A Room of My Own is the latest in a series of Georgian films that dig deep into the societal issues, perceptions and attitudes of the country – and this year has received great acclaim on the festival circuit. It follows Tina (Taki Mumladze), a young woman with a tumultuous relationship history, who moves into an apartment in Tbilisi with Megi (Mariam Khundadze) at the height of the pandemic. Initial mistrust gives way to a deeper connection and the rejuvenating nature of female relationships.
Screen Queens recently spoke to director and writer Ioseb ‘Soso’ Bliadze, and actress and writer Taki Mumladze about the making of the film and their hopes for the future of Georgian cinema.
Screen Queens: Tina is initially presented as an unsure woman – who comes into her own strength despite the violent circumstances that she has dealt with in her previous marriage. Taki, how did you approach playing this character who holds so much of her emotions inside?
Taki Mumladze: When Soso told me he had a script idea about two women and wanted me to be one of the leads, I immediately suggested co-writing the script with him. The reason for this was simple: he wanted to make a film about women, and I had a lifetime experience as a woman in this world. I remember telling him: “You need me for this!”
It was very difficult to bring this character into reality. I knew that she should be an introvert and that she should not lose his emotions. We worked for 7 months and during this time I lived the life of this character. Tina with her skin, energy and everything is a very real person to me.
While working on the script Tina became more and more real for me. I felt exactly how she would walk and talk, her body language, her energy. Slowly I was realising that the issues I wanted to talk about created a character very distinct and contrasting from my real self, which to be honest really scared me at first. I decided to transfer my imagination into reality, and I started doing simple things – I cut my hair for Tina, put the costume on, walked in the streets thinking about how Tina would move her body while walking, and what thoughts she could have, applied my anti-acne cream that reddened my face. All these little details helped me as a writer and as an actor to come closer to the storyline and to create characters of the film.
But I was very afraid, I thought that there was a big risk that she would be boring and people just wouldn’t want to listen and watch her.
SQ: What was it like shooting in your own apartment, with Mariam Khundadze, during the pandemic? What were the challenges that you encountered?
TM: After a while, we lost the reality of where our lives were and where Tina and Megi were.
One of our friends lived with us, and it was probably the most difficult for her – I want to
thank her very much for everything.
SQ: Sexuality, and how it is suppressed in various forms in society is a key element of the film – it’s also refreshing in embracing the fluidity of sexuality – was this something that you wanted to examine within the film?
There’s an explicit image of women in society defined by men, as if we have a predetermined path from the very beginning, and if we diverge from those assumed expectations, we are strictly punished for it. There is a constant psychological and physical terror, only because of our gender. And the question is if there’s a space left for us to find ourselves under these circumstances? In this reality? It seems like the whole life is wasted for self-preservation. Can we find our identity? How can we explore our sexuality – which is utterly repressed? Can we have freedom of choice? And if we are lucky to know we have the entitlement to be free and independent, what does all this cost a woman? To be honest, the existing pain in me drove the whole script. We really tried to make an honest and uncompromising story.
SQ: The film captures the claustrophobia that so many of us dealt with during the pandemic – for example, so much of the action happens behind/through windows. What were the barriers that you experienced while shooting?
Ioseb ‘Soso’ Bliadze: We started to shoot this film without a budget. On set, there was just me, the DOP Dimitri Dekanosidze, and the Sound Recordist Tornike Bukhrashvili. Taki Mumladze was the costume designer of the film as well as the main actress, and we all were doing lots of other things too.
Because of the curfew we were shooting until 8pm, as after 9pm it was forbidden to go outside in Georgia at that time. We still managed to have a good time on set, and enjoy shooting. After finishing the film my friends Eva Blondiau and Elmar Imanov (Colour of May) became co-producers of the film and they got financing from Film- und Medienstiftung NRW for post-production. So the film became Georgian/German co-production and we did post-production in Germany.
SQ: The film has been really well received on the festival circuit, with Taki and Mariam jointly winning Best Actress at Karlovy Vary Film Festival. What has the reception to the film been like in Georgia?
ISB: We had the Georgian premiere at Batumi International Arthouse Film Festival and A Room of My Own won Best Actress for Mariam Khundadze, as well as the Jury Special Mention. got two prizes there. The Audience was applauding till the end of the credits, so I think they liked it!
SQ: What would you like Georgians to take away from the film?
ISB: This film is about friendship and about caring. In the film, we don’t see the violence, but we hear about it, and we see the aftermath. I would like to see less violence in Georgia, and more caring for each other.
SQ: There is a wave of films coming from Georgia that directly challenge and deal with problems in the society: misogyny, homophobia, and violence like And Then We Danced (Levan Akin) and Beginning (Déa Kulumbegashvili). Do you see a change in the way people are addressing these issues?
ISB: I think we need more and more films about those problems. We need to talk more about these things, because people change after seeing them, and start to discuss these issues with each other.
SQ: What excites you most about Georgian filmmaking, now and in the future?
ISB: Georgia is a very interesting country for filmmaking. We don’t have lots of money for big-budget films, but we have so many things to tell, and so many interesting stories that can happen just in one room. The 2019 film Pig, for example, was made with a very low budget but is brilliant.
A Room of My Own played at the London Film Festival as part of the ‘Love’ strand.
by Rose Dymock
Rose is a film critic , who graduated from the University of Liverpool with an MRes in Film Studies. She loves thrillers, Al Pacino, and multilingual cinema and she’s not entirely sure if she’s a millennial.
Find her on twitter, and find more of her work at https://rosedymock.contently.com
Categories: Anything and Everything, Festivals, Films, Interviews
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