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London Film Festival 2014 Pt 3: Corn Island PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheila Seacroft   
11 01 2015

ImageDirected by George Ovashvili

This beautiful example of the humanistic face of Slow Cinema is Georgia's shortlisted entry for Foreign language Oscar. In Western Georgia where the Inguri river flows into the Black Sea, each year temporary islands of silt  brought down from the mountains are built up each spring, far more fertile than the surrounding river banks. Traditionally local people sometimes use it for the growing season for their staple crop, maize. We follow elderly peasant farmer (Ilyas Salman) as he reclaims a small island, builds a cabin of wood and thatch, and plants corn seeds, often joined by his young teenage grand-daughter. It's idyllic, very beautiful and absorbing in its measured pace, but the idyll is sometimes broken by patrolling army boats, as the river at this point lies on the boundary of Georgia and its would-be autonomous break-away state of Abkhazia. The natural world, also, is cruel and unpredictable.

It owes much to the early Soviet tradition, of whom Georgian director Dovzhenko was a major figure, of the translation of humble naturalistic activities of ordinary people into poetry and a more mythic meaningfulness. Many full-face shots of Salman's craggy face echo Dovzhenko's methods of establishing a kind of timelessness, timeless yet also very much in the present unsure times of the region, and the feeling of seasons and life irrevocably moving on. Winter comes on, rivers flood, girls grow up, old men fade away, but ephemeral humanity will always be replacing itself. A little gem.

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