Rusudan Glurjidze felt a responsibility to depict the trauma of war in her native Georgia in her new film, “House of Others.”
“It’s like our duty to speak about it,” she told TheWrap awards editor Steve Pond Monday night following a screening of the film, her country’s official Academy entry for the Best Foreign Language Film. “You journalists and we cinematographers have more power than politicians.”
“House of Others” is a haunting look at two families living in a forcibly abandoned village in Abkhazia, a region of Georgia that was the site of a two-year war in the mid-1990s that resulted in more than 250,000 Georgians being displaced from their homes.
After the war ended in 1993, many of the homes fled by Georgians were subsequently occupied by ethnic Abkhaz, like the families in “House of Others.” And Georgians forced to flee from Abkhaz-controlled territories also had to adapt to new living situations, which Glurjidze can directly relate to.
“In my house — in my private house — two families lived in that time,” she said. “It was our relatives and just friends.”
She said several actors in the film also had firsthand experience of the war in Abkhazia, including Salome Demuria, who plays expert markswoman Ira.
“Salome herself was a refugee from Abkhazia,” Glurjidze said. “She was 9 years old when she left her house. Many actors in my film know very well the topic, because they lived with the same story.”
Although Abkhazia is still part of Georgia according to the United Nations and most countries, it’s been a de facto independent state backed by Russia ever since the war ended. As a result, Glurjidze was unable to film on location.
“It’s impossible to shoot in Abkhazia,” she said. “Abkhazia is a border now with soldiers and tanks. It’s very dangerous.”
She did, however, find a former village in a different part of the country that also captured the essence of the refugee experience — and chose to leave it that way.
“It was a Greek village, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Greek people left from that place. Nailed [shut] windows and wild gardens. I told my [director of photography], maybe we don’t need any additional decorations. We keep and conserve like it is.”