The story begins with an experiment. A filmmaker in the country of Georgia posts an ad inviting youth to audition for her film. Facing the camera, the hopefuls confess their struggles and dreams. These raw interviews unfold seamlessly into cinematic slivers of Georgian life.
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A filmmaker puts out a casting call for young adults, aged 15- to 23. The director wants to make a film about growing up in her home country, Georgia, and find commonalities across social and ethnic lines. She travels through cities and villages interviewing the candidates who responded and filming their daily lives. The boys and girls who responded to the call are radically different from one another, as are their personal reasons for auditioning. Some want be movie stars and see the film as a means to that end; others want to tell their personal story. One girl wants to call to account the mother who abandoned her; one boy wants to share the experience of caring for his handicapped family members; another wants to clear the name of a brother, currently serving a jail sentence. Together, their tales weave a kaleidoscopic tapestry of war and love, wealth and poverty, creating an extraordinarily complex vision of a modern society that still echoes with its Soviet past.
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Premiering at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Georgian documentary filmmaker Tinatin Gurchiani's The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear seeks to give its predominantly Western audience a fleeting but poignant glimpse into the struggles of Georgian youth. While it doesn't always drive the point home with the sort of visceral, entirely emotive force one might hope for, it still makes for engaging and reflective viewing for anyone curious about the lives and cultures of secluded lands.nnThe doco is sprawling and directionless, but not in an entirely negative way. Gurchiani places an ad seeking Georgian youth to play some sort of role in an upcoming film, but their 'audition process' is less dramatic readings or crying on cue and more a delicate process of teasing out the individual's personality and how it reflects all aspects of their life. This cast of characters includes an ambitious governor, a young boy fond of fairy tales and a curious soul searching for the mother who abandoned her, among others, and there is a sort of subtle poetry in the way Gurchiani's prodding and probing forms a backstory for these people about as well as any screenplay could.nnFrom there, the camera stays at arm's length as we follow this cast through a typical day in their life; punctuated by pleasantries but mostly riddled with a melancholy that seems crushingly appropriate amid the Georgian countryside's backdrop of browns and blacks. The emotional payoff depends entirely on whose story you're watching, as those whose stories look as if they may be the most intriguing (such as that of the capable yet unemployed online poker addict) are cut short, really before they even begin.nnAs such, the film never feels in total control of the emotions it tries to draw from the viewer, but it remains a sharp exploration of humanity and core values sure to appease those looking for prototypical film festival fare. nn*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on [email protected] and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*
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