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Online Premiere: Dinola

In the cold mountains of Georgia, a widow is forced to marry another man and leave her life and child behind.

10 – 15 | 2013 | Drama | Georgia | Live-Action | Social Issues

Dinola is a child living in the village of Ushguli, in Georgia. Her father has just died, and the whole village is taking part in the funeral ceremonies. Her little friend asks if her mother has already left, but the girl says no, and doesn’t even understand why she would do such a thing. In fact, though, that’s the cruel fate that awaits her: as per the local tradition, the first man to forcibly impose his will to marry the widow, will have every right to take her away – and the child will be left behind, alone and abandoned.

Based on the true experience of director Mariam-Bakacho Khatchvani (მარიამ ხაჭვანი)’s grandmother, this short film wants to give a voice to the lives of thousands of women in the region of Svaneti, Georgia, one of the remotest parts of the continent, where, until only fifty years ago, this cycle of abandonment was repeated continuously. In addition to being an act of social protest, Dinola also opens a window onto places unknown to most people, uncovering traditions and customs that  have hardly ever been narrated to an international audience.

This foray into a new world is unsettling and fascinating at the same time: the blinding white of the snow-covered landscape and the stark contrast of the medieval houses that stand dark upon it are visually striking. It takes just a few frames to feel the atmosphere of this hard and traditional people, witnessed in a solemn moment of mourning, all wearing dark clothes and accepting their inescapable reality in a dignified silence.

It’s the personal and participated yet highly stylized direction that raises this short above the usual account of social issues. It ‘s rare to find this kind of careful historical and social reconstruction combined with such a unique aesthetic. We take part in the excruciating pain of the mother, we are moved by the despair of the abandoned child who tries to follow in the footsteps of her mother in the midst of the snow, but we are also overwhelmed by the beauty of the place that’s presented before our eye, an almost alien land that appears to be suspended in time.

Dinola, presented in competition in many international festivals, was recently nominated for Best Short Film at the European Film Awards. This film is another example of the power that lies in the short film medium, managing to convey information about traditions and showing remote places almost completely unknown to most people.

We interviewed the director to find out more about this world and what inspired her to tell this story.

Hi Mariam, can you tell us more about the ‘Svanish Law’ you mention at the end of the film? Is it still in effect?
There used to be a tradition that if a woman became a widow, she had to get married to whatever man asked to marry her, regardless of love or her free will, because had she refused to, the man would threaten to kill her family. If the woman got married for a second time against her will, the dead husband’s family would not allow her to take her child with her, because they didn’t want their grandchild to grow up with another family, as it was considered absolutely shameful in the village. Dinola takes place about  80 years ago, when my grandmother was a child, but this ‘law’ was still in effect until about 40-50 years ago,  and now things have changed – but not so much.

So the story portrayed in Dinola is very personal to you, is it exactly what happened to your grandmother?
Yes, this story is about my grandmother. When she was a child, her mother left her and when she woke up and was looking for her mother, she went outside barefoot on the snow and followed her mother’s footprints crying. When she told me her story, it was so shocking to me that I decided to make a film as close to an actual documentary  as possible, to show the real difficulties in the mother-children relationship that time, because it was the same for everyone living in that area…That’s why when I was a shooting the short I did my best  to put real emotions into the film. My grandmother is 90 years old now and when she saw Dinola, she told me that she found it very funny that the child in the film is wearing socks, as she was barefoot…

What are your motivations as a  filmmaker?
I wanted to show the world how interesting my culture is, because no one knows about Svaneti, where I was born, even some Georgians… 

What are your plans for the future? Are you gonna make a feature film inspired by Dinola?
I am working on the feature film project, DEDE, it will be focused on the woman’s life. It’ll be like a counterpart to Dinola, and the main  character will be the mother of the child.  The movie will be about love, traditions and the crazy, interesting and difficult life in Ushguli. Located in Svaneti, the mountainous area of Georgia, Ushguli is called the hat of Europe, because it’s the highest settlement in this continent, you can feel like touching the sky,  winter  lasts eight months and at during that time roads are blocked, and people became ruthless because of this strict environment and extreme conditions. I will start shooting in August, I’ll cover four seasons in the film, I want to make it like a documentary, with regular people from the area, not actors, to achieve more realism as possible. My village is the so beautiful, it is a paradise for me and this is why I think the Ushgulians never leave the area despite the hard life.

Flavia Ferrucci

Flavia Ferrucci

Flavia Ferrucci

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