Filmmakers in Georgia boycott Ministry of Culture "for repression and destruction of cinema"
Boycott of filmmakers in Georgia
Georgian filmmakers have announced a boycott of the Ministry of Culture, which they call “repressive”. The corresponding appeal is called “Boycott of Cinematographers for the Independence of the National Film Centre” and has about 250 signatures at the time of publication.
What happened to the National Film Center
In June 2023, the Ministry of Culture announced the beginning of reorganisation at the Film Center. Deputy Director Nino Kukhalashvili was dismissed and changes were made to the charter. Soon there were new appointments:
● Koba Khubunaya, head of the economic department of the Ministry of Culture, became acting director. In 2021, he was deputy head of the National Agency for Crime Prevention, Execution of Non-Custodial Sentences and Probation. Prior to that, Khubunaya was a financial adviser at the Ministry of Justice.
● Bacho Odisharia, a journalist from the propaganda channel POSTV, was appointed deputy director of the film production department of the National Film Centre. Immediately after his appointment, he announced the start of the reorganization.
“Art remains alive, independent and political”
“We demand a change in the way the director of the film centre is appointed. We believe that the director of the film center should be elected only through a transparent and public process, by representatives of the sphere, and not appointed by a sole decision of the minister.
Only in the conditions of a democratically elected director will the film center be able to ensure freedom of speech, expression and creativity of Georgian filmmakers.
Independence for the film center! Art remains alive, independent and political” – reads the appeal of the filmmakers.
Earlier Georgian writers, translators and publishers also protested. Their appeal stated that “professional employees of the Film Center are being replaced by correctional officers and politically engaged people with dubious experience”.
The staff of the National Film Center demand a meeting with the new management and an end to the reorganization.
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Confrontation with the Ministry of Culture in other areas
Protests against the decisions of the Ministry of Culture have occurred regularly since the appointment of former Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani.
● Dozens of lawsuits initiated against the Ministry of Culture by employees of the National Museum of Georgia who were dismissed as a result of the reorganisation have been ongoing since autumn 2022. In several cases, the court ordered the plaintiffs to pay monetary compensation, but there is no talk of reinstatement to their former positions.
● In April 2023, the Georgian Film Academy cancelled the screening of documentary filmmaker Salome Jashi’s film Taming the Garden, which tells the story of the country’s informal ruler and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili‘s passion for transplanting century-old trees into his dendrological park. Mindia Esadze, head of the Film Academy, called the film “a divisive work that divides society on political grounds.”
● In August 2023, cultural activists protested against the new head of the House of Writers. The Minister of Culture dismissed Natasha Lomouri from the post and appointed Ketevan Dumbadze, daughter of the famous Georgian writer Nodar Dumbadze, as director. She is an MP from the ruling Georgian Dream party and voted in favour of the scandalous law on foreign agents (the so-called “Russian law”) in March 2023.
Writers, publishers and film-makers jointly protested the decision. They consider Dumbadze’s appointment as a conscious intention to destroy the culturally significant Georgian House of Writers and declare “repressive, anti-democratic and anti-state policy of the Ministry of Culture”.