visits in recent years, including the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia to Belgrade and visit of Serbia’s Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker to Tbilisi, were positively assessed. The opening of a Georgian consulate in Belgrade in late March and sending of a Georgian representative there were also emphasized as a very positive step in advancing relations between the two countries. At the joint press conference, Zalkaliani spoke about the close ties between the Georgian and Serbian people. “The Serbian and Georgian people are connected with a historical past and cultural ties that combine European values and respect for universal principles of international law,” the Minister said. He added that during the meeting with his colleague, special emphasis was placed on economic cooperation between Georgia and Serbia. Zalkaliani said the parties had positively assessed
The Serbian and Georgian people are connected with a historical past and cultural ties that combine European values and respect for universal principles of international law
the Intergovernmental Economic Commission meeting scheduled for July this year, which will be opened in Tbilisi and will be Georgia-Serbia's second business forum. The Minister also noted that Georgia is actively cooperating with Serbia in terms of sharing experience on Euro Integration, the confirmation of which is the dialogue on EU issues held on April 18. Regional developments and the current situation in the occupied regions of Georgia were also one of the main topics of the meeting. "We talked about the issue of conflict settlement, including the importance of the ongoing Geneva Talks. We once again confirmed our foreign policy course that is aimed at Georgia's integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. We maintain a principled position towards each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zalkaliani said. Special attention was paid to the importance of visa-free travel between the two countries that promotes inter-community contacts and tourism. A very positive assessment was given to the launch of direct air traffic between Georgia and Serbia. The two countries signed a visa-free agreement in March 2018. At the end of the meeting, Zalkaliani thanked his Serbian colleague for the personal contribution to promoting Georgia-Serbia relations. "I would like to once again reiterate the willingness to support the deepening of cooperation between our countries. I am sure that the visit of my Serbian colleague gives an additional incentive to the relations between the two countries,” he said. The Serbian minister also expressed hope that mutual cooperation will be boosted. "I expect that our relationships will be expanded. We welcome the opening of Georgian consulate in Belgrade. We will also open a diplomatic office and have diplomatic missions in Belgrade and in Tbilisi: this is a major step forward. I want to emphasize that there is a great respect, love and trust between Serbia and Georgia," Dacic said. The Serbian minister was also hosted by the Georgian Prime Minister, Mamuka Bakhtadze. The parties discussed cooperation in terms sharing experience on the path to European integration. The development of economic ties and their harmonization with political cooperation was emphasized as one of the key priorities in SerbiaGeorgia relations. The meeting also discussed the cultural and humanitarian cooperation between the two countries, and the importance of further cementing people-to-people contacts for the development of economic and business relations was emphasized. During the meeting with the Georgian President, Salome Zurabishvili, Ivica Dacic noted that Serbia supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
EU4Climate Kicks Off in Georgia BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
he European Union has several long-term, largescale projects in the Eastern Partnership area, covering the six EaP countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Their many programs include EU4Youth, EU4Business, and EU4Energy. Now, the EU has rolled out their newest major program, EU4Climate. The initiative is designed to support the target countries to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, to improve climate policies and legislation, and to reduce the impact of climate change on people’s lives. The EUR 8 million program is being implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in all six EaP countries, in accordance with bilateral agreements between the EU and each country’s national government. The UNDP is also providing EUR 800,000 in co-financing. “The Government of Georgia welcomes and appreciates international cooperation and support in mitigating climate change,” said Nino Tandilashvili, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia. She continued, “We are advancing our work in every sector to fulfil Georgia’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below the 1990 levels, by 2030.” Sector Coordinator on Connectivity, Energy, Environment & Climate Change
Image source: European Union
at the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia, Alexandre Darras, noted that “Tackling climate change is our common responsibility…Through this new project, we will help Georgia lower its greenhouse gas emissions and fulfil its commitments under the Paris Agreement. It will help mitigate climate change and
limit its negative impacts on the environment and the lives of people.” The UNDP is heading another major environmental initiative in the country: a $70 million Climate Change Adaptation Program to reduce the risk of natural disasters. The seven-year program is primarily funded by the Green
Climate Fund ($27 million), the Government of Switzerland ($5 million) and the Government of Georgia ($38 million). At the program’s launch event in February, Louisa Vinton, UNDP Head in Georgia, noted that climate change will be a leading factor in increasing the frequency and intensity of disasters
in Georgia in the coming decades. She emphasized that “Prevention is the key concept,” in the organization’s approach to climate-related disasters. Speaking about the EU4Climate initiative this week, Vinton explained how taking climate action on a national scale can aid a country’s overall development, while moving towards a low-carbon economy. “From protecting forests to phasing out fossil-fuel vehicles, climate action requires smart and swift solutions that will limit warming and save the planet,” Vinton said; “Fortunately, UNDP’s experience has shown that taking a greener path can offer winwin solutions that enhance economic growth and create new jobs.” The EU4Climate program will offer technical assistance to the Government of Georgia to finalize and update Nationally Determined Contributions within the Paris Agreement and national strategies on the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and establish a system of measurement, reporting and verification to ensure that Georgia maintains its progress towards meeting the Paris Agreement goals. The EU hopes the project will help mobilize more funds for climate action and make climate adaptation planning more effective. EU4Climate is the successor to the EU ClimaEast Program, which supported climate change mitigation and adaptation from 2013-2017 across the EaP. In Georgia, the program assisted the rehabilitation of degraded pastures in the Vashlovani Protected Areas in the eastern region of Kakheti.
History in (Swear) Words OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA
ecently, a new puzzle has engulfed the Georgian politics, as for the past few weeks the governing party and parliamentary opposition have been debating as to whether it is acceptable to swear publicly at billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, or not. The Georgian Dream argues that this is totally unacceptable and that he deserves only gratitude and thank yous, while the United National Movement is convinced of the contrary. The former governmental party believes that public swearing at the informal leader of the country is not only acceptable, but even insufficient, as he deserves even worse. This hassle was triggered by Nika Gvaramia, Director of the oppositional TV channel Rustavi 2, whose Facebook live streams and other public cursing instances against Ivanishvili were the detonator for bringing this “serious” problem onto our daily agenda. Although the current wave was initiated by Mr. Gvaramia, the history of public swearing as a form of self-expression counts almost two decades. Thenleader of opposition and the presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze can be regarded as the pioneer in this direction. In his speech during the protests of November 7, 2007, the exhilarated Gachechiladze swore at then-President Saakashvili. Mr. Gachechiladze, who goes by the informal nickname of “Grechikha” (translated as buckwheat) thought that this wasn’t enough and went on to explain the phenomena and peculiarities of different swearing types live in political talk-shows. Despite the fact that Gachechiladze quickly gained followers, the most dignified and remarkable of them is the exPrime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili, although there were instances of the same nature presented by his predecessor PM Irakli Garibashvili.
