The Visegrad Animation Forum is attempting to reach out to new partners in Central and Eastern Europe. We managed to get in touch with Georgian Lali Kiknavelidze, founder of the successful film production company CPU Lira Production. In the following interview, we talked about the history of Georgian animation, how it evolved over time, and the consequences of the political crisis of the 1990s. As in other Central and Eastern European countries, Georgia is now trying to support emerging artists and producers and kick-start the animation industry in this field. Thank you for the pleasant talk – we’ll be looking forward to working with you!
1) Lali, can you tell us about the history of animation in your country, Georgia?
Georgian animated cartoons were founded in the 1920s. Unfortunately, most of the early works have been lost. The animated cartoon episodes from the art film “My Grandmother”, produced by Kote Mikhaberidze in 1929, have been preserved and are therefore very important. The full version of the art film “Spring”, made in 1930, has also been preserved.
The founder of Georgian animated film was Vladimer (Lado) Mujiri. In 1935, he created the first full-length Georgian cartoon film – “Argonauts” (Argonavtebi) – with the help of famous Georgian painter Lado Gudiashvili.
In the 1950’s, young producers such as Arkadi Khintibidze, Kote Mikaberidze, Shalva Gedevanishvili, Vaktang Baktadze, Temut Mikadze, G.Chmutov, with active cooperation with Vladimer Moujiri, produced only 5 full-length cartoon films, as cartoon studios were shut down in 1954. However, after only two years of leadership and enthusiasm from Vakhtang Baktadze, the production of cartoon films was restored in Georgia.
During this period, films that were produced included “One Pot of Boiled-better” by Mikheil Chiaureli, “Saviour” by Merab Bakhanovi, “Wise and Donkey” by Ioseb Samsonadze, “Wuna and Wruwuna” “Wedding of Jays”, “Enemity”, “Magic Egg of Threesome” by Arkadi Khintibidze, “Able Masater” by Vakhtang Bakhradze, “Ranina” by Merab Bakhanovi, “Pipe” by Ilia Doiashvili, “Hands”, “Little Fellow”, and “Talent” by Merab Saralidze, and “Magic Tears”, “Apple of Newton”, and “Collared Butterfly” by Shadiman Chavchavadze. A remarkable spectrum of Georgian ethnographic characters was shown in all these films.
In 1958, Gogi Kasradze created the first puppet film. Later, he became a famous animated cartoon producer. His film “Zuriko” received the special diploma at the Moscow FF. In 1962, additional puppet films including “Siko and Niko” and “Fine Fellow Bakur” by Shalva Gedevenishvili, and “Eka and Tsitsino” by Otar Andronikashvili were created. The development of Georgian puppet film is strongly connected with the names of Karlo Sulakauri and Gogi and Givi Kasradze.
In terms of Georgian puppet film, the musical genre was founded by Karlo Sulakauri. In 1974, he made the film “Watermelon”, with dancing watermelons and national attributes, making the film quite picturesque. Music for the film was made by Jansugh Kakhidze.
In addition to Gogi Kasradze’s films “The Last Drop” and “The Secret”, Givi Kasradze’s films include “Storm on the Sea”, “Komble”, and a series of films entitled “Wolf and Lamb”. This series is a continuation of the animation cartoon musical genre.
In 1982, a new wave of young artists moved Georgian cartoon film to the next level. They brought new ideas and enthusiasm to the studio. Dato Takhaishvili, Dato Sikharulidze, Lado Salakvelidze, Leo Chkonia, Revaz Gvarliani. These people took Georgian cartoon animation to the next level with the help of old traditions. Works included “Raven” and “Plague” by Davit Takhaishvili – which won the Palm d’Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival – and ”Ephemera” and “Naïve Goose Tasiko” by Davit Sikharulidze.
2) The situation of the 1990s was a complicated one. Did it show in the film industry in Georgia as well?
