A woman in the moment

Dea Kulumbegashvili on the international collaboration behind Beginning

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Ia Sukhitashvili stars in Dea Kulumbegashvili's Beginning
Ia Sukhitashvili stars in Dea Kulumbegashvili's Beginning

Dea Kulumbegashvili’s debut feature Beginning, co-written with Rati Oneli, executive produced by Carlos Reygadas and Gaetan Rousseau, stars Ia Sukhitashvili with Oneli and Kakha Kintsurashvili. Matthieu Taponier, the editor of László Nemes’s Oscar-winning film Son Of Saul, starring Géza Röhrig was also the editor and co-writer with Nemes and Clara Royer on Sunset (Napszállta), featuring Juli Jakab and Vlad Ivanov. Taponier edited Beginning, shot by Arseni Khachaturan with music by Nicolas Jaar.

Koné Bakary in Night Of The Kings
Koné Bakary in Night Of The Kings

During the Rethinking World Cinema panel discussion with Chaitanya Tamhane (The Disciple), Philippe Lacôte (Night of the Kings), Louis Henderson and Olivier Marboeuf (Ouvertures) at the New York Film Festival, I sent in the following comment and question for Dea Kulumbegashvili: You worked with Matthieu Taponier, the editor of László Nemes’s Son Of Saul and Sunset. Can you talk about your collaboration with him? The pacing of Beginning is quite striking.

This is her full response about the human condition, stories of women, and why filming in Georgia with international collaborators, including Taponier and Jaar, is so important for her:

Dea Kulumbegashvili: I guess that I’m very much interested in examining the human condition. I am obviously interested to tell the stories of women. It’s important for me to look at the places where I grew up and to go back where I grew up. Because I need to find the connection. I need to find my identity in a way. Because it doesn’t matter how I will evolve and what will be my future,I think we all carry our past with us and how we all grew up and what were our influences as humans.

And that was for me the starting point, to really examine this condition of a woman who stands in the moment when she is looking outside of her comfort zone or of something familiar, her family. And she wants something which is outside because she cannot stay in anymore. But she doesn’t know what is the new and it’s painful and it’s a tragic story.

Ouvertures with The Living and the Dead Ensemble
Ouvertures with The Living and the Dead Ensemble

I think there is of course my personal connection with it because I do know these women and I come from this place and I went through the journey to become a director and I am sure that many other women from this place went on their journeys and faced their unknown to take a step forward. But also to look back maybe from the perspective of New York or Paris or to study abroad, I could start to connect that those stories were just a universal human experiences and human condition.

And I just understood that there is a connection between all of us. And that’s maybe what cinema does at the end, it does speak in the universal language. And maybe, like talking about Tarkovsky films. I was, for example, always in New York going to Tarkovsky retrospectives and I was blown away, even if at times the subtitles would not work but people were just mesmerised by his cinema that was on the screen.

And my international team of collaborators - I think that’s very important. Because in Georgia, I want to also mention, we don’t really have a film industry, and we don’t really have that many film theatres. Maybe we have five film theatres in the entire country. I might be wrong, maybe it’s a bit more, like maybe seven. So we don’t really have an industry.

The Disciple stars Aditya Modak
The Disciple stars Aditya Modak

The new generation of film directors, we’re looking out. We do need the collaborators who can come to Georgia to work with us. It’s also something which I personally need. I do need this connection with people outside of Georgia as well because I’m interested to look at the experiences through their eyes. And it’s very important for me. I’ve had a great team, by the way, and I want to thank everyone who worked with me on this film.

They [Matthieu Taponier and composer Nicolas Jaar] all were in Georgia and I think it was extremely important for me that they were in Georgia physically. And they would go to the location and they could see what Georgia really is and to go to these places with me and to physically experience, to be there and to live with the people on location. I’m very grateful for all of that.

At the San Sebastian Film Festival, Beginning won Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Ia Sukhitashvili won Best Actress.

The 2020 New York Film Festival runs through October 11.

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