‘Shindisi’ Director Dito Tsintsadze on Impact of Russo-Georgian War: ‘The Border Is Moving Meter by Meter’

Director speaks to TheWrap about his film set during the week-long 2008 war and the ongoing conflict

Everyone involved in the making of “Shindisi” was affected by what happened in Georgia in 2008, and thus invested in director Dito Tsintsadze’s mission: to remind the world of what happened — and is still happening — to their country.

“This creeping invasion is going on every week…every day. The border is moving meter by meter. No one knows what to do because any act of resistance could trigger another full Russian occupation.”

Inspired by true events, “Shindisi” follows a handful of residents in the Georgian village of the same name, who decide not to evacuate after news comes that the Russian military is preparing to invade. The villagers come to the aid of Georgian soldiers ambushed by a Russian general who has decided to ignore the news that ceasefire negotiations were underway.

Playing to acclaim at the Warsaw and Shanghai film festivals, “Shindisi” has been chosen as Georgia’s contender for the Best International Film Oscar. Tsintsadze, joined by star Dato Bakhtadze, answered questions about the film — and about the ongoing tension between Russia and Georgia — during a very emotional Q&A at TheWrap’s Screening Series.

Tsintsadze and Bakhtadze discussed how, like the evacuating villagers in “Shindisi,” thousands of Georgians lost their homes during the five-day war, and even today, many of them remain permanently displaced while Russia continues to seize territory along the ill-defined border. Bakhtadze fought back tears as he described his memories of the war and how his father’s displacement and death became the root of his performance.

“I was in Los Angeles when it happened, and I could hear the bombs dropping over the phone,” he said. “I cried but tears were not there. During the invasion, my father lost the house he built…the house he loved. Very soon after that, he got a stroke and he died in my arms, and that is what you see in my death scene.”

“Working on this film was so very personal for me, and we have to find a way to change what is happening in Georgia. Tomorrow it is going to be somebody’s friend, somebody’s father that loses their home or their life.”

“Shindisi” is Tsintsadze’s second film this year, following the dark drama “Inhale-Exhale,” which tells the story of a released prisoner who struggles to reintegrate into her prejudiced hometown in post-Soviet Georgia. He says that moving from that to “Shinsidi” was a bit of a shock as he has never done a war movie before. But the conviction of his cast and crew, along with the experience of producer Edmond Minashvili and cinematographer Konstantin Esadze, helped make filming a surprisingly smooth experience.

“We finished the war scenes in 10 days, and the entire shooting was done in 27,” Tsintsadze explained. “I was so amazed how efficient everyone was and I’m proud that we accomplished it ahead of schedule. And I believe it was that shared pain that kept us together.”

Tsintsadze says he is gratified that the film has been so well-received by his countrymen and Western audiences. As headlines about Russia’s more aggressive role in international politics have focused on Ukraine, Syria, and of course, Donald Trump, Tsintsadze hopes that with an Oscar nomination, more people will learn about “Shindisi” and be reminded that Georgia still lives under the Kremlin’s shadow.

“We want to keep telling this story to everyone, to introduce this problem to everyone. Georgia is in trouble and we don’t know what to do, and we need international support.”

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