Corn Island [Simindis Kundzuli] Georgia DARE Section
I am so glad I went to this film.
George Ovashvili‘s portrayal of a rural idyll, a style of subsistence farming so perilous and so unique, is surely a record of a practice that is vanishing. Set on a river close to the borders of Georgia and Abkhazia, a grandfather played by Ilyas Salman and his teenage granddaughter played by Mariam Buturishvili pole their way up and down the river building a temporary shelter on the sand banks that rise every year from the ebb of a spring flood.
The naturally occurring sandbanks are exceedingly fertile and stay stable just long enough to grow a sizeable field of maize if the weather is kind. We see the grandfather arrive and stake his claim, it is quite a long time before the granddaughter appears.
Told with virtually no dialogue, there must be all of five conversations in the entire film, four of them are questions from soldiers who patrol the waters (both Georgian and Russian) to which the two Abkhazis only respond with nods, so the relationship between these two peasants is hard to decipher. The girl has with her a small doll, but at the same time you can tell that she is becoming aware of her body.
The maize grows and flourishes, but the two are distracted by an event and fail to notice the changing season. Once the waters rise it will be too late to get in the crop.
The simple life is hard, they live on a meagre diet of fish caught in a willow trap and cooked over a fire, and bread which they collect when they go downriver – we never see where they go.
The Georgians catcall and hoot from the banks nearby, and you can hear shooting every now and then. It is not precisely peaceful, the old man is suspicious of the soldiers passing and the young girl seems distracted, shy and sometimes wistful as she gazes over the water at the mainland.
Exquisitely photographed by Elemér Ragályi the landscape, the forests and the river make this seem to be more of a natural science documentary than a film with a story. The birds calling, the chuckle of the water and the occasional thunderstorm makes for a wonderful setting for this dramatic tale.