Sanguko
07 September, 2010
Sanguko

I met up with one of the founders of Sanguko Films, Nutsa Kukhianidze, at a Literature cafe on Barnov Street. The cafe stands in a row of three other cafes on the same strip and I had to walk through quite a few tables to get to the one at the back where Ms Kukhianidze was sitting. She was dressed in a black tank top and loose fitting pants and wore no makeup, which was a stark change from the

rest of the overdressed clientele. While everyone else was eyeing each new-comer with raised eyebrows, Kukhianidze was busy sipping coffee. She was buried nose deep in reading material.

 

I met up with one of the founders of Sanguko Films, Nutsa Kukhianidze, at a Literature cafe on Barnov Street. The cafe stands in a row of three other cafes on the same strip and I had to walk through quite a few tables to get to the one at the back where Ms Kukhianidze was sitting. She was dressed in a black tank top and loose fitting pants and wore no makeup, which was a stark change from the rest of the overdressed clientele. While everyone else was eyeing each new-comer with raised eyebrows, Kukhianidze was busy sipping coffee. She was buried nose deep in reading material.


A few minutes after the initial greetings and pleasantries were out of the way, we began the interview.Kukhianidze told me she started out in the movie business as an actress at the age of nine, when she was cast inGiorgi Mgeladze's 'Ara , megobaro'. Since then she had acted in numerous films including '27 Missing Kisses' by Nana Jorjadze,' The Good Thief' by Neil Jordan, 'A Trip to Karabakh' by Levan Tutberidze and her latest movie 'Mediator' by Dito Tsintsadze.

Before I could ask anything else we were interrupted by a phone call. Kukhianidze apologized and explained as she hung up that the call was about the film they were shooting that day, one that her company, Sanguko Films, was producing. After hanging up with the second phone call in two minutes and ordering one more cold coffee with cream, Nutsa elaborated on both the film and her company.

In 2005, Kukhianidze and three of her friends, Guka Rcheulishvili, Sandro Takaishvili and Kote Takaishvili, established Sanguko, which in Japanese means 'three kingdoms'. Sanguko Films was created as a production company focused on producing films in Georgia. They started with financing and producing anything they could get their hands on. The first film they produced on their own was 'Mediator', which had a budget of two million lari, all of which came out of their own pockets. Unfortunately, the film was ready for viewing in 2008, just as the August war between Russia and Georgia broke out. The movie was put on hold as the crisis set in, dealing a major blow to the company. For two years Sanguko and its founders were in limbo. Short of money, ideas and support, they wondered how to keep going.

But they knew one thing. Quitting was absolutely out of the question.

Sanguko's founders know it will take time to create and produce films of such caliber as 'Soldier's Father' or 'Toys are Laughing 'or to find scripts that come close to such film as 'An Unusual Exhibition' (my personal favorite). Sanguko staff believes that one day there will be such films again and that is why they keep working.

One of the main reasons for such slow emergence of Georgian film and filmmakers from Kukhianidze's point of view is that there is simply not enough attention paid to the film industry. An industry that has to be both art and business needs a lot to be able to flourish. The film schools need help with getting updated equipment for film classes. They need more innovative and forward-looking teachers and more state funding. After all, schools are where the future of Georgian cinema will most likely come from. Most importantly, there should be an audience interest in Georgian films. Undoubtedly the industry needs financing, but mostly, says Kukhianidze, "We need attention. We want people to know that there are people like us who are working hard to get our work done and to get it done well. "

Kukhianidze's role in the company as she described it, is finance and creative input. She was in between calls about approving advertising T-shirts for the new film, calls from the set, and yet she still had energy to speak passionately about her work with me.

When I asked if there was another reason for Nutsa to be working as hard as she was, she didn't hesitate to say why.

"I think my country needs it. We need to show ourselves and the rest of the world just how capable we are. I can think of my country first and myself second. I have that luxury."

Another call came in and Kukhianidze answered it. This time after the call we talked about the five-film projectSanguko was producing. The Georgian National Film Center (a branch of the Ministry of Culture) gives money to the film industry every year by announcing contests for a feature film. This year a five-film project won two hundred fifty thousand lari for all five films. A far cry from a two-million budget, but it did not deterSanguko from taking up the project. One of the films, "Born In Georgia" stars Kukhianidze, Giorgi Giorganashvili(a.k.a. Bakhala), Tamri Bziava and Vaniko Tarkhnishvili. The film is set in a post war period, with four friends trying to grasp who they are becoming and how they can continue living and loving with chaos and remnants of a war around them. The budget for the film was 110 thousand lari. It would have been impossible to make the film with such a small budget if Sanguko didn't already own all their equipment and were blessed with a couple of really good friends in the industry.

But production in Georgia is increasing. The budget for the Georgian National Film Center has grown from couple of thousand lari to five million per year. In the year 2010, 15 Georgian films were produced. The number was up from the previous year and the years before. This is something Kukhianidze was very proud of. Just by existing,Sanguko Films created an atmosphere of competitiveness, which in turn created more films.

As we wrapped up our interview, a friend of Kukhianidze's, a fellow actor in 'A Trip to Karabakh' MikheilMeskhi, walked by and greeted us. Not five minutes after a famous director sent over ice cream and someone from the film crew dropped by to say hello. I was starting to suspect that the Literature cafe, had become the Georgian version of the Ivy (a celebrity hotspot in Hollywood), except there were no photographers or crazed paparazzi hiding behind bushes. For a few moments we sat relaxing, eating the melting ice cream and watching the newcomers come through the sea of tables.

Then the phone rang and Kukhianidze answered it. There was enthusiasm in her voice as she explained to me that she was needed on the set and in the studio all at once. Talk is cheap, she explained; you have to back it up with work. And with that she was off to rejoin the rest of Sanguko crew in their endeavor to help recreate once a great Georgian film industry.

For more information on Sanguko please visit Sanguko.ge

For more information on Georgian National Film Center please check out gnfc.ge

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