Street Days

Street Days


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Chekie is a heroin addict. Any number of films have shown us the perils of junk - Requiem For A Dream, Sid And Nancy and Trainspotting, to name but three - but Street Days is made unique by its setting. The former Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia has a 'lost generation', a messy history, a corrupt present, and Street Days uses them all to build a bleak and touching portrait of an individual's dilemma.

It features the debut role of Guga Kotetishvili, but his inexperience in front of the camera is not in evidence. He's the wisest, the canniest of the junkies who hang around near his son's school. He knows, if you will, the score. Too much so, in fact, as an abortive attempt to secure some stuff brings him to the attention of the police. To make their name they're going to try to bust a Minister's son, and they need Chekie's help to do it. That the Minister is a childhood friend of Chekie just compounds the situation. It's that gap in outcomes after the dissolution of the State that gives Street Days an edge. People left in situations they are not equipped to handle, some adult, some children, a generation whose successes are kleptocrats and whose failures are petty thieves, the rich drunks and the poor junkies. It's all a mess, but the film isn't.

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At times there is comedy; a drunken dinner with Zaza Cheishvili (played by Zura Sharia), whose ministry is never quite specified, descends into maudlin reminiscences and gossip. At others tragedy; Chekie's connection lives with an aging father who disapproves of his activities, and things take a shocking turn. There's a casualness around firearms that might seem surprising to European eyes, and a kidnapping that goes sour despite the bunny and wolf costumes. One could criticise a foreshadowing history lesson, but to do so would be to miss the point - that spiriting someone away for ransom is part of Georgia's history is vital to understanding how many of (and in how many ways) the characters have been stolen away, or from, or both.

Inspired by a short story written by Mamuka Kherkheulidze, this has three listed scriptwriters and a 'participation' credit that takes it to four. That's often a hallmark of a troubled production, but here it appears to have done the opposite - the dialogue is crisp, believable throughout. Some of it is apparently improvised, contributing to a realist sensibility without the use of 'shaky-cam', a documentary air among the squalor and decay of modern Tblisi.

Rusiko Kobiashvili is Nini, Chekie's long-suffering wife, having to juggle debts, her child, and her addict husband. Among the supporting cast she's notable, but so too are the chorus of addicts who follow Chekie everywhere. Then there are the police, led by the truly menacing Zurab Begalishvili. With a shock of white hair, aviator glasses, and what appears to be a broken moral compass he gives Chekie a choice; get young Ika (Irakli Ramishvili) caught with heroin in his bloodstream and in his possession, or go to jail for the rest of his life.

Levan Koguashvili has directed a documentary (Women From Georgia) and a short, but this is his debut feature. It's very good too, with a realistic script and some excellent performances well captured by the camera work of Archil Akhvlediani.

To be boring and talk about film technology, Street Days is another film shot with the Red platform, and its digital nature means that shots can be given time to develop organically over multiple takes, and its depth means that the palette of blues and browns is well captured.

The film sat well in the company of Police, Adjective at EIFF 2010, sharing a quasi-documentary eye and compelling moral core. It feels real, which makes it even more bleak as it unfolds. It should be no surprise that heroin screws you up, but Street Days' style, setting, and skill show that there's more than that that can destroy a life, if not a whole generation.

Reviewed on: 30 Jul 2010
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A heroin addict in Tblisi is faced with a horrific dilemma.
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Director: Levan Koguashvili

Writer: Boris Frumin and Levan Koguashvili, based on the short story by Mamuka Kherkheulidze

Starring: Guga Kotetishvili, Rusiko Kobiashvili, Zurab Begalishvili, Irakli Ramishvili, Zaza Kolelishvili

Year: 2010

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: Georgia


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