Georgia on my screen

By bne IntelliNews November 2, 2011

Molly Corso in Tbilisi -

A deal to bring two Bollywood film shoots to Georgia is raising expectations that the country's struggling cinema industry could get a second chance.

Filming for two Indian movies - "Bilia 2" and "Double Trouble" - is slated for October and November, an investment that Georgian officials and film directors believe will lead to more interest and investment in Georgia cinema. "In Bollywood, there is about 500 new movies a year, at least two movies a day. So when one producer discovers [a location], they have a pulling effect... I am sure that next year we will have more and more movies coming into Georgia," she said. "[The movie business] is really good for the budget in two ways. Whatever the investment comes to the country, it stays in the country. It makes the economy move forward," says the director of the Georgia National Investment Agency, Keti Bochorishvili, who adds that bringing Bollywood to Georgia has been a government focus.

Chakri Toleti, the director of "Bilia 2", tells bne in a phone interview from his office in India that he plans to spend roughly $500,000 in Georgia during his 20-day shoot in November. After travelling around Georgia in search of a new location, he said the country's variety of landscapes, towering mountains, sandy beaches and barren deserts, all within hours of each other, convinced him it was the right location for his latest project.

The government is also hoping to cash in on the Bollywood effect, the apparent power of Indian films to draw scores of Indian tourists to the countries where their favourite films are shot. From Scotland to Switzerland, Indian film shoots are having a dual effect on state budgets: movie productions provide spend money in communities on local staff, restaurants and hotels - then movie fans follow their lead, giving the tourism sector a boost.

Bochorishvili says the government is hoping to mimic that success. Officials spent months trying to win over the Indian movie producers. But now that they are coming, tourists and more film companies will follow, she believes. "We want this sector to develop in Georgia, for Georgia to become a film production location... the biggest result that it will create is the awareness of the country," she says, noting scores of Indian tourists have flocked to Switzerland to visit the backdrop for their favourite films. "We would expect increased numbers of tourists coming to Georgia... and it will be easier for us to talk about Georgia after this movie than it has been before this movie."

Toleti says that Georgia has the makings of a new international filming location. "I think that once we expose Georgia to our film industry, others will want to come," he says.


Toleti and his colleagues are following a long, cinematic tradition of filming in Georgia. A favourite backdrop for Soviet directors for decades, the country's diverse climates and good weather have the potential to compete places like Prague, reckons international award-winning Georgian director Nino Kirtadze.

Kirtadze, now based in Paris, says she returns to Georgia to film every year because of the locations, crew and cost. "In a very small country you can have totally different and various landscapes. You can have a desert, you can have a mountain... you have sea, you have mountain, you have cities.

You can shoot Iran, for example, in Georgia, she says. "If Georgia plays its advantages in a right way and if the ground is prepared, meaning have the crew here, having facilities, having professional people in every stage of film development, of course everyone will be ready to shoot because Prague now is very expensive."

Stefan Tolz, a German filmmaker who has been shooting documentaries and fiction in Georgia for 20 years, agrees the country has the potential to bring in foreign film productions. He cautions, however, that this will have a limited effect on Georgia's own local movie industry.

Georgia, he says, has a "rich history" of movies that trace back to pioneers in black and white films from the first days of cinema. "This was always a cultural essence - Moscow and Russia of course had some cities where you had film industries starting... but the success story, especially internationally, came from Tbilisi," he says. "So [foreign film production] might be a very important step for the future that the current government has been putting a lot of energy...[though] I doubt this will affect Georgian cinema itself very much, but of course it will bring a lot of people who work in cinema jobs and possibilities to work here."

The Georgian film community, Kirtadze says, is excited about the potential that Bollywood could bring to the industry, but she warns there is a limit to what foreign productions can do for the local cinema. "[Bollywood coming] is good. And probably someone else will follow... but to rely only on whoever will come, I think it is not right," she says. "I think that Georgia should think more about what they will produce, or co-produce... I think it will move much, much faster this way. I am not saying say no to whoever comes, no. But also do something, take risks, assume your risks and move forward."

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