Georgia: Hollywood’s undiscovered movie set

Georgia: Hollywood's undiscovered movie set
Image: Still from Tangerines, dir. Zaza Urushadze (2013)

19 June 2017

Hollywood is turning to Georgia, following the government’s plan to offer subsidies to foreign production companies, in a move to boost the country’s moviemaking industry. In a statement from the country’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the initiative’s main aims were defined as contributing “to the development of cinematography as an industry and as a business,” as well as establishing Georgia as “Eastern Europe’s most attractive filming location”.

The program, named “Film in Georgia” will reimburse 20 percent of a foreign company’s production costs in Georgia, adding a further 5 percent if the completed film or project promotes Georgia in some way. Representatives from major Hollywood based studios including Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal and 20th Century Fox have declared an interest, whilst six International feature films have already qualified for the initiative, including The Clown, produced by Thor Halvorssen and Terence Malick.

The initiative to further develop the industry follows the success of several internationally acclaimed Georgian films, that has strengthened Georgia’s stake at the cinematic table. Over the past 4 years, Giorgi Ovashvili’s Corn Island (2014), Nana Ekvtimishvili’s In Bloom (2013) and Zaza Urushadze’s Tangerines (2013) have all attracted widespread praise, with Urushadze’s poignant piece being nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film in 2013. Urushadze’s next feature film The Monk is set for release during 2017.

Lika Mezvrishvili, the head of the program’s International relations department, has said that “Besides the financial benefit, the most important benefit that Georgia will get is experience and knowledge transfer from international productions.” Whilst Georgia has produced a number of art-house critics’ favourites, it has yet to bring out bigger-budget collaborations, exploring features beyond the auteur model.

However, some film and television insiders in Georgia question whether the money is best spent on foreign film companies, when there is a host of national talent with little resources. Giorgi Maskharashvili, director of The Watchmaker (2011), has recently moved to Los Angeles due to the lack of opportunities and funding currently available in Georgia, stating: “There’s very little money and too many willing Georgian filmmakers trying to get grants.”