A Feminist Manifesto for Creative Women / Sakartwelo

This keynote speech on Female Directors in Georgian Cinema: Past and Present was delivered at the Eurimages Gender Equality Outreach Meeting held on the occasion of the 153rd Eurimages Management Board Meeting in Tbilisi on 11 December 2018. The text has been slightly modified for publication online for Heinrich Boell Foundation, South Caucasus Regional Office, feminism and gender democracy program. This is the third updated edition of the text prepared for Female Freedom Film Festival.


Preface for 2022 edition

The world has changed dramatically since the initial text was presented for the first time back in December 2018. Now, in the wake of the pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the events unfolding in Iran, there is another occasion to re-read and re-think it. For the last several years, when death became our everyday statistic, there were so many moments I often wondered: Does what I am doing make any sense? But despite that, I still continued to do something. It seems that the most difficult parts of the dramatic and tragic events still fall on the women’s shoulders. I am observing the passion and dedication of my Ukrainian colleagues and friends, I’ve seen the amount of household chores and the work that my female friends were doing from home during the pandemic, combining the enormous work of a parent (often of a single mother) and simultaneously handling professional obligations. And last, we all see the bravery of the women of Iran, fighting against the brutal rules of patriarchy. How strongly we all can relate to the mantra of the recent movement: Women, life, freedom. Those words are pillar that we have all leaned on through the last several years. The words that make us believe that what we are doing is worth continuing; informing, spreading the word, creating empathy, understanding and voicing these challenging in uncertain times.


The films by female directors made in Georgia for last several years boldly express current anxieties, fears and hopes that all of us are collectively undergoing right now. Therefore, they are articulating not only local dilemmas and troubles; they also mirror and create a space for various dissimilar people beyond borders. For example, Salomé Jashi’s Taming the Garden traveled to all major film festivals and now the film has been released in US cinemas. Transporting these trees is a Fitzcarraldo-type operation: a folie de grandeur of staggering proportions, writes Peter Bradshaw for Guardian. While the film depicts the absurd and surreal image of trees floating in the sea, it concerns bigger ideas connected to power and migration, uprooting and transformation, themes that are so rarely depicted from the female perspective. Another widely discussed film is also from a female Georgian director, Dea Kulumbegashvili’s  Beginning, which won number of awards in international film festivals. Georgian filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili uses rigorous, compositionally complex frames to tell the devastating story of a persecuted family of Jehovah’s Witness missionaries from the perspective of a wife and mother. Nino Orjonikidze and Vano Arsenishvili’s documentary, A Tunnel, was premiered at IDFA in 2019. It is a poetic observation of the changing landscapes and contexts, topics that are widely discussed in different platforms beneath the film festivals and the film related events. A Tunnel shows how Chinese domination clashes with traditions and ways of life that seem not to have changed for decades, offering a look at contemporary imperialism. One of the directors of the film, Nino Ojonikidze, is also a commissioning editor of the online media platform Chai-khana – a space that discovers emerging talents, appreciates and supports diverse and experimental forms of storytelling. This platform, which is run by women, gives a chance to many female filmmakers to experiment with narratives and forms, while discussing major social and political events in the South Caucasus. Rights of marginalized groups are also very actively exposed in the newest films from Georgia; Elene Naveriani’s Wet send is on the verge of reality and fantasy, even as it explores the lives of sexual minorities. Set in the conditional setting somewhere around the black sea, with the surreal image of a “happy end,” the film gives an uneasy feeling of something being wrong in this „paradise“. It questions how to survive in cruel and brutal society. Young actresses Taki Mumladze and Mariam Khundadze are also under the spotlight after mesmerizing and brave award-winning performances in the film by Soso Bliadze, A room of my own. The script is co-written by one of the actresses, Taki Mumladze, which helps the film to avoid the male gaze and to talk about women friendship, growth and solidarity based on the experience of the actress. It is gratifying to see a male director and a male DP turn in a female-fronted film so entirely scrubbed of the male gaze. But Bliadze’s approach here appears to be a true collaboration with his co-writer and leading lady; it is remarkable for how he gets out of the way of actors entirely in command of their performances, and of characters he clearly admires and loves. 

Exactly one year ago, the success of Georgian films reached the popular online streaming platform MUBI. The program is called New Voices in Georgian cinema. This platform offers a beautiful selection of new Georgian films directed or produced by women. Over the last decade, a new generation of Georgian filmmakers has stormed the international stage, picking up a slew of prizes at major film festivals, and even snagging an Oscar® nomination. From the bold documentaries of Salomé Jashi, to an acclaimed drama by Tamar Shavgulidze (Comets, 2019). (

I re-read the text from 2018. Despite all the difficulties, fragility and horrible circumstances we are surrounded by, I still feel something like joy. It makes me think, maybe the “The Future is female” was partly true and we are already somewhere close, but still so far away.


Very often, national histories are constructed through mythology and Georgia is no exception in this regard. Rather opposite, often we are exaggerating the country’s glorious past. However, there is one myth which I am tempted to mention – a myth which allows Georgia the chance to place itself within a global context. It is a myth which makes this small country easily recognizable and special. I think all of us Georgian women in some way resemble one of the main characters of this story – Medea. But, I believe, that most of all this powerful yet ambivalent woman associated with magic, healing, and transformation is linked to filmmakers, as much as cinema is tied to magic and catharsis.

If we stick with the past for a moment, there are two things that we Georgians tend to feel pride in – the birth of Georgian literature in the 5th century, and the birth of Georgian cinema at the beginning of the 20th century. Both begin by depicting the lives of female protagonists. It’s very interesting (and I’m sure that much research could be written about this) to think about how these influences both forms of expression, and how the life and fate of women characters, as well as the depiction of their role in society, changes over time and across different art forms.