Although these were quite diverse and interesting, Kvirikashvili’s infamous swearing remains the most impressive and memorable in the history of all local TV swearings. Later, the tradition was proudly continued by the Mayor of Tbilisi, Kakha Kaladze, who decided to use the proverbial saying live on TV and advised his political opponents to take a full swing and come all the way from Mtatsminda onto his genitals. This could have been regarded as the most recent example, proceeding that of Mr. Gvaramia, but since the latter came from the non-governmental segment, it was hailed as a criminal offense. Ironically, it was Mr. Gvaramia of Rustavi 2 whose public swearing was followed by a meeting of government supporters, who gathered in the Rustaveli Theater. The so-called representatives of culture collectively protested Gvaramia’s impudent behavior and wrote an open letter addressed to the pro-governmental TV channel Imedi. The letter was signed by sixty protestors, who declared that Gvaramia is the “swearer of the nation”, they further demanded a revoking of Rustavi 2s right to broadcast. This action, as well as the TV story prepared by TV Imedi, was just one part of the special operation aimed at silencing Gvaramia, as the protest continued and moved into Parliament. During an official session, MP Dimitri Khundadze accused Gvaramia of stirring hatred and warned him about the expected reaction that could come from the general public. The stated “reaction” was quick to follow, as the extremist nationalistic group decided to hold a protest rally in front of the Rustavi 2 building. In an effort to neutralize the all-encompassing threats of the government, Gvaramia addressed the diplomatic corps for help. Gvaramia wrote to the US Embassy and European Union in Georgia that the text that was prepared in advance with the direction of Ivanishvili and read out by MP Khundadze and that he perceived it as an attempt of threat and intimidation.
Discussion about the possible “prohibition of swearing” and having this issue on the political agenda has clearly shown what personal interests the government really has in this whole case. To put it in Ivanishvili’s words, the government is getting ready to “turn off” Rustavi 2.
How could Ivanishvili, the founding father of the Georgian Dream, imagine that the TV channel hailed as the “voice” of Saakashvili would last this long and not close down after the elections of 2012. Although the billionaire forecasted that the channel would close down even
before coming to politics, reality has proven otherwise. He won’t likely be successful in this endeavor in future either, as you can’t win over time. And today it is Rustavi 2 that is writing the history, just as it was doing during the Rose Revolution and the August War.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
The Achievements of the Wings for Life World Run within five years is a great achievement. In addition, the international team of the event has high expectations from us and is waiting each year for us to start registration. Our photos catch their eye most frequently and so there are a lot of people traveling to Georgia to run.
HOW HIGH IS THE ENGAGEMENT OF FOREIGNERS IN THIS EVENT IN GEORGIA?
INTERVIEW BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
n May 5, Kakheti is to host one of the largest sporting events in the world, the Wings for Life World Run. The project unites thousands of participants each year to raise money for charity purposes to help cure spinal cord injuries. GEORGIA TODAY contacted Maia Azarashvili, professional sprinter and one of the organizers of the event, to discover more about the World Run event.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE WINGS FOR LIFE WORLD RUN FOR YOU? The Wings for Life World Run has proved to be one of the most important projects in my career and I really look forward
to it each year. Along with the unique format and global scale of the event, it serves a good purpose, bringing together lots of people regardless of their gender, age and ethnicity. I’m also sure it’s as important for everyone, as it is for me, that spinal cord damage be curable.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT IN THE WORLD RUN PROJECT. I engaged in the project in 2014 as the Sports Director, while for the past three years the National Federation ‘Sport for All’, which I’m President of, has been helping to organize the Run. As a professional sprinter, I always tell everyone that jogging and fast walking is crucial to good health. And the concept of charity doubles my motivation.
HOW SUCCESSFUL HAS THE WINGS FOR LIFE WORLD RUN PROVED TO BE IN GEORGIA SO FAR?
In 2014, when we decided to hold the World Run in Georgia for the first time, me and the head of the project at the time were walking door to door, trying to grab the attention of the public and gather participants. We had no idea then that so many people would ever engage in the charity sport event. Sprinting is not a popular sport in our country. However, a lot has changed since 2014. Aside from the great enthusiasm of the public regarding the World Run, some good runners have also appeared, all wanting to contribute to charity. We feel special support from companies who register more participants by the year. It goes without saying that the Wings for Life World Run is as successful in Georgia as it is globally, and we have no other sports or charity events of such a scale. The project managed to bring together 3,000 participants in 2014, while last year we had 7,000. The same figure is expected this year. I think getting such a result
As the Wings for Life World Run is held in this specific format (using a ‘Catcher Car’) in only 12 countries, Georgia is a very popular destination among runners. We host a great number of tourists each year, the vast majority of them coming from the neighboring countries. During the first week of May, Kakheti is overloaded with people, which is certainly thanks to the World Run. Last year, the event brought together the representatives of 30 countries in Kakheti, including six World Run winners of different years. This year, we are expecting the winners of the South Africa and Taiwan runs. Registration is still ongoing so it’s difficult for me to say how many foreigners will register. The nature, location and environ within which the World Run is to be held is sure to impress all guests!
DO YOU COLLECT THE
NECESSARY FINANCES FOR SPINAL CORD RESEARCH THROUGH THE WINGS FOR LIFE WORLD RUN? The Wings for Life Foundation has been carrying out medical research projects and clinical trials since 2004, financing 11 studies in 2005 and 191 ongoing studies in 15 countries in 2009. We achieved the desired results and in December 2018 it was revealed that three of our patients had started to walk, having been given special electric stimulators in their spinal cords which could be managed by wrist-watch-like device that reacted to the owner’s voice to activate or deactivate the stimulator according to need. Five months after the surgery, the patients had control of their leg-muscles again and were able to walk without the wristwatch. After five more months of intensive exercise and therapy, all of them have been given the ability to walk unaided. This is certainly a great triumph for the patients. The next stage of the research includes investigating spinal cord damage at the early stage, which will facilitate the curing process. All of this has happened as a result of the engagement of World Run participants and I hope we will continue the charity work: all proceeds from the run go to the World Run Foundation!
APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
30 Years of Cooperation: Georgia, Israel & World Jewry Georgia is similar to Israel, and sharing the Israeli experience, particularly regarding the economic policy will be beneficial for it. It would be useful to involve the Consuls and Embassies in terms of attracting investments. It should be their obligation. The IsraelGeorgia Chamber of Business appealed to the Georgian side with this initiative two years ago. It is also a good idea for Georgia to use the same methods in the respect of supporting startups, which are considered to be successful in Israel.
THE NUMBER OF ILLEGAL GEORGIAN RESIDENTS IS ON THE RISE IN ISRAEL. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE SOLUTION?
TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
rom April 29 to May 6, Israeli Week is to take place in Georgia, organized by the IsraelGeorgia Chamber of Business and the Israeli House, which includes 30 events, a business forum among them. Prior to the forum, we spoke with Itsik Moshe, the President of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business.
HOW WOULD YOU EVALUATE THE ISRAELIGEORGIAN COOPERATION IN RECENT YEARS? The cooperation between Georgia and Israel is becoming more diversed by the year. The progress of the economic partnership, the growth in Israeli investments and tourist inflow has very
Israeli investments and tourism have contributed in excess of $1 billion to the Georgian economy
much contributed to the enhancement of the collaboration between the two countries. I can state, without exaggerating, that the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business has played an incredibly significant role in the current relations between the countries, as it has been actively involved in the process of rising interest in Israel and world Jewry towards Georgia. The business forums and media sources represent the main tool in this case, helping the Chamber of Business in terms of promoting Georgia. The major investments of the Israeli investors and the representatives of the Jewish community are currently mostly allocated in the sphere of real estate. The total amount of this money exceeds several hundred million dollars; however, it is not marked as an Israeli investment in the official statistics. The reason for that is the fact that the vast majority of inflow comes from offshore or is part of a joint investment or is the capital of the Jewish community of different countries. It is incomprehensible to hear conversation about the lack of investments from Israel. The facts prove the opposite. Israel is the first in terms of an increase in tourist flow, which amount to 114%. For example, according to the figures of the Georgian National Tourism Administration, in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period of last year, there is an increase of 5%, or $28 million. In the relevant period, the tourist inflow from Israel was 114%, which in numbers amounts to 14,000 tourists, meaning that 50% of the increased number comes from Israeli tourists. Israel was the first country to make private investments in Georgia. The contribution of Israeli investments and
tourists for the Georgian economy exceeds $1 billion. And if one of the parameters is low, this is not a problem, but rather a mark showing the need to strengthen joint work. Our aim at the Israel-Georgia Business Chamber is to attract investments from Israel and the Jewish community to Georgia, with the help of the Georgian government.
