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Georgia’s Minister of Culture attacks documentary filmmakers


Tbilisi. December 28, 2023


2023 was a critical year for Georgian film industry. The radical changes in Georgian National Film Center (GNFC) and the cultural policy exercised by the Minister of Culture has pushed filmmakers to boycott GNFC by refusing to file for funding from September 2023 onward. Below we would like to bring recent developments to your attention.


Georgian National Film Center has, on multiple occasions, declined to issue official letters required by individual filmmakers for international co-productions and funds, including Eurimages. We’ve observed at least two such cases when GNFC leaves inquiries unanswered for three months in one case and over a month in the second case.


Additionally, GNFC has not yet signed contracts in regards to or disbursed already confirmed funds to several film projects, whose authors are critical to GNFC policy and whose projects were confirmed financing in March 2023.


On December 13, 2023, Georgian Minister of Culture Thea Tsulukiani criticized the creative documentary film “Magic Mountain” [2023], calling it a lie and a speculation. She also mentioned, documentary “Taming the Garden” [2021] was a lie and not a documentary film.


The Minister of Culture accused “Magic Mountain” Georgian co-director Mariam Chachia of changing the initial title and film script submitted to the Georgian National Film Center (GNFC) by adding a scene about Bidzina Ivanishvili, the richest man in the country who stands behind the ruling Georgian Dream party. When an interviewer asked if GNFC had any tools to respond to unagreed upon changes in the script, the Minister answered: “We are very limited in having any mechanism against this, but most probably GNFC will use what is in its hands. The National Film Center has been deceived, and I do not want to use those legal terms which are usually used when there are such kinds of violations.”


The Minister stated that legal amendments will be made by GNFC, and filmmakers will have a strict obligation to stick to initial scripts submitted and approved by GNFC if they receive GNFC funding. She claimed that according to the European practice, an author is unable to make any changes to originally submitted script or deviate from it during the making of a film without prior agreement with the funds, arguing that strict mechanisms are used in foreign funds in such cases and they must also be introduced in Georgia. 


We at Documentary Association Georgia view the absurdist accusations from the Ministry of Culture as an attack on freedom of creative expression, seemingly protective of individual interests of businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili.


We believe this extended public interview with the Minister of Culture on top-rated Imedi TV contains a threatening and discriminatory tone toward independent documentary filmmakers in Georgia. It harms critical thinking and creative diversity. It is an attempt to censor independent artists and punish them using different mechanisms available to the Film Center. 


In international (and Georgian) professional practice of documentary filmmaking, there is never a final script followed throughout shooting and editing. There is no finalized title until a film is completed. A documentary is a living organism that takes shape over time. It’s impossible to complete a documentary exactly as planned initially. The creative process is a constant dialogue with the subject of the film and its creators.


This attack and expression of political pressure is not the first of its kind. Ruling Georgian Dream party chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze slammed the documentary “Taming the Garden” earlier, calling it a shameful film. “Such films should not be made, and the right films should be made,” he told journalists on June 19, 2023. 

Documentary Association Georgia

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