France/Georgia, 2010, 122 min
A filmmaker finds creative freedom far more elusive than he imagined in this affectionately ironic comedy/drama from Festival favorite Otar Iosseliani (Brigands, Chapter VII, SFIFF 1997; Gardens in Autumn, SFIFF 2007). Loosely based on the experiences of Iosseliani and his fellow Soviet Georgian filmmakers during the 1950s and ’60s, the film follows young, idealistic Niko as he struggles to get his film made in the USSR in the face of state crackdowns and government interference. Fleeing to every young man’s promised land (France, of course), Niko merely finds more of the same, only here the creative interference is based on economics, rather than politics. What’s worse, he barely has time for film, as he’s forced into an immigrant’s life of cultural isolation and odd jobs (street sweeper, zookeeper) to survive. “Chantrapas is the portrait of a collection of filmmakers,” notes Iosseliani, those who refused to collaborate with the Soviet dictatorship and were banned or exiled as a result (Iosseliani himself fled to Paris after making several now-legendary films in Georgia). Chantrapas is also a song to cinema itself, its scripts, sets, 35mm editing rooms, its dreamers, strivers and constant liars, all brought to life through Ioselliani’s affectionate, picaresque storytelling. “Cinema is a charming fair,” he says. “There’s everything: merchants, drunkards, serious people, functionaries. The filmmaker is in the middle.” A tribute to an era of Eastern European and Soviet filmmaking that was both extraordinarily difficult and powerful, Chantrapas is a warm, charming satire on creativity and the forces that inhibit it.
In French and Georgian with subtitles. Special support for this program generously provided by Melanie and Lawrence Blum in tribute to George Gund III for his lifetime of enthusiasm and support for the Bay Area film, sports and arts worlds and his dedicated commitment to the Film Society as chairman of the Board of Directors for over 40 years. US Premiere.