Ex-communist Europe

Eastern approaches

Film in Georgia

Hollywood's take on the Russia-Georgia war

Jun 21st 2011, 14:34 by G.E. | TBILISI

FREE from the trappings of celebrity, and blessed with the wrong sort of friends, your correspondent usually attracts little attention on his trips to the cinema. But that changed the other day at Tbilisi’s first English-language screening of "5 Days of War", the new Hollywood film about the Russia-Georgia conflict of 2008. Twenty minutes in, earnest journalists inside the cinema shone the bright lights of their television cameras straight into our eyes. That a foreign audience wanted to see the film had become a story (of sorts) in Georgia.

Yet my experience was nothing next to the prèmiere screening of the Georgian-language version of the film a couple of weeks earlier. Tbilisi found itself on the receiving end of Hollywood royalty, in the form of Andy Garcia, who plays President Mikheil Saakashvili in the film, and Sharon Stone, who played herself at the launch. For one brief night, the city’s wealthiest rubbed shoulders with movie stars. (Never mind that only six months ago Ms Stone and others had gaily clapped along to Vladimir Putin’s gruesome rendition of Blueberry Hill in St Petersburg.) A dinner after the prèmiere raised almost a million dollars for families displaced by the war.

Beyond the largesse of philanthropists, the Georgian government knows the propaganda value of such cultural artefacts. Papuna Davitaia, the minister for "diaspora issues", co-produced the film. The ministry of defence provided the military hardware for the battle scenes. All the scenes featuring Mr Garcia were shot in the presidential palace or outside the parliament building.

But is it any good? Renny Harlin, the director, best known for films such as "Die Hard 2: Die Harder", is, it's fair to say, not exactly a master of nuance. The central message of "5 Days of War" is of an innocent Georgia abandoned by the outside world to the evil Russians. Forget the findings of the European Union report into the origins of the war, which accused both sides of breaking international law.

In the film’s account, Georgian army officers are good-looking, clean-cut and honourable; the Russians are unshaven, dishevelled and heartless. When Russian forces kill Georgian civilians, the film is unsparing in its depiction of their brutality; when Georgian soldiers fight back, the cartoonish explosions make for pure entertainment.

Underneath the nonsense, though, is a decent film struggling to emerge. The dialogue explains the politics (albeit with a heavy pro-Georgian slant) without patronising the audience. Although many of the film’s posters focus on Mr Garcia, he occupies little screen time: this is not a film about President Saakashvili. Georgia looks wonderful: the old part of Tbilisi is stunning, the countryside beautiful, and the traditional Georgian dancing remarkable. If nothing else, it should provide a boost to Georgia’s recovering tourism industry.

The most moving sequence comes at the end of the film, when actual survivors of the war talk about their killed relatives. Intermittently, the story touches on genuinely interesting themes, such as the continued attraction of war to hard-bitten (and hard-drinking) journalists. But too often it flatters to deceive; just as you hope the film will move beyond caricature, perfectly sculpted Georgian soldiers ride to the rescue.

It is not news that small wars in foreign places are only interesting to Hollywood audiences when acted out by physically perfect Americans. But the film goes too far in claiming that the world’s media were indifferent to the conflict in Georgia. Although the opening of the Beijing Olympics overshadowed the beginning of the fighting, the Russian-Georgian war became the biggest story of late summer 2008, until Lehman collapsed and the global financial crisis took centre stage. 

Overall, "5 Days of War" feels unsure of itself, as if it had been made by committee. As a way of honouring the civilians or war reporters killed in the conflict, it falls short. As a way of shaping international opinion, the action-film format would work better in a world run by teenage boys.

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LaContra wrote:
Jun 21st 2011 3:28 GMT

Can't wait for the Russian version with tuff guy Bruce Willis as Putin, Dolph Lungren as the Russian spetsnaz commander, and the chick who gets painted blue in X-Men as the big boobed Russian femme fatale undercover agent in Tblisi

Same crap explosions and duff special effects, no doubt, but with the more frames of the Georgians throwing their US military hardware into the air so they could run away even faster.

John Malkovitch will play the egotistical, twitchy, bombastic, and ever so slightly deranged Saakashvili...to perfection....obviously.

Neither film will be nominated....for anything.

hedgefundguy wrote:
Jun 21st 2011 4:09 GMT

When is the video game scheduled for release?

