Great interviews! But I don’t know what they said

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

In Adishi, few people (one?) speak English, so I couldn’t really interview anyone; I didn’t even know when to start or stop filming. Fortunately we are a multimedia, multi-language film team. Nana Mghebrishvili and Mari Papidze, both recent graduates from CSJMM, conducted and taped all of the interviews. Susanna Melo was the photographer; she documented the process and took many excellent photographs of Adishi, its surroundings, and its people. For those of you who know Susanna, you won’t be surprised to hear that she also developed wonderful rapport with every family in Adishi, which, of course, made filming so much easier. Susanna also suggested several filming opportunities and asked questions that yielded invaluable answers. Ramaz Gerleiani not only drove us to Adishi, but he was our translator for people who only spoke Svan.  Svan is related to Georgian, but different enough that neither Nana nor Mari could speak or understand a word. My job was to film people doing things, such as cutting hay on the high fields, loading hay on sleds to carry down to Adishi, and people cooking. We all helped by thinking of questions and suggesting good film opportunities.

Mari and Nana recorded about 4.5 hours of interviews, and although I couldn’t understand what was said, it seemed like people were saying interesting things with passion. They were gesturing; their voices rose and fell; sometimes Nana and Mari laughed.

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

I’m very grateful to Tiko Tsomaia, a faculty member at CSJMM, for connecting me with Mari and Nana. They are sooooooo engaging, so much fun, that everyone wants to cooperate and answer their questions. Good photojournalists and documentary filmmakers rely less on technical skills (but they’re needed, of course) and more on people skills.  They need to care about people and really listen; and both Nana and Mari are compassionate listeners. They’re even willing to do hard work in exchange for hearing others’ stories. Here Mari rakes hay into a stack; later she’ll interview the old man who got a rest while Mari helped.

Moreover, they were familiar with the video equipment. CSJMM uses the same camcorder as I do, and as the SJMC still uses—a Sony PD-170. After showing them how to use a wireless mike, the two women went to work with great confidence.

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011


About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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