YET, THE ACTIVITIES OF THE ISRAEL-GEORGIA BUSINESS CHAMBER AND ISRAELI HOUSE ALSO COVER OTHER SPHERES, TOO. The 5-star Wyndham Grand Hotel, launched in the museum district in the heart of Tbilisi, which was built by the investment company CityM, that holds 100% from the hotel shares, has become the symbol of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business promotion in the recent years, the opening ceremony of which is to take place on May 2, seeing the Head of the Georgian government participating. However, prior to the event, within the scope of Israeli Week, the Georgian-Israeli Business Forum is to be held on April 30, organized by the Chamber of Business, which will bring together more than 100 businesspersons from Israel. The major aim of the forum is for potential Israeli investors to receive the message from Official Tbilisi regarding the interest of the Government to solve the issues which certain investors have had to face, and to make them feel confident about the future. We do not have time to first solve the problems and then attract investments. Both have to take place at the same time. The work of Israeli House is multilateral. Culture and preservation of cultural heritage has been one of its main directions in recent years. Dis-
covering each other’s cultures is a wonderful opportunity for the countries to better explore each other. Georgia certainly has the right to tell Israel more in this respect. In case of the representation of Israel, Israeli House is working to demonstrate the real Israel to Georgia. The latter, however, has proved to be a major challenge for the development of direct governmental cooperation between the two countries. In order to enhance the cooperation, the countries have to better know each other, be aware of each other’s past and present, culture, business culture, potential and aspirations. Israeli House has made some major steps in this respect. With its support, History of the Holocaust lessons have been offered in three Georgian universities for two years, an Israeli Cabinet has been opened in two universities, a Jewish library corner has been launched at the National Library; and contests of students works on a Jewish theme are carried out at universities. 10 winners are already set to go to Israel, where they will visit the parliament and military, meet their counterparts and get to present their homeland. All of our initiatives are suited to the interests of the country. I have been working in post-soviet countries, including Georgia, for 30 years and was the first representative of the Jewish Agency for Israel and one of the initiators of the governmental cooperation between Israel and several post-soviet republics.
YOU OFTEN DRAW A PARALLEL BETWEEN GEORGIA AND ISRAEL AND SUGGEST GEORGIA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT ISRAEL’S EXPERIENCE. WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR THIS?
One of our initiatives at the IsraelGeorgia Chamber of Business and Israeli House was focused on granting Georgian citizens work visas for Israel. The issue gained importance after the growth in the number of illegal Georgian migrants entering the country. Israel will not allow illegal migrants to reside on its territory: an illicit stay has no justification, even with the terminology that is often used in regard to GeorgianIsraeli cooperation. Two years ago, we presented an initiative to temporarily stop the visa-free regime between Georgia and Israel until the eradication of the problem regarding the migrant flow, and to allow a special bilateral group to investigate the issue. In addition, Georgia was to receive a particular quota from Israel regarding working visas, which would enable Georgian citizens to avoid selling their real estate or applying for loans for the purpose of getting a job in Israel. In introducing a quota, the citizens of Georgia, like the citizens of other Eastern European countries, would be able to work and earn a wage. This is also among the interests of Israel, as the deportation of each illegal migrants means the ‘formation’ of one more individual with an anti-Israeli attitude. The initiative of the Chamber of Business and Israeli House proved to be impossible to carry out for both sides. Currently, despite the strict and obligatory control at the airports, the figure of deported individuals does not exceed 12%. Introducing the real Israel to friendly countries and contributing to the establishment of direct communications is the main direction of the concept of Israeli House. Public awareness about Israel has increased in Georgia. This is a path, through which society is focused on direct cooperation, rather than on illusions. The frequent travel of Israeli politicians, businessmen and public figures, organized by the IsraelGeorgia Chamber of Business and Israeli House, plays a big role in this. Civic and working visits from Georgia, which have caught the eye of the Israeli media, have also been important. A number of forces standing on the different platforms of Israel, have united around the concept of Israeli House.
DO THE ACTIVITIES OF ISRAELI HOUSE SOMEHOW DUPLICATE THE FUNCTIONS OF THE ISRAELI EMBASSY? At the first glance, it may seem so, but in reality we cannot call it duplication. Operation of the Embassy and the activities of Israeli House fulfil each other. We are always ready for the cooperation with the diplomatic corps. In addition, establishing partnership with Israel thorough the diplomatic channels, as well as via civic organizations is already an approved form in the modern world. We serve for the same goal – to contribute to the bilateral collaboration and introduce Israel to friendly countries.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
Georgian Supra Traditions Introduced in Tokyo derful meeting and dialogue between the two absolutely different Georgian and Japanese cultures. However, I, as Tamada [toastmaster], said that both cultures have a common ground: the need for human communication and dialogue.” The project ‘Georgia – Homeland of Wine,’ organized by the National Wine Agency and Georgian Wine Association, is implemented in partnership with Sony Music Communication and TOPPAN. Within the frames of the project, the exhibition held in Terrada combines
ithintheproject‘Georgia- Homeland of Wine,’ a Georgian evening "Supra" was held in Tokyo, led by writer Zurab Karumidze. Wine experts, representatives of the Government of Japan, local media and the Embassy of Georgia in Japan were among the 120
invited guests at the exhibition space Terrada Warehouse. The Georgian evening was also attended by Sumo wrestlers Tochinoshin (Levan Gorgadze) and Gagamaru (Teimuraz Jugheli), a very exciting moment for the Japanese guests. The aim of the event was to introduce Georgian “Supra” and wine traditions
unique archaeological exhibits and modern technologies, the concept of which is based on the uniqueness of Georgian wine culture.
and culture to the Japanese people. Along with various wines, Georgian dishes were prepared for the guests by Georgian cooks specially invited for the event. “Japanese people have a liking for rituals, and we tried to represent the Georgian 'Supra' as some kind of wine ritual, describing everything it comprises of,” Karumidze said. “It proved to be a won-
A Media Tour to Sharjah
TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
nce a year, the third largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sharjah, transforms into a fairy-tale city and offers an unforgettable experience to locals and guests.
The Sharjah Light Festival is an annual event taking place in February and is considered the largest and most distinguished festival in the Middle East, representing the eclectic Islamic culture of the UAE in the very best way. The festival lasts from a week to 10 days and brings together thousands of visitors wanting to see the most iconic of architectural masterpieces of Islamic culture illuminated in various colors.
Sharjah is recognized as the center of the Islamic civilization and was named the Arab Capital of Culture by UNESCO in 1998. The flight from Tbilisi International Airport to Sharjah took only three hours. After landing, we headed the hotel, two hours’ drive from Sharjah, in one of the most beautiful and sunny resort cities, Khorfakkan: Oceanic Khorfakkan Resort and Spa, exceptional for its services and stunning views. Our day began with a wonderful breakfast and Spa treatment, followed by a guided tour to Sharjah. We were lucky to find ourselves in a group of Georgians, Ukrainians and Armenians together, all of whom were very sociable and welcoming. The guide, Igor, fascinated us with interesting stories about the local customs on the way to a beautiful house belonging to Fatima, a lady who even has a street named after her in Sharjah. Fatima was very kind and welcomed us with coffee, dried fruit and various traditional dishes, before presenting the
national clothing, masks and a unique collection of handmade fragrances. The city of Kalba was our next stop: a real discovery for exotic holiday enthusiasts. The tent-style hotel Kingfisher Lodge with its sea and mountain views appears modest at first glance but offers very comfortable rooms, with an indoor pool and all the necessary facilities. In Kalba, we had a chance to visit the Kalba Bird of Prey Center and local zoo. We also visited the Sharjah Aquarium, enjoyed a walk through the butterfly garden and toured the Al Noor Mosque, which in Arabic means ‘light’. There are over 600 mosques throughout the city; however, Al Noor is certainly among the most astonishing for its beauty and modesty. We got to try out the traditional abaya clothing and discover the ancient traditions of the Islamic world. Every day was full of adventures and surprises. The good weather made the experience even more enjoyable. During the day, we visited various museums, while at night had a chance to admire the lit-up buildings.
