Happy hostages

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

Our video team returned to the home of Tamaz Jalagania and Nana Imnadze in order to film their home before it is demolished. Because their home is too damaged to be repaired, and because it is in the historic district of Tbilisi, the government will build them a new home (which is very nice), and the government will pay their rent for the two years it will take to build a new home (also very nice). Moreover, the government is going to help them pack their household belongings (very, very nice). Since their home is a veritable museum, and since they won’t be unpacking for two years, we filmed in different rooms as Tamaz explained various photographs and other objects that stimulated special memories. He also explained how he was born in this house.

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

After a couple of hours, we had to go to another appointment. But we couldn’t. Tamaz and Nana wouldn’t let us leave unless we ate some fruit. We explained that we couldn’t, but they insisted. After playing this “game” for a while (yes, you must; no, we can’t), we agreed to eat a piece of fruit. Immediately more fruit arrived; then wine glasses; then wine; then a toast; and another toast; and another toast. That’s the way Georgian hospitality is. Lots of leisurely eating, talking, toasting, drinking, laughing. Before you know it, the day is gone. Fortunately, we escaped before dinnertime.

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.