Regards

mihkelm1 wrote:
Jun 21st 2011 6:24 GMT

If you want to see a documentary, go see 'Russian Lessons', by Nekrasov and Konskaya. It's excellent. To each his own. Besides, if there's been numerous such movies about WW2, why not make one about this one?

Jun 22nd 2011 12:53 GMT

I wonna see LaContra's version of this film.

"The central message of "5 Days of War" is of an innocent Georgia abandoned by the outside world to the evil Russians." ----- typical Hollywood propaganda, but I guess Dido will love this movie. Oh and it snows in Russia 24/7, 365 days a year, because Hollywood tells us so. I may watch it for free just for the Georgian nature scenery itself.

I do not think this movie will take off though, Americans do not care about Georgia that much really, although John McCain does.

Jun 22nd 2011 12:55 GMT

"As a way of shaping international opinion, the action-film format would work better in a world run by teenage boys." ----- That sums up about everything.

from Gdansk wrote:
Jun 22nd 2011 1:57 GMT

"Underneath the nonsense, though, is a decent film struggling to emerge."

I've seen Die Hard movies, so I can imagine which bits might annoy, and I don't expect the Hollywood good guys vs bad guys mould to be broken, but what might be struggling to emerge is indeed a very dramatic story. Not in the least that difficult to understand, but it'd take truly courageous decency and honesty to tell it. Suffice to say a minor part in which an Iranian actor played the late President Lech Kaczyński was at the last moment dropped. Even if the original movie part might have been minor, the real-life role certainly wasn't. And that's just one theme in Georgia's struggle for independence, and Georgia's struggle is just one theme in the struggle for independence of many a post communist bloc state. The most gripping aspect of this story is the fact that it's still ongoing, and moreover since 2010 it's taken another turn for the worse.

Boredome wrote:
Jun 22nd 2011 7:36 GMT

The Russian version was released ahead of this one. Its confusing called "Olympus Inferno" A Russian-American butterfly scientist is in Ossetia researching Butterflies with infra red cameras when he runs into his old girlfriend from the motherland. Together they meet the nice Russian peace keeping captain and see how close the Ossetians and Russians are. Then the night cameras detect the Georgian invasion. This causes a bloodthirsty Georgian intelligence captain to start hunting the couple because it depicts Georgians as invaders. Eventually the pair is captured but are rescued by a black American military adviser. It also includes a snide British journalist who rejects all claims of Georgians starting the war because the Russians are brutishly evil.

Didomyk wrote:
Jun 23rd 2011 11:55 GMT

"....the action-film format would work better in a world run by teenage boys."

Sure, it is already popular among teenage Putin-Jugend and NASHI-Malchiki represented here by the likes of Joye the Reader aka Vania Rabinovich.

kuzmich wrote:
Jun 23rd 2011 2:39 GMT

How about to oscar "5 Days of War"? I believe the Academy missed the world's masterpiece. The public claims continuation. It can be done at the Dovzhenko Film Studios together with Kartuli Pilmi. A Georgian-Ukrainian production. It can be called “Life After Circumcision”. Box-office success guaranteed.

Robert North wrote:
Jun 23rd 2011 10:45 GMT

Wasn't Putin's rendition truly truly frightening? Ive never been so terrified in my life. Theres a film that could be made with the events leading upto and including that song. I can see a deranged John Malkovich playing the part. And it wasnt just Stone in the Audience, it was a was a whole host of 'artists' (Costner excluded) all claping along...! chillingly scary. On second thoughts perhaps some things should never been seen.

Jun 23rd 2011 11:31 GMT

I've seen this film for free yesterday, an OK, one time see type of movie, not based on facts of course, the usual propaganda, but I think it's a little too late for that, everyone knows the facts about this war, so not sure this film will shape international opinions.

By the way, I came across Didomyk the other day. I think Waltronovich was the one filming him. - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXONItsEU7E&feature=relmfu

Didomyk wrote:
Jun 24th 2011 1:37 GMT

Just one shot of Joe aka Vania Rabinovich training with a junior Putin Jugend squad proudly demonstrating his very own Kalashnikov

http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-68958-3.html

Talking about Russian imperial propaganda, - to see Joe aka Vania Rabinovich preparing to take part in the NASHI Jugend parade all dressed up in his official parade uniform - just click the second next photo -68958-5

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About Eastern approaches

Eastern approaches deals with the economic, political, security and cultural aspects of the eastern half of the European continent. It incorporates the long-running "Europe.view" weekly column. The blog is named after the wartime memoirs of the British soldier Sir Fitzroy Maclean.

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