The desert tour was especially mesmerizing. The illuminated flambeaus, Arabian-style tents, sprawled across the vast area were nothing short of spectacular. Watching the stars through the telescope was just amazing. Later, finding ourselves in the Rain Room, a contemporary installation after the authentic and traditional environ, filled us with unforgettable memories. Rain Room is an example of contemporary art, inviting visitors to walk through a downpour of continuous rain without getting wet. A 15-minute drive from the city center, it is a wonderful entertainment complex offering a great variety of activities and ideal for families. For those who want to spend time in a pleasant atmosphere, familiarize themselves with the Arab culture and traditions, admire views of the fascinating landscapes and enjoy the hospitality of the local people, Sharjah is a must-visit destination, distinguished for its beauty year-round, but especially during the Light Festival.
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APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
The Grand Opening Ceremony of Radisson Collection, Tsinandali Estate
adisson Collection, Tsinandali Estate hosted a Grand Opening Ceremony. The representatives of the brand, partners and special guests, including international and local media, attended the event. The guests were offered a tour around the hotel, a wine degustation, media lunch and gala dinner. The latest addition to the group’s premium lifestyle collection, reserved for its most outstanding properties, ‘Radisson Collection, Tsinandali Estate’ is set
in the heart of the country’s most popular wine region, Kakheti, and offers a truly unique Georgian guest experience. The property features an on-site vineyard and its own historical winery, whilst additional features include a spa on the top floor, an outside swimming pool, indoor and open-air ballrooms and a neighboring historic 18-hectare park. A Radisson Collection Hotel, Tsinandali Estate features 141 stylish rooms and suites and a range of exceptional hotel facilities. Every room features the elegance to per-
fectly complement the hotel's stunning location. The concept is incorporated into the winery and the result is a seamless blend of Georgian style with modern elegance, and rooms that form the ultimate template for contemporary living. The Tsinandali Estate has a rich history of winemaking, the first bottled wine in Georgia having been produced on the estate. For wine-lovers seeking an insider journey into the heritage of Georgian wine production, the property features on-site vineyards, a unique
vinotheque, a wine-tasting bar and Prince Alexander Chavchavadze’s personal wine cellar collection. The hotel is also the ideal place for meetings and events, boasting private facilities that total over 2350 square meters. Internationally well-known architects John Fotiadis, Christina Gabas and Damien Figueras worked on the project. The hotel features a striking interior design by world-renowned industrial designer Ingo Maurer and Georgian artist and sculptor Tamara
Kvesitadze. The signature area is an open amphitheater designed by Xavier Fabre. Featuring a retractable roof, it can accommodate up to 1,200 people, providing a flexible space that can host concerts, weddings, gala dinners, theaters and fashion shows. The Radisson Collection, Tsinandali Estate will be operated by Radisson Hospitality AB under an international management agreement. The project is developed by Silk Road Group with the financial support of the Partnership Fund.
Alarming Lead Levels Measured in Georgian Children Continued from page 1 The WHO warns that “lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems,” distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones: lead is stored in the teeth and bones, accumulating over time, and is released into blood during pregnancy, exposing a developing fetus to the toxin. Children’s natural curiosity and tendency to put everything in their mouths often leads to them swallowing objects containing or coated in lead – soil, dust, and flakes of lead paint. Children’s bodies absorb more lead if they are lacking other nutrients, calcium or iron, magnifying the impact on undernourished children, of particular concern in Georgia’s regions. Even low levels of lead exposure cause serious, irreversible, and cumulative damage. As little at 5 micrograms per deciliter can cause “a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems,” says the WHO, including affecting brain development, lowering IQs and inducing behavioral changes such as a “reduced attention span, increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment.” Lead exposure also causes anemia and high blood pressure, impairs kidney function, and can harm reproductive organs. UNICEF Georgia conducted their study between September and December 2018. Per region, Ajara showed the highest lead levels, with 85% of children having
5 micrograms or more per deciliter of blood, followed by Guria (73%), Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti (71%), Imereti (61%), Samtshke-Javakheti (32%), Tbilisi (30%), Khaketi (25%), Shida Kartli (21%), Mtskheta-Mtianeti (20%), and Kvemo Kartli (18%). The Georgian government responded quickly to the study, pledging to develop a plan to identify the main sources of lead exposure and to do more to block lead-containing products from the market, to manage contaminated sites, and to raise public awareness. Despite the shocking levels of lead exposure, and rising concern around the issue for the past several years, parents in Georgia still cannot rely on the government to regulate protection for their children. Last month, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze convened a meeting of the Intersectoral Coordination Council, working on environmental issues under the 2018-2022 National Environment and Healthcare Action Plan, to discuss the monitoring of lead levels in children. Bakhtadze gave lip service to the issue, saying “I am aware of the numerous measures taken and international projects implemented in this direction. Naturally, we must focus on the recommendations of the World Health Organization and make use of the best practices accumulated in the countries of the West,” without proposing any specific action.
So, where is the lead coming from? The most common sources of lead exposure in humans worldwide are leaded gasoline, industrial sources, coal combustion, lead-based paint, lead pipes in water systems, batteries, and cosmetics. In 2000, Georgia outlawed the use of leaded gasoline in most of the transportation system, but the rules have been commonly ignored for most of the last 20 years. The majority of cars in the country are older models, many of which were designed for leaded gasoline. A 2006 UNECE study on transportation in the country warned that “lead concentrations [in gasoline] average substantially higher values” than legal maximums, and that “few of the fueltesting laboratories are functioning, the lab equipment is insufficient, and the testing protocols are not being enforced.” A 2008 study by the NGO Cooperation for a Green Future echoed these concerns. Only this year are technical inspections becoming mandatory for private vehicles. While leaded fuel has become tightly regulated, checked at gas stations and at import points since the EU-Georgia Association Agreement came into force in July 2016, children born prior to that likely faced serious exposure to the toxin. Construction is another possible source of lead exposure. Old construction with lead-containing materials demolished without proper mitigation precautions
can send powdery lead dust into the air – a concern considering Georgia’s poorly regulated and hyper active construction sector. A 2017 Detroit Health Department study established that living within 400 feet (122 meters) of a demolition site increased the chances of children six and younger having elevated blood lead levels by 20% during warm weather months when children are more likely to be playing outside and windows are often left open. A 2018 study by Georgian NGO EcoVision found lead in easily inhalable airborne particulates (PM2.5 and PM10), noting a particularly high concentration of these particles near construction sites. In 2017, there were reports of spices being contaminated with lead throughout Georgia. The New York City Department of Health advised residents to avoid spices imported from Georgia due to high lead levels. A study published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice in December 2018 warned New Yorkers that spices imported from Georgia were contaminated and unsafe to consume. Turmeric and kharcho suneli imported from Georgia had lead concentrations exceeding 50 ppm – compared to local versions closer to 2 ppm. “In NYC, children and pregnant women of Georgian and South Asian ancestry are disproportionately represented among the lead-exposed population,” warned the study.
