We start our second film

Our Svaneti film team has reassembled to make a documentary film in Tbilisi.

I’m sooooooo grateful to Svaneti and Tbilisi team members Nana Mghebrishvili and Mari Papidze for their scouting efforts. Back in May, while I was still working at USC, I had asked these two strangers to find a particular type of person who was going through a particular type of life change. Part of me knew that it was an unreasonable request, especially since I told them that I would not pay them—at least no cash payments. Moreover, my assignment was a difficult one. I wanted “a family that used to enjoy living in a traditional home in an Old Tbilisi neighborhood, but now the family is considering a move to a modern apartment.”

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

I also had these requests:

• At least one person in the family should be a great storyteller—interesting, animated, articulate.

• The family should interact with its neighbors in the “spirit of old Tbilisi.”

• The family should maintain traditional Tbilisi/Georgian culture—singing, playing Nardi, using the public baths, attending Georgian Orthodox church, and so on.

• The audience should have empathy for the family.

• The family must be open and honest. It must be able to continue to act naturally even though a camera is recording their actions.

Nana and Mari found Tamaz Jalagania and his wife Nana Imnadze, who exceeded my expectations. First, Tamaz is a chokhosani, or a person who wears the chokha. Chokha is part of the traditional male dress of the Caucasus people. It has been in wide use among Georgians from the 9th century until the 1920s. Second, Tamaz is

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

an opera singer who will sing in a beautiful voice without any prompting. Third, he is a master craftsman, who makes museum-quality reproductions of Georgian swords and guns. In fact he would have been the last master craftsman of this art except that he has trained 15 apprentices over the years. He uses gold, silver, ivory, and bone for elaborate inlaid decorations. President Saakashvili just selected one gun as a gift for Senator McCain (lucky guy!). See the video: “Caucasian craftsmanship keeps traditions alive” (http://rt.com/news/prime-time/caucasian-craftsmanship-keeps-traditions-alive/)

Fourth, Tamaz is an extremely animated storyteller; he recently turned 72 and he seems to remember everything that has happened in his lifetime as well as all of the history of Georgia. In addition, Tamaz is a poet, painter, and collector of antique saddles and samovars. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union he was an engineer.

Last night was supposed to be simply, ” Hello, my name is” type of meeting. Instead, we stayed four hours, ate a delicious meal, received a tour of his museum-like home, and became instant friends. I don’t say “museum-like” casually; President Saakashvili is building a museum next to Tamaz’s current home and workshop; many of items in his home will fill this new museum.

I also thank Susanna Melo, another video team member, for her excellent questions and filming suggestions.

Tamaz and Nana’s home will be demolished soon, and the government is constructing a new home for the couple.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

I’m sure you can now understand why I’m soooooooo grateful to Nana Mgebrishvili and Mari Papidze and why I believe the story of Tamaz and Nana will delight the film’s audience.

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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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