When Levan, a once-popular bass player in Tbilisi, finds himself jobless and joyless, he moves into a one-room apartment with his elderly mother, Lamara. Dead Souls’ Vacation, a feature documentary filmed predominantly in their claustrophobic one-room apartment, chronicles their turbulent relationship as they attempt to coexist. The picture also follows Levan’s mental health battle as he tries to get back on his feet and pursue his music dreams.
Dead Souls’ Vacation — also the name of Levan’s band, which he founded during his school years — is an engaging and touching film, that draws attention not only to the complexities of family relationships, and the many forms that love can take, but also to the intense hardship that artists can face when going through difficult times. As the cumulative impact of poverty, isolation, addiction, and caring takes its toll on his mental health, Levan finds it progressively more difficult to start leaving the house.
Filmed predominantly in an observational style, Dead Souls’ Vacation makes the audience a silent witness of Levan’s life, thoughts, and struggles. From this “fly on the wall” perspective, the movie leaves audiences space to breathe, and poses difficult questions on what happens when one’s family is not equipped to deal with mental health issues and all other social structures fail. With that said, the film offers a dash of optimism: ultimately, Levan and Lamara’s relationship difficulties stem not from a lack of love but, instead, from a disagreement on what is best for them. Moreover, Levan’s own struggles appear because he still has dreams to pursue. An intimate watch, both physically and emotionally, Dead Souls’ Vacation is a documentary that raises more questions than it provides answers, but certainly gifts viewers with thought-provoking life lessons.
Directed by Keko Chelidze, the film premiered at Canadian documentary film festival Hot Short Docs in 2020. Now, Dead Souls’ Vacation is screening on 18-19 October as part of The Calvert Journal Film Festival. Get your tickets here.