Georgian law limits lead in food to 5 mg/kg. In tests conducted 2015-2017, the Georgian National Food Agency identified 7.06 mg/kg of lead in paprika, 6.38 mg/kg in dry ajika, and 5.60 mg/kg in khmeli suneli. The agency claimed the contaminated products all came from the town of Zugdidi. In February 2018, the government introduced a two-year ban on the production and sale of preground spices by individual sellers, and mandated that spices be sealed and labeled. The same National Food Agency study found lead in many other common foodstuffs: meat, milk, bottled water, beets, coffee, fish, eggs, and salt. Despite the new law, in October 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Georgia issued a warning to “exercise caution when purchasing spices manufactured locally” and to “consider purchasing spices only from recognized U.S. or international manufacturers” after finding that samples of khmeli suneli and yellow flower had lead contamination levels that significantly exceeded the WHO’s recommended limit. “Both were manufactured by GEO-Group and sold at Agrohub,” said the Embassy, noting that “Georgian spices are not subject to the same standards of food safety as those in the United States.” Until decisive action is taken to identify and mitigate the sources of lead in the country, it seems there is little residents can do to avoid the pervasive poison.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
Michelin Machine Shop: Tbilisi
BLOG BY TONY HANMER
he name “Eliava” used to be more world famous as the most important institute for culturing phages, which are bacteria which eat other bacteria and have all sorts of medical uses being discovered about them. It was and remains in Tbilisi. Now, however, Eliava is locally more known as one of these sprawling markets dotting Tbilisi with increasing rarity, this one largely devoted to car parts, awaiting its turn to be burned to a crisp in a fashionably shocking event (this particular arsonry aided fervently by its oil-soaked ground), video cameras deliciously turned off and guards distracted in advance, then snapped up by the insurance claimants rushing in to fill the vacuum and develop its oh so preciously located land into… more boring but tickle-me-to-the bank high-rises. Whew. The “Eliava=eating” part, however, recently reminded me of itself at a meal for humans. What more unlikely ground on which to find, amidst a sprawling warehouse of Soviet-era machines used to make or repair other machines, a more than acceptably scrumptious Georgian feast,
the supra? I was attending my friend’s attempt to get his gas-powered car through the new annual inspection of all vehicles now required in Georgia. In the course of this, having met me, he handed me off to a mutual friend in said machine shop whom I hadn’t seen for about 17 years. In a grimy back office of the fascinatingly stuffed, rust- and grease-streaked warehouse, he motioned to 1 full and 2 nearly empty glasses of wine. “I made it here, myself, from my own Zestaponi grapes,” he mentioned without much pride as more wine came in a plastic jug. The taste of the golden nectar spoke for itself, more seductively than any need for its creator’s self-praise. There was bread at hand too, fresh baked Shoti loaves, so I thought as Easter approached, we’ve got just enough for Communion. Then, from nowhere that I could discern, appeared: fresh onion and coriander greens; some lovely yellow local cheese; leftover khachapuri or cheese bread; and best of all, a pan of recent pork shish kabob, with onions too, still swimming in its own fat. In short, lunch time in the grease pit. I wasted no time in declaring that no Michelin-starred restaurant reservations were necessary: we had all we would need right here. A pair of drinking horns
were thrust into the event as well, along with some torn-up crossword newspaper sheets for napkins. The only thing which might have improved it now would be an outdoors setting with a fire, but the contrast of all this wonderful food with its setting didn’t hurt either, one must say. It was nice also to be left to my own devices once my host dropped into a snooze. I had the chance to explore the warehouse a bit, see the crane in action moving heavy bits of machinery from place to place and saving the workers’ backs; watch them work too, on utterly incomprehensible parts which my late father, always an engineer, would have appreciated; and take a few more photos to round out the one which appears here and show more of the improbable setting of our repast. Now, I will gladly give up eating the flesh of slaughtered animals when a substitute comes which I can afford and enjoy, and which offers less harm to the environment than farming does. Until then, a day which is coming fast, I remain a carnivore. Despite (or is that because of?) the pork fat now solidifying into drippings in the cool, the meat was perfect. Indeed, everything came together, along with our toasts, into a spur-of themoment but magnificent little occasion which quietly but forcefully poked my instincts as a writer to try to capture it for posterity. THIS, instead of the huge events where plates on plates of bewildering variety obscure the very table supporting them, is a type of the heart of Georgian hospitality which can be found anywhere and at any time. We had each other, and this glorious little spread out of nowhere, by which to remember our friendship. May it always be so. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti
APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
The Niko Ketskhoveli Award: Schools Taking Responsibility for Sustainable Environmental Protection BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES
his May, the Niko Ketskhoveli Award 2020 – Partnership for SDGs is set to kick off, with old-hands and beginners ready to register on forestry.ge to compete. The aim of the Niko Ketskhoveli School Award is to encourage schools to make changes in the communities in which they live. With information shared country-wide through announcements, teacher meetings and posters, schools everywhere from towns to the remotest mountain villages have the chance to show that they want to instigate change. The initiative comes hand-in-hand with civic education, which informs and empowers pupils to be courageous and demand more from the authorities and adults in their communities after identifying problems needing to be solved in their environs. The Niko Ketskhoveli School Award has a focus on the environment and sees school ‘eco-club’ members uniting with their schoolmates, families, neighbors and local authorities to reduce resource consumption, implement waste management projects and clean and protect the environment. The final event of the Niko Ketskhoveli School Award 2019, was held on March 21, the International Day of Forests. The focus of the contest was the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Around 500 schools participated, with 150 schools identified during the semifinals in regional centers. 32 finalists were chosen to present their year’sworth of environmental projects to a jury comprised of representatives of governmental, international and research bodies. Members of the teams of the three winning schools- the Rokiti Public School (Baghdati) in first place, followed by the St. Aleksi Shushania Orthodox School-Gymnasium (Senaki) and Georgian School (Tbilisi) - will attend a 10-day ‘Eco-Camp’ followed by a five-day study program ‘Young Ranger’ within the Protected Areas of Georgia. The National Forestry Agency of Georgia has shown huge ongoing support to the Award, very much enthused by empowering youth to make a real difference in their communities. This year, it is organizing a study tour in the Borjomi Gorge, as part of which the children will also work their green fingers helping to reforest areas affected by fires. The Niko Ketskhoveli School Award has been organized by CENN since 2015 funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) with funds of Austrian Development Cooperation. Partners You can see for yourself how active a single Eco-Club in a school anywhere in Georgia can be when its pupils are educated and motivated to make a real difference to their lives and communities. Want to do the same? Register on forestry.ge from May, 2019. Still not sure? Here are 10 Reasons to Join the Niko Ketskhoveli School Award: 1. Get to present yourself, your knowledge and skills 2. Become a volunteer 3. Take care of your village 4. Get inspired 5. Become part of ongoing global processes 6. Set goals 7. Become a source of inspiration for others 8. Become a leader 9. Make new friends at the eco-camp 10. Protect the environment!
