Set in the stunning landscapes of Georgia, this part-epic, part-comedy tells the story of three middle-aged men revisiting their childhood friendship. We spoke to director Nino Zhvania about her inspiration for the film, Georgian society, and what it means to be human. Parade is screening on 17 October as part of The Calvert Journal Film Festival: Seven Days of New East Cinema Online. You can book your free tickets here.
What inspired you to make Parade?
When I first read the screenplay, it reminded me of American filmmaker John Cassavetes’ Husbands. Cassavetes is my favourite director. His work helps me all the time, not just when I’m making films. If I’m sad, I’ll watch one of his movies, or if I’m in any mood, really. That’s why I chose to make this film — the story was a perfect tribute to him. The actors I worked with were also very inspiring. I decided to let go of the original script and to leave space for the actors to take ownership of the dialogues. The three protagonists knew the storyline, but they improvised lines and used their own words. It gives the film a genuine authenticity, not a performative one. The actors also had a lot of fun; they got along very well and their affinity is palpable in the film: they were genuinely laughing throughout, bouncing off each other’s jokes. They drank vodka, ate, talked, and had a lot of freedom to inhabit the characters as they saw fit. It was great working in this type of environment.
What does this film say about a generation of Georgians who grew up in the Soviet Union, and had to adapt to completely new ways of life after its collapse?
I’m not sure if this is specific to Georgians, or if it’s true of all the countries which were part of the USSR. I wanted to tell the story of a generation of men who spent their adult lives in a country that is entirely different from that in which they grew up. The future they were promised never came, and as a consequence, they are lost. Of course, this isn’t true for all men. But I see that women seem to have been able to overcome that change; they’ve become even more powerful than they were. They adapted to the circumstances and found work to feed their families. But for men, it was harder to start a new life. Especially for those who weren’t so young anymore when the USSR collapsed, when they realised that their lives were already half gone, and they had no interest in the possibilities of this new world. In the Soviet world, they had a purpose. Now they’re free, and they don’t know what to do with that freedom.
It’s a hard situation to be in, but what I also wanted to show in this movie is the relationship between these men. They were childhood friends, so as soon as they’re together, they return to that default mode of being together, of being kids. They forget their problems and laugh like children; they find the sense of humour they had maybe lost in their daily lives, and are able to let go of their feelings of inadequacy for a short while.
You show three men that have no constraints: they can leave whenever they want and go wherever they want. But to what extent do you think that they are free, and to what extent do you think they are lost without direction?
All three of them are at challenging moments in their lives. One just came out of jail, the other struggles to sell his paintings at a flea market, and the third is an actor who reminisces about his old successes. They are at an existential crossroads, so they lie to themselves about being free, because they want to believe it, and because it helps them forget their difficulties and be happy again. It’s a short-term happiness perhaps, but it is still an escape from their reality. Tomorrow, Tazo will once again be embarrassed by his son thinking he is a failure, and go back to selling his paintings. Guram won’t know what to do with himself now that he is out of jail, and Trulaila will go on lying to himself about being a successful actor. But today, they are escaping reality.
“I wanted to tell the story of a generation of men who spent their adult lives in a country that is entirely different from that in which they grew up. The future they were promised never came, and as a consequence, they are lost”
What did you enjoy most about making the film?
There’s nothing I dislike about making films. I enjoy every night with no sleep, being hungry, and unable to eat… That is part of realising your dreams, and the best part is that your dreams actually come true. What I loved about this particular film is how we worked: the actors had freedom, so they gave me authenticity. Perhaps working with actors that weren’t professionals helped with that – it definitely changed the atmosphere on the set.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently writing a script and planning to make a film about young Georgians. The new generation is very free and very cool. If there is a bright future, they are the ones who will bring it about. The film will be about Georgian teenagers, but will hopefully also be universal. I think teenagers have the same problems and deal with the same issues everywhere: misunderstandings with their parents, fitting in at school, etc. I’m planning to keep the spontaneous and authentic sensibility of Parade, with none of the cast being professional actors.