Wednesday, April 1, 2015

მანდარინები (Mandariinid) (Tangerines) (2013)

Director: Zaza Urushadze
Writer:    Zaza Urushadze
Cast:       Lembit Ulfsak, Elmo Nugamen, Mikhail Meskhi, Giorgi Nakhshidze
Language: Estonian, Georgian

Film is set during war in Georgia's Apkhazeti region in 1992. It was a civil war inside Georgia with a separatist movement in the region of Apkhazeti. In the film, an Estonian man Ivo has stayed behind to harvest his crops of tangerines. With a bloody conflict at his door, couple of wounded men are left behind, and Evo begins to take care of them.

The politics of war involved many of the other ethnic groups in former Soviet regions supporting the cause of the separatists and pitted themselves against Georgia. So you have Chechen mercenaries fighting with the separatists against Georgia and a microcosm of the same takes place besides Ivo's house. One of the wounded guy is a Chechen and the other one who is more seriously wounded is a Georgian. Both of them are at each other's throats but promises Ivo that they won't kill inside his home. You kind of know where the film is headed from there but it still manages to surprise you at the end with regards to how it plays out towards the predictable conclusion. Performances from all are very understated as is the matter-of-fact writing. It is a topic that could very well have gone all preachy on us but the director never goes there. The pacifist message of all of us being essentially the same if we let ourselves to know each other become more potent this way. Nationalism, religious fundamentalism , race politics, regionalism etc always get in the way. 

I didn't know anything about the conflict prior to watching this but I did know that all sorts of  such conflicts took place after the fall of Soviet Union. A similar thing is being played out in Middle East now because such a thing being played out was artificially prevented by the colonial powers after the fall of Ottoman empire during first world war. The film takes a neutral stand on the conflict and when I read about it afterwards I found that ethnic cleansing of Georgians took place in that region and Russian state kind of played for both sides during the conflict. The native Russians from the region supported the separatist cause. The region now functions as a partially recognized independent state with Russia having recognized it. The Georgian government, UN and many of the other world's major governments consider it as part of Georgia and accuse Russia of militarily occupying it. The 2008 Russo-Georgian war was over this region.

Overall the film is great watch with a very simple story line. The relations between all the ethic groups are portrayed quite subtly and what I gleaned from it is that all the different groups look down on the Chechens. Religion could be part of it since they are Muslims. Hitler's misguided war with Soviet Union on Eastern Front was partly to do with his revulsion towards the Slavic race. The film was nominated for Academy awards in the foreign film category, ultimately losing out to the Polish film 'Ida'. 'Leviathan' should have won it but, alas, the academy is run by really old people who have a hard-on for second world war and holocaust. Get with the times you morons!

Rating: 4/5