include the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture, the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports and the Parliament of Georgia. “I have been participating in the project as the member of the jury, as well as a representative of the Ministry [of Environment Protection and Agriculture], supporting the initiative for five years,” said Karlo Amirgulashvil. “This is one of the most successful and significant processes for us, as well as the entire region, bringing together hundreds of schools who put a lot of effort into protecting the environment. It was very difficult to choose a winner as we saw so many wonderful works from students
of different educational establishments. We at the Ministry pay a lot of attention to this new generation, with its more progressive global outlook, so vital for the development of the country. Increasing public awareness with their help is paramount.” So, how does it work? A representative of a school’s eco-club, which is made up of a maximum of 10 members including a teacher, registers on forestry.ge where they can find a list of possible project activities, each of which is allocated points. Themes encompass natural resources protection, water and sanitation, climate change and responsible consumption, amongst other SDGs. A
clean-up campaign, for example, will get the school 100 points; development of an action plan for the “Eco Club” linked to the SDGs is also worth 100 points. If an Eco-Club chooses to create a campaign, writes a project, finds a donor, gets funding and implements it, they get the highest points available. A moderator of the award portal – forestry.ge oversees and evaluates this process, checking that the criteria is being fulfilled- photos provided, a detailed agenda made. If something is missing, s/he will give feedback via the electronic platform. The semi-finals are the organizers’ chance to personally communicate with the Eco-Clubs and find out more about the successes of their projects and to give feedback. The jury is made up of the heads of department of the ministries of Education and Environment, representatives of national organizations, such as the National Forestry Agency (NFA), and others who work in the field of environment, such as Ilia State University and Tbilisi Zoo, National Geographic Georgia, etc. Pupils need to demonstrate to the jury that they understand the impact their project had and be able to answer questions well and explain what the club, as individuals, and the community gained from the implemented projects. The Rokiti school Eco-Club was greatly aided by the public speaking skills of Nana Labadze, the leader of the team, and, indeed, presentation is very much a part of what makes a winning team in the Ketskhoveli Award. Labadze impressed the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture so much that they awarded her the opportunity to become their Minister for a day! “The Niko Ketskhoveli School Award motivated me to get more actively involved in environmental protection,” Labadze told GEORGIA TODAY. “Most importantly, it helped me to see how vital it is that youth be involved in such projects. It was also very exciting to see the positive outcomes of my efforts and contribute to changing my community.” So, what are some of the things the Rokiti Public School eco-club did to win? We contacted them to find out more. • Held informative meetings in five communities focusing on forest preservation. As a result, attitudes were changed and the territory adjacent to the river Khanitskhali was replanted with trees. • Held 45 different meeting-seminars in five villages of the region of Baghdati with a focus on healthy lifestyle and gender and ecological issues. • Within the scope of the project ‘Safety of Labor and Environmental Protection’ of the Akaki Tsereteli State University, received equipment worth 8,000 GEL, used to carry out experiments and run diagnostics. • Got additional rubbish bins placed throughout the village. • Made recycling paper a tradition. • Got villagers to stop burning their leaves and compost them instead. • Cleaning-and-greening campaigns; working with the National Forest Agency, planting 20 fraxinus and 50 pine trees. • Prepared a video ‘Animal Protection is Our Duty’. And if that’s not enough inspiration for you, the runners-up at the St. Aleksi Shushania Orthodox School-Gymnasium encouraged their community to clean up green areas, cycle rather than drive, protect and feed street dogs, help the poor and disabled of society, and worked with other schools to develop environmental and sporting activities. “This was the first time our school took part in the Niko Ketshkoveli School Award,” Natia Davitaia of St Akeksi
Shushania told us. “The children’s interest increased by the day, and they began suggesting their own initiatives, including planting trees and cleaning recreational areas. The excitement of children was so high and natural that we didn’t even feel we were part of a competition! The Award is vital for increasing the awareness of adolescents of the significance of environmental protection, as well as for improving their skills and contributing to their formation as developed individuals with high principles and values”. The Georgian School, amongst other things, launched classes on sustainable development, which they shared with other schools in the region- even getting some diplomats involved in spreading the word, and encouraged a number of celebrities to promote their (now national!) ‘No to Tobacco’ campaign. CENN and its partners develop pupils’ skills of presenting, and give a solid education in environmental issues and how to solve them, at the Eco Camps. The special training sessions are organised for active teachers as well. We also spoke to Gerhard Schaumberger - Head of the South Caucasus Office of the Austrian Development Agency, representative of the financial donor. “Protection of the environment is among the key priorities of the ADC worldwide. In Georgia, a country so similar to Austria, this refreshing initiative has already inspired so many young people to see the beauty of nature and climate as something rich and valuable to preserve and be connected with. Today, the initiatives of young people wanting to stop climate change around the world confirm that we have invested well, while unfortunately challenges of biodiversity and climate change have even gotten bigger.” “We believe the main benefits of the Niko Ketskhoveli Award are the knowledge, innovations and self-expression provided for students and their teachers,” Nana Janashia. Head of CENN said. “We empower future leaders who value the environment and have ideas for diversified rural development. Young people believe that global change is necessary and it starts from local level, so by investing in future leaders, we ensure the sustainable development of future communities.” We asked if any of the school campaigns had resulted in institutional and legislative changes and were given the example of a local school which demanded the Krtsanisi Park between Tbilisi and Rustavi be given protected status. The school’s Eco-Club representative sat in on meetings with official bodies and participated in discussions. In the same vein, an EcoClub in Gori Public school no 1 demanded Ateni Valley be protected and raised public support through a petition. We are excited to see the results of the Niko Ketskhoveli Award 2020 just opening from this May.
ABOUT CENN CENN is a non-governmental organization working to protect our environment by fostering sustainable development throughout the South Caucasus. CENN specializes in a number of areas including combating climate change, sustainable resource management, waste management, building and developing healthy and prosperous climate-resilient communities, and empowering women and youth to create innovative and inclusive solutions.
Shaping the Future by Changing Today
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
‘Wintering Over’ Photo Exhibition & Presentation of a Book by Guram Tsibakhashvili
n April 24, the Barnovi Artists’ House, a new exhibition space, hosted the opening of Guram Tsibakhashvili’s new photo exhibition and presentation of his book under the same name ‘Wintering Over.’ The event was supported by TBC Bank. The bilingual book offers Georgian and English variations of histories of about 250 photos taken by Tsibakhashvili and essays written by Ana Kordzaia-Sama-
dashvili. ‘Wintering Over’ was published with the cooperation of TBC Bank and Publishing Company ‘Indigo,’ and was edited by Nino Lomadze. The title ‘Wintering Over’, strange at first glance, is explained by the author in the preface: “The fake country was collapsing. Under Gorbachev, we already knew that it was inevitable. Just like every other change, it was a painful and necessary change. Except
that we were unaware of the pain that still laid ahead, so at first, we just rejoiced. Once, Mamuka Tsetskhladze came to me. He had a way of sugar-coating pills. He suggest I hold an exhibition to see how many of us were around in autumn, and then how many would still be here in March, when winter would be over. And the exhibition was titled conveniently: Wintering Over.” - Guram Tsibakhashvili Twenty-five years after this exhibition, Guram Tsibakhashvili is traveling through time to describe this momentous period in Georgian history, in which the newly established state is having a really rough time; struggling to cope with war, starvation, the cold; while contemporary art is blossoming in a country fresh out of the Soviet Union. The book and photo exhibition try to capture Georgian history of 1987-1995 through visual and textual forms of art. It would not be an overstatement to say that the author succeeds at reviving the conceptual reality of this period. The characters and heroes from the book tell stories of the ’90s in action in a film recorded by the Film Asylum Studio, organized by TBC Bank. The film features popular artists working on different forms of art – film, fine arts, literature
and music; artists like Lasha Bakradze, Gogi Gvakharia, Lado Burduli, Iliko Zautashvili, Oleg Timchenko, Manana Arabuli, Ana Kordzaia-Samadashvili, Teo Khatiashvili, Robi Kukhianidze and others. The film is a part of the exposition and each guest attending the exhibition will have an opportunity to see it.
