Georgian Ancient Songs / ძველი ქართული სიმღერა

(Documentary, USSR/Georgia, 1968, 21’, BW)

by Otar Iosseliani

Georgian Ancient Songs


This short subject lets us see and hear Georgian popular culture. The four sequences are filmed in four different provinces – Svanetia, Mingrelia, Imetheria and Kakhti, each of which has its own tradition of ancestral polyphonic singing.


“I was very proud of this film because it was a practical work, usable as a document based on data from a real civic act in the field of culture. Alas, it remained a dead letter. (…) I was to have confirmation of this a little later, when it was in turn criticized for not offering an exemplary model of life to young people. So each film took me about four years of work and discussion before it was shown”. Otar Iosseliani quoted in Marcel Martin, Le cinéma soviétique de Khrouchtchev à Gorbatchev, ed. The Age of Man, pp.78-79.

Film Author :

Otar Iosseliani
Otar Iosseliani

Born in 1934 in Tbilisi, Georgia, Otar Iosseliani studied music brilliantly before starting scientific studies in Moscow, which he abandoned to join the National Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. His first short films Aquarelle (1958) and April (1961) were blacklisted in the USSR. His first feature-length film, Falling Leaves (1966), traces the daily life of a peasant community in a very impressionist style. His art of contemplative distance, similar to Jacques Tati’s, his acknowledged master, asserted itself with Once Upon A Time There Was A Singing Blackbird (1971) and Pastorale (1976). His work totters between fiction and documentary. His attraction to purely visual language brought him closer to the authors of the Nouvelle Vague Française: François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard. Despite their creator’s international reputation, these films were banned from export for many years. Based in France since 1982, Iosseliani directed his first French film Favorites of the Moon in 1984, which won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Mostra. He then shot And Then There Was Light (1989), Chasing Butterflies (1991), Brigands, Chapter VII (1995), Monday Morning (2001) – Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival, Gardens in Autumn (2005). Outside his country, Otar Iosseliani manages to keep the humanist vision nuanced with humor and irony that made the success of his Georgian films. His latest film Chantrapas (2009) is an ode to freedom. It follows the story of a young director (alter ego of the author) who makes no compromise with censorship, whether ideological or economic, in the name of freedom of creative thought. He has also directed several documentaries for television: Euskadi (1982), A Little Monastery in Tuscany (1988) and Georgia, Alone, a documentary triptych of more than four hours about his country of origin.

Other movies: Tributes

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