European Film Festival Paris
from 17 to 31 March 2022
European Film Festival Paris
from 17 to 31 March 2022

Once Upon A Time There Was A Singing Blackbird / იყო შაშვი მგალობელი

by Otar Iosseliani

(Fiction, USSR/Georgia, 1971, 85’, BW, Fr ST) with Gela Kandelaki and Gogui Tckheidze

Once Upon A Time There Was A Singing Blackbird

Guia Agladze, dreamy and carefree, is a percussionist in the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra. His professional life boils down to giving a roll of the timpani at the beginning and the end of a concert. In perpetual motion, Guia lives like a bird on a wire, subject to both friendly and emotional encounters.


“On two different occasions after the screening of the film in the USSR the audience asked the same question: “What is this film about?”. The first time, Iosseliani replied, “The film shows how to live.” The second time, “The film shows how not to live.” This attitude clearly shows his intention to leave open the interpretation of his work. It is up to the spectators to decide to what extent the protagonist remains faithful to his dreams and to what extent he respects the rational ideals of the Soviet citizen. This film opposes the ideas of those who think that we must live every day as the last of our life, and those who plan everything years in advance. The importance of the film lies in the fact that for some Guia is a good example, while for others he is a bad one.” Mariam Ananidze, www.lumiere-mag.ru

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. www.cineressources.net

Other movies: Tributes