Thursday 20 April: Tangerines (15)

Original title: “Mandariinid”

Estonia/Georgia  –  Drama, War  –  Year: 2013  –  Running time: 87 mins
Language: Estonian/Russian/Georgian


It is 1992. Georgians are fighting a war with secessionist Abkazians, backed by Russia. Ivo, an elderly, ethnic Estonian farmer decides to stay behind and save his tangerine harvest, rather than evacuate the farm. He finds himself having to care for two wounded fighters, one from each side. Very much a comment on the absurdity and futility of war, this touching and suspenseful film was finally released in the UK in 2015, providing fierce and worthy Oscar competition for Pawlikovski’s Ida.

The funniest and most profound film about war since Dr Strangelove.
Sofie Monks Kaufman (Little White Lies)

Director: Zaza Urushadze
Three Houses (2008) / Ak tendeba (1998)
Lembit Ulfsak                           …  Ivo
Elmo Nüganen                         …  Margus
Giorgi Nakashidze                   …  Ahmed
Misha Meskhi                          …  Niko
Raivo Trass                             …  Juhan

(for full cast, and more information, see “Tangerines” in IMDB)

CFC Film notes:                                                     (click here for printed version)

“This movie from Georgian writer-director Zara Urushadze had an Oscar nomination for best foreign film, losing out to Pawel Pawlikowski’s IDA.  [And who would be begrudge the wonderful IDA?!]   However, TANGERINES is more than deserving of an award: Tangerines 2a tremendous, ‘old-fashioned’ anti-war film, by turns touching, moving and suspenseful.
Set in 1992 in post-Soviet Caucasus, Georgians are fighting a war with secessionist Abkhazians, who are backed by Russia.  Ivo is an elderly ethnic Estonian who, with friend Margus, is a tangerine farmer; they fear the fighting will destroy their entire crop.  Disaster strikes, and Ivo finds himself having to offer tense hospitality to one wounded fighter from each side: Georgian Niko and Chechen mercenary Ahmed, who has no great love for his Russian paymasters.  Ivo’s house becomes their demilitarised zone, and Niko and Ahmed must repress their hatred for each other, while Ivo suppresses panic about his unpicked tangerines going to waste.

It is tremendous storytelling, with some engaging, lovely touches.  So, when Ivo and Margus push a soldier’s van down a hill to hide it they are disappointed it doesn’t burst into flames, “like in the movies.”  “Cinema is a great big fraud” says Ivo.”  (Peter Bradshaw, Guardian Film Review)

Interestingly (for some!), Urushadze’s father was the famous Soviet football goalkeeper Ramaz Urushadze. Zaza trained at the Slota Rustaveli Theatre and Film Georgia State University.  In 2002-04 he was director of the Georgian National Film Centre.  His first full-length film was Here Comes The Dawn (1988), a successful international debut.

Urushadze ran into political difficulties in 2006 when the fourth series of his popular TV series – Ckheli Dzogli -was banned by the Georgian government for its ‘political themes’. He now embarked on his second feature film, Three Houses (2008).  Shown at the Montreal World Film Festival, in 2009, it opened the Georgian Film Week in Talinn, Estonia, where Urshadze met Artur Veeber and Tatjana Muklbeier, and together an idea to write a script for Tangerines was born.  Tangerines, an Estonia/Georgia co-production, was completed in 2013, becoming one of the most successful and worldwide acclaimed films in Georgian film history: during the next three years it went on to be nominated and win many awards.

A new Urashadze film is planned for release in 2017: The Monk.  It apparently tells the story of a film director-turned-priest whose life in a small mountain village begins to unravel when he meets a local music teacher who is hiding a dark secret.  Urushadze said of it that “it would be different from Tangerines… lighter and maybe even more sensitive. But… hopefully entertaining.”  We should watch out for it!

Tangerines 1Selected UK reviews:

Guardian (Peter Bradshaw)
The List (Allan Hunter)