Within the scope of the project, Indigo and TBC Bank have organized talks with a representative from different types of art, which will be held each week. The Barnovi Artists’ House itself opens with this exhibition at 18 Rustaveli Avenue. The new space will be hosting Tsibakhashvili’s exhibition until May 31.
APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER
TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 May 2 LA TRAVIATA Giuseppe Verdi Musical Director- Zaza Azmaiparashvili Director- Laurent Gerber Scenographer- Massimo Bellando Randone Costume Designer- Ester Martin Choreographer- Nina Ananiashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-150 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 May 31 ASTIGMATISTS Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL MUSEUM
GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: NUMISMATIC TREASURY EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS 150 years after the first exhibition of Natural History Museum EXHIBITION- CAUCASUS BIODIVERSITY At the exhibition visitors will see the biodiversity of the Caucasus region - geological, botanical and zoological collections. The exhibition showcases minerals, rocks, invertebrate animal fossils, herbariums, mollusks, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - perfectly reflecting the evolutionary development of flora and fauna of Georgia and the Caucasus region.
GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES Clothing, accessories and household items from the mountains and plains of eastern, south-western and western Georgia. See furniture, musical instruments, family vessels, horse harnesses and many other objects that reflect past life in the regions. Discover the royal dress of King Teimuraz II; Nino Gurieli's Georgian dress; Tekla Batonishvili's personal sewing machine; Alexander Bariatinsky’s robe; a tambourine painted by Mihaly Zichy; and attire of Abkhazian and Ingilo women. In the framework of the celebrations of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in Georgia, the Georgian National Museum presents the exhibition WISDOM TRANSFORMED INTO GOLD MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibition RED TERROR AND GEORGIAN ARTISTS The exhibition showcases artworks by Dimitri Shevardnadze, Petre Otskheli, Henryk Hryniewski, Richard Sommer, Kiril Zdanevich, Vasily Shukhaev, Elene Akhvlediani, Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze, Ucha Japharidze, Aleksandre Bajbeuk-Melikov, Korneli Sanadze and more. Until April 30 Georgian National Museum and Warsaw Rising Museum presents EXHIBITION WARSAW RISING 1944 The exhibition reflects military, political, historical and human aspects of the struggle for independence during the 63 days of the Warsaw Rising in 1944. IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81
THE EXHIBITION OF BESO KOBAKHIDZE AND ALEKO ESVANJIA - BOUNDARY The exhibition showcases the works of two artists in different media - painting, sculpture, graphics, on the theme ‘an eternity of the boundaries of creative thought.’ MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS 10 Betlemi Str. Discover the Museum of Illusions Be brave enough to jump into an illusion created by the Vortex, deform the image of yourself in the Mirror Room, let yourself free in the Infinity room, fight the laws of gravity and size ratio, and take pictures of yourself in every possible pose. Enjoy our collection of holograms, look closer at every optical illusion and observe thoroughly each installation. Tickets: 17.5 GEL, Children (ages 6-18): 11 GEL, children (under 5 years): free, students: 13 GEL, family (2 adults + 2 children): 39 GEL. MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS 10 Betlemi Str. Until June 15 THE MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS The exhibition first launched in Zagreb, Croatia, in 2006. The concept of the museum is to bring together items connected to previous relationships in one space, including clothes, accessories, and photo and video sources. The unique collection of the museum aims to provoke feelings of understanding among individuals and serve as some kind of therapy for those who have experienced break-ups. EXPERIMENTORIUM KIDS’ SCIENCE MUSEUM 17 P. Ingorokva Str, Tbilisi TEL (+995 32) 2 47 57 37 Who said museums and science were boring? The scientific museum Experimentorium turns kids’ understanding about science and
museums upside down. Enjoy around 80 exhibits showcasing the laws of physics, biology, mathematics and anatomy, all of which kids can touch and examine for themselves. Become a scientist, measure the decibels of your voice, sit on nails and lift a friend in the air, hold the power of lightning in your hands, draw on sand and even get to feel like a rock star behind a drum kit. All at Experimentorium, the most unusual museum in Tbilisi. Group excursions, experiments, celebratory events and birthdays welcome. GALLERY
THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Until February 26 (2020) GRAND MASTERS FROM THE GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTION XIX – XX CENTURY The exhibition showcases the works of Georgian painters: Gigo Gabashvili, Mose Toidze, Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi, Alexander Tsimakuridze, Aleksandre BazbeukMelikov, Dimitri Shevardnadze, Sergo Kobuladze, Irina Shtenberg, Mikheil Bilanishvili, Felix Varlamishvili and Tamar Abakelia. Until May 27 Georgian National Museum and Italian embassy in Georgia present the exhibition ESOTERIC DE CHIRICO. A TRAVELER BETWEEN TWO WORLDS The exhibition showcases 15 artworks of Giorgio de Chirico between 1920-1970, clearly showing that even his most “natural” artwork hints at the surrealist world. NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF GEORGIA 40 Pekini Str. Until May 1 MERAB ABRAMISHVILI’S EXHIBITION
AMIRANI CINEMA 36 Kostava St. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL April 30 EVENT CINEMA I, CLAUDE MONET Directed by Phil Grabsky Genre: Biography Language: English Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 17 GEL MUSIC
SOUNDS OF GEORGIA April 26, 27, May 1, 2 SING AND DRINK Mini concerts in the cozy atmosphere of Old Tbilisi, a mix of traditional Georgian music of different genres: folklore, a capella, guitar, and Georgian pop and city songs. Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 24 GEL Venue: April 26- 10 Erekle II Sq., Tekla Palace Hotel, April 27- New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’, May 1- Corner of 2 Turgenev Str., and 37 Javakhishvili Str., deep yard, April May 2- Europe Square, 2 D. Megreli Str., Hotel Nata TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedov Str. May 2 EVENING OF TRADITIONAL MUSIC Dedicated to Vladimir Akhobadze’s 100th anniversary Ensembles: ADILEI, ANCHISKHATI, ANCHISKHATI CHOIR, BASIANI, DIDGORI FOLK ENSEMBLE OF CONSERVATOIRE, PATARA KAKHI, SAKHIOBA Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-15 GEL GRIBOEDOV THEATRER 2 Rustaveli Ave. May 2 AH ASTAHOVA PRESENTATION OF THE FIRST MUSICAL AND POETIC ALBUM "JOURNEY INTO YOURSELF" BY IRINA ASTAKHOVA Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 30-70 GEL MTKVARZE Nikoloz Baratashvili Left Bank April 26 Main Room: DJ MASDA (CABARET RECORDINGS) BERO Small Room: ZURKIN (VODKAST RECORDS) PARNA Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 10-25 GEL April 27 Main Room: THIRD SOUL (VODKAST RECORDS) TOKE LIVE (DK.O RECORDS) SEVDA Small Room: KOZMANA NACHKEBIA (ZEINKALI) Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-20 GEL KHIDI Vakhushti Bagrationi Bridge, Right Emb. April 28 GREENBEAM & LEON, ROMAN, SAPHILEAUM Start time: 23:55 Ticket: 10-20 GEL
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
Connecting Thoughts: CinéDOC-Tbilisi Int’l Documentary Film Festival Returns in May BY GABRIELLE COLCHEN
or its 7th edition, CinéDOCTbilisi will once more offer the Tbilisi public a selection of spectacular documentaries that they would otherwise be unable to access. As always, it is a unique occasion to discover these films. From the May 8-13, 60 documentaries will be screened in Tbilisi. The theme of this year is ‘Connecting Thoughts’ and for the first time, the documentaries have been organized into 14 topic-categories including Unconditional Love, Beyond Faith, Red Soul, Our Planet and Us, A Place We Call Home, and Aftermath of Conflict. The Guest Country of the Year is Hungary, therefore, a delegation from Hungary will visit Tbilisi and present five creative documentaries. There will be two competitions: Caucasus Focus and an International Competition. GEORGIA TODAY had the chance to talk to Ileana Stanculescu, the Festival Coordinator, and Mariam Chutkerashvili, Program and Guest Coordinator.
