Zaza Urushadze’s Tangerines
By Mariam Apkhazava
I come from a very small country on the clasp of Europe and Asia, called Georgia. Though it’s an ancient country with its own language and alphabet, and though it’s well known for its culture in Europe, I got stares from Americans every time I said I was from Georgia, the country, not the state. All that aside, Georgia has a wonderfully complex and diverse filmography and today I wanted to introduce you to one of my personal beloved films, Tangerines, which came out in 2013 and among many other prestigious awards it won it was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign language Film category.
This Zaza Urushadze film tells a deep and tragic story, one very close to my heart as a Georgian that lived through 5 days of August in 2008, through the war with Russia, and especially at this time, when The Russia-Ukraine war is happening I’ve been thinking about that time quite often. Russia has occupied Abkhazia, part of Georgia and that’s where the film is set. During the war in Abkhazia, an Estonian man stays behind to wait for his crop of tangerines. After a firefight he must care for two soldiers, each from opposing sides, who each vow to kill the other once they recover. Two men with very different personalities, upbringings, and values: one Georgian, one Chechen, living in Estonian Ivo’s house. Ivo is the definition of a good man, he’s wise, he’s kind, he’s caring and he somehow unites the two sworn enemies to the point they sacrifice themselves for each other. There are no winners in a war, that’s the main idea behind this film. It revolves around morals, patriotism, kindness and what it means to be human.
I highly recommend watching this film even if you’ve never heard of anything about my country before. It’s beautifully shot, the melodies playing throughout the film were specifically composed for it by a very famous and revered Georgian composer named Niaz Diasamidze and they create a melancholic vibe that surrounds the entirety of the movie. It’s at times action-packed and at times extremely quiet. With not much dialogue happening in the film, the glances exchanged between the characters, and the extreme close-ups of their eyes tell stories of their own. The scenery is beautiful and the tangerines that are so prominent in the film cast a warm orange glow over everything, lifting the mood at some points, while at others making it even more sad if that’s even possible.
The complexity of war is presented in a compact form, with minimal characters, making it that much more intimate and engaging. No matter whose side you started on by the end of the film you feel for both sides equally, it hurts to watch either of the two sworn enemies go through such pain because of the politics of their countries. It’s a beautiful film and I couldn’t recommend it more.