Otar's Death


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Otar's Death
"Bliadze observes the proceedings with a cool and non-judgemental detachment and an eye for the absurd."

Georgian filmmaking has been receiving a lot of favourable festival heat recently, with Dea Kulumbegashvili's Cannes-selected stark drama Beginning picking up the FIPRESCI prize in Toronto and Aleksandre Koberidze's shaggy dog charmer What Do We See When We Look At The Sky netting the same award in Berlin. Now Ioseb 'Soso' Bliadze has continued the awards stream with this tragicomic tale that offers sharp scrutiny of mother and son relationships - not to mention his motherland and its children - and which picked up the Fedeora critics prize in Karlovy Vary.

Teenager Nika (Iva Kimeridze) lives with his hot mess of a single mum Keti (Nutsa Kukhianidze) in a high-rise Tbilisi tower block. Keti is a hustler - introduced to us as she tries to sell face cream - and though the pair may not be quite living hand to mouth, she's no stranger to scrounging cash from her son so she can go out on the lash. One of the markers of their relationship is that he calls her by her first name, a distance that is replicated in all their interactions, with her showing little acknowledgement of her son's need for emotional connection.

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Their fractious relationship leads, inadvertently, to the death heralded by the film's title, as Keti is involved in a car accident on a rural road. It is then that the second half of film takes shape as Otar's daughter Tamara (Eka Chavleishvili) and her son Oto (Archil Makalatia) demand blood money in compensation. Bliadze begins to amp up the complexity, showing how grief is paradoxically bringing opportunity for Tamara and Oto, with cash offering a hope of escape to something else. This mother and son relationship also lacks emotional underpinning - with the writer/director hinting at a wider societal malaise in the transactional nature of so many of the film's relationships.

As Keti tries desperately to drum up the cash for her son and as unexpected developments occur out in the countryside, Bliadze observes the proceedings with a cool and non-judgemental detachment and an eye for the absurd. He also offers space to think about the psychological implications of all this in scenes where the camera focuses solely on Nika's face as the world continues to move past. Disconnection, he suggests, sows the seeds for violence in a system that is geared up to be morally compromising - and asks, whose fault is that?

Reviewed on: 01 Sep 2021
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Two families, each facing their own existential difficulties, are brought together by an unfortunate event.

Director: Ioseb "Soso" Bliadze

Writer: Elmar Imanov, Ioseb "Soso" Bliadze

Starring: Nutsa Kukhianidze, Iva Kimeridze, Eka Chavleishvili, Achi Makalatia

Year: 2021

Runtime: 106 minutes

Country: Georgia, Germany, Lithuania

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