In the 1990’s, an economic and political crisis began in Georgia and had a negative effect on the development of the Georgian film industry. Animation studios were destroyed. It was impossible to create something new. Despite this situation, the artistic process continued to develop on the side. Over the course of 10 years, 25 short films were made.
Starting in the year 2000, after the country began to stabilize, new talented animation artists started creating new independent studios.
In 2008, Lira Production Studios was founded, which started developing high quality animation projects. In 2013, its short animation project Geno (director: Dato Kiknavelidze) won the Robert Bosch Co-Production film prize for cooperation between Eastern Europe and Germany. This was the first high-quality 3D animation film made in Georgia. The film will began its way around festivals in 2017. In 2016, the studio started working on a full-length version of this film. This project, for the first time for Georgia, was selected for participation in the international forum CARTOON Movie which will be held in Bordeaux, France, on March 8-10, 2017. The project was developed by Lira Production. The producer had the chance to present the first Georgian 3D animated full-length film to investors, broadcasters, and distributors from all over the world, which has helped Georgia join the Creative Europe program. We expect that the first success will facilitate Georgia’s full membership in Creative Europe’s MEDIA sub-programme, which will allow us to access a wide range of funding and co-production opportunities.
3) Do you have some political support or state funds for animated films in your country?
A few years ago, the Georgian National Film Center, jointly with the Ministry of Culture, started to support animation projects as well as animation festivals in the country. Still, there are only meager possibilities to produce animation films, and this is why gaining full access to Creative Europe’s Media sub-programme is so important to us. It is worth mentioning that there is also a large potential in Georgia for developing an animation industry thanks to its existing young talents and a potential audience that is waiting dedicatedly for all kinds of new Georgian animation – from shorts to features and series.
4) Is there a professional organisation in Georgia that associates and supports the animation industry?
The professional organisation AnimaLab was established in 2015, which in collaboration with the Film Center, the Ministry of Culture, and other public and private entities, works on creating possibilities for the development of the animation industry in Georgia. As I have already mentioned, the possibilities to finance animation productions in Georgia are currently very limited. But, we are working to improve these possibilities for Georgian projects to be produced as national or as co-production films.
Recently, we have begun to build a platform aimed at seeking out the best projects in Georgia and have also begun organising a workshop and pitching for local projects. We would be glad to cooperate with VAF and create an opportunity possibility for the best winning project to take part in VAF.
We are currently working with local authorities to finance the platform on a regular basis.
Geno trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbhEDOR5jos
Cartoon Movie selected projects link: http://www.cartoon-media.eu/cartoon-movie-event/cartoon-movie-2017/discover-the-projects-1.htm
Lali Kiknavelidze is a producer/ director/ scriptwriter from Georgia. In 1991, she graduated from the Faculty of Philology and Scriptwriting at Tbilisi State University. In 2003, she graduated as a film director from Sh. Rustaveli Theatre and the Georgia State Film University and began to work at the Film Department of the same university as an assistant professor. She has written/directed and produced several films (fiction, documentary, animation) that have been officially selected for a number of international film festivals. Since 2013 she has been studying a PhD degree at Sh. Rustaveli Theatre and Georgia State Film University. In 2008, she founded the film production company CPU Lira Production. She is the producer of the Robert Bosch Co-production Film prize-winning project GENO (Director Dato Kiknavelidze), which also won Georgian Film Center competitions for production (2014) and development (2013) funding. She is also producer and co-scriptwriter of the GNFC competition-winning project The Hermit (development funding, 2014) and Vacuum (production funding, 2009). In 2011, she participated in a EURASIADOC Documentary Scriptwriting Residency. In 2012, she was a participant in the EAVE Film Finance Forum (Luxemburg) and DAB Script Dev-ment Workshop (Armenia). She participated in the DAB Co-Production Forum (2013), Docstories Black Sea Program (2012), Mini-EAVE Georgia Program (2013), Baltic Sea Forum for documentaries (2013), ZagrebDox Pro Reality Check Worcshop 2014, Locarno FF Open Doors Section, CineLink – Industry platform of Sarajevo FF, etc.