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT THE 7TH EDITION THIS YEAR? For the first time this year we decided to present the films to the audience according to specific topics, and not just according to the different competitions the films pertain to. For example, the topic ‘Red Soul’ will present documentaries dealing with the Soviet Union, and the influence of the Soviet past today in Georgia and Russia- it is a very interesting selection of
four films. ‘Our planet and Us’ deals with environmental issues and sustainable farming. ‘Aftermath of Conflict,’ is about the conflicts that happened in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and how these conflicts are still influencing the life of people today. We divided the films into topics so that it would be more interesting for the audience. This way, they know better what they can expect from a documentary. For the International Competition, the jury will be composed of Georgian director Mariam Chachia, Petra Seliskar, Director of Makedox, and Ondrej Kamenický from Prague, who is the director of the biggest Human Rights Film festival ‘One world.’ For the Focus Caucasus competition, the jury members will be Kenan Aliyev from Current Time TV, Csilla Kató, the Director of the Astra Film festival in Romania, and Tue Steen Müllerwho is a well-known film critic.
HOW DID YOU SELECT THE 60 DOCUMENTARIES? We watched around 300 films, we went together to many festivals. We traveled a lot but we also did an open call in which we received more than 200 documentaries from all around the world. What is good about the festival is that we obviously have documentaries from very well-known film makers such as Vitaly Mansky and Nicolas Philibert, but we also have some films by complete newcomers, like Georgian young filmmakers who just made their first short documentary.
Image source: Ciné-DOC Tbilisi Facebook page
We have a very nice film called ‘Una Primavera’ from Italy which was submitted to us. It is about an Italian woman who tries to divorce her husband while all her family is against her. It is very interesting to discuss the situation of women in a very patriarchal society. Another important one is ‘Putin’s witnesses’ by Vitaly Mansky which goes back to the time when Putin was first elected president and when people believed he would bring innovation and change. The film is about people who helped him come to power. The film-maker is coming to the festival and will give masterclasses in the National Archive Cinema.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF ORGANIZING SUCH AN EVENT IN TBILISI? Overall, the festival organization started very well because we started looking for films early in October. The festival is always very crowded and
WHICH DOCUMENTARY DO YOU PARTICULARLY RECOMMEND?
life and our countries. It makes people reflect and think, and as such anybody can be captured by our documentaries. We created topic-categories to show people that they are all involved in the selection. If you watch a few films, it will make you connect ideas which is why the festival is called ‘Connecting Thoughts.’ For us, the International Competition is of course important, but the Focus Caucasus is what really makes our festival special. Most international guests come for the Focus Caucasus competition; people looking for new projects and ideas. We also try to promote films from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia for other European festivals.
we have to manage to screen a large number of documentaries in only few days since we cannot allow ourselves to extend the festival. Fortunately, many of the 60 films are short and will be screened together. We try to program the festival so that people have the opportunity to see what they want to see and every competition film is screened twice during the week. As for the funding, it’s always a challenge, but last year, we managed to get a three-year funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which finally gives us some stability and we’re very happy about it. Of course, we still need to get other sources of funding but it’s already a major help.
WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU WANT TO DELIVER THROUGH THIS YEAR’S SELECTION? We wanted to open the festival to a larger audience. Documentaries affect everybody; they say something about us, our
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT YOUR GUEST COUNTRY? We selected five films from Hungary. We are also lucky that Wizz Air is financing four flights from Kutaisi to Budapest. People buying tickets for the Hungarian films will be able to participate in a lottery and win return flights for Budapest. Ticket: 5 GEL per film Tickets on sale here: https://biletebi.ge/ c i n e d o c - t b i l i s i / Schedule?fbclid=IwAR0Gu6T9-c-edcT1OKhcxuxuGWtXafTD1L0iwi1v3NLvpN2Gh4LzpP0IrKQ The full program is available here: http:// www.cinedoc-tbilisi.com/wp-content/ uploads/2019/04/Program-CineDOC-2019.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2otx26Kxa5h sVRhQ08D2vX670Xc0OTvj8cuhMjXsCytAq1Y35_Ewe9T7E Interview has been edited for more clarity.
Eifman’s ‘Rodin’ Ballet: A Masterpiece all my life is dedicated to working with bodies, and all his life he also worked with bodies. Rodin stopped the movement in one pause, while I look for movements that can explain and reflect an emotional soul.” “His relationship with Camille was very important for me. It is the history of a relationship between two sculptors, who became creators together and always inspired each other. It is a history that started with a lot of love and ended in a grand tragedy. During her time in the mental clinic, Camille was entirely forgotten, though she was extremely talented, and Rodin became the great and recognized artist.” Eifman has been able to create and describe the rise of madness in all its forms and intensities. Every character is suffused with insanity. Rodin’s wife becomes crazy at seeing her husband having an affair with Camille, Camille is paranoid and full of demons, Rodin on his part is in permanent torments The crowd is also of major importance when creating a tense, restless and disturbing atmosphere that accompanies the main characters in their madness. The dancers are extremely talented and are able to mix unbelievable suppleness and subtle delicateness with robotic mechanical movements and
REVIEW BY GABRIELLE COLCHEN
ast Monday and Tuesday, the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater welcomed Eifman’s ‘Rodin. Her eternal idol,’ a modern ballet. For two hours, the public of the packed theater hall was amazed by the Russian creation, with some of the audience standing on the sides throughout: no one wanted to miss it, and for good reason. ‘Rodin. Her eternal idol’ is a ballet by Boris Eifman with the music of Maurice Ravel, Camille Saint-Saëns and Jules Massenet. It counts the true tragic story of the French sculptor and his lover, muse and student Camille Claudel. Their passionate and fusional love eventually led to a breakup that plunged Camille into paranoia and madness. She spent 30 years in a mental clinic before dying there, completely forgotten by everybody. GEORGIA TODAY had the chance to meet the world famous choregraph Boris Eifman. “Rodin is not only a French sculptor, he is a world sculptor, who enriched the world culture,” he told us. “He is close to me because I’m a choregrapher:
Photo Source: http://www.eifmanballet.ru
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jolting dance. Camille and Rodin live a violent passion and addiction. Their dance is fascinating; showing the loving and delicate intertwining of their bodies merging before switching to violent suspicion and a rift. The nude bodies are one of the central elements of the creation. The artists dance without any superficial ornaments, and let their natural bodies express the deepest confusion and mystery of human beings. The bodies interlace together and beautifully give birth to a piece of art on the artist’s table of creation. The public assists in the moving and soft art, but it is a creation always full of unease. Camille is simultaneously the artist and the artwork, while Rodin models her and consequently locks her up as an object that can no longer breathe. Each character is imprisoned in their own obsessions. The music is sometimes strident and rousing. It beautifully accompanies the dance and is a part of the creation in itself. The play of lights and sheets inside which the dancers perform offers sublime scenes. It is simply a captivating ballet that will absorb the public in the darkness and poetry of human beings’ torments and obsessions.
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April 26 - 29, 2019