The first work of Georgian literature is believed to be a 5th-century text which describes the life and martyrdom of Saint Shushanik – an Armenian noblewoman who was killed by her spouse after he renounced the Christian faith.

The first Georgian feature film, Qristine, tells the story of a village girl who is raped by a local aristocrat and then attempts to commit suicide but is rescued by other villagers. After her attempted suicide, the eponymous heroine befriends Sona, hoping to start her life anew, but rather than helping her as promised, Sona delivers Qristine to a brother. As with the story of Shushannik, there is a tragic end in store for the main character of this narrative as well.

The thing that unites these two important and groundbreaking works of art across the centuries is the presence of an author – one who is not anonymous because he is male. Of course, this fact doesn’t diminish the importance and value of these works, but it’s worth thinking about how the story of the two female characters that are told in these cultural landmarks would have played out had the author too been a female.

The regrettably short professional biography of NutsaGogoberidze, the first Georgian female film director, tells us so much about the fate of women artists in Georgia. Soon after the appearance of the first feature film, at the age of 25 NutsaGogoberidze made her first documentary – Their Kingdom - in 1927, together with Mikhail Kalatozov (Mikheil Kalatozishvili). This was followed by her second film, Buba, which was made in 1930 and, after encountering numerous obstacles, her third film –Uzhmuri (‘Ill-Tempered’) - appeared on screens in 1934. This latter film was the first Soviet feature film to be directed by a woman.

In 1937, at the height of the Stalin-era purges, Nutsa was detained for being a member of a family considered “enemies of the people” and she was sentenced to 10 years in exile and her films were banned by the Soviet regime. Even after Nutsa’s return from exile, any possible way back into the film industry was blocked to her, and it was only after her death that her creative works were rediscovered. Nutsa’s daughter, Lana Gogoberidze, was one of the most prominent Soviet Georgian female filmmakers of the 1960s, and her granddaughter, Salome Alexi, is also a director.

NutsaGogoberidze is important not only for being the parent of two generations of female filmmakers in her own family but as the first female director in Georgia, she can also be called the “founder mother” of all generations of female filmmakers in our country.

Intimacy, sensitivity and a brave autobiographical touch have always been the hallmarks of films by Georgian female directors. Their films are distinct, individual, and in the background, one always senses the unseen struggle of being a female artist in a society dominated by men. This aspect of female struggle intensified under the harsh regime of the Soviet Union, and then later even more so in the context of rising nationalism, civil and ethnic conflict and then, the need to deal with the legacy of this historical turmoil as a woman.

While the image of women in mass-produced Georgian films mostly projected the characteristics of dependence, purity, and innocence, some female artists portrayed the qualities of liberated women through characters that, in some ways, were their alter egos. The presence of these female artists in the cultural sphere also strengthened the idea of women managing to do everything: to have children and raise them, keep down a job, find the means to survive in harsh conditions of total economic and political collapse whilst also finding the desire and the power to be creative. It sounds impossible, and yet it was being done. Their films – with their memorably beautiful imagery and the intelligence of their protagonists – would remain extremely inspirational for future generations of female warriors, encouraging them to be creative and to change the world around them. 

This was certainly the case for me. I always wanted to make films, but members of my family, who were generally quite supportive of my ambitions, were totally opposed to me being part of the industry. They were convinced that being a young woman, I wouldn’t be able to survive in a film industry that was run by men. I remember mentioning such names to them as Lana Gogoberidze, Nana Jorjadze, and Nana Mchedlidze, and while these women’s examples failed to convince my family, they were certainly an inspiration to me as I went about pursuing my dreams.

Recently the Guardian newspaper published an article about women in Georgian cinema in celebration of the centenary of Georgian film. The article was published in the wake of criticism of the Cannes International Film Festival on the grounds that it failed to preserve a balance between male and female directors in the festival’s competition section. The article was entitled “Putting Cannes to Shame: The Female-Led Georgian Film Festival”. In the opening of the article, we read that “the Georgian Film Festival arrives in London this week with … a sizable chunk … of female directors – half of the films showing are directed by women …challenging gender roles in the country’s rigidly patriarchal society.”[1] The article also poses the question of whether there is a resurgent feminist movement in Georgia. I completely relate to the answer given by Georgian film director Nana Ekvtimishvili, who gives the following answer when asked if there is a rising feminist movement in Georgia to correspond to the recent crop of female directors:

“No,” she answers bluntly. “It’s a pity, but that’s my impression. There are women’s rights organizations and individual activists. Great women, great voices. But there is no strong feminist movement. Still, in this society, people think of feminism as against our Georgian tradition, as something dangerous.[2]

I completely agree with Nana and often wonder why it is that Georgian women who are extremely feminist in their self-expression are often so afraid of being labeled as feminist. The article continues:

Neither woman I talk to has an explanation for the growing success of female directors in Georgia right now. Both wearily reel off the same kind of sexist crap that female filmmakers elsewhere have experienced. “I don’t know why we are so many,” says [Elene] Naveriani. “But I think it’s really important that women are telling their stories. We need a female gaze, you know.”[3]

If I may pose the same question to all of my colleagues, fellow female artists, and filmmakers:

Would you describe your artistic and creative output as feminist?

Are you a feminist?

And if not, why? 

Considering the patriarchal structure of Georgian society, the rise of global feminist movements and the challenges to gender equality that we are still dealing with, it’s quite clear that we need not only more women in the creative industries, but also more women in decision-making roles within the cultural sector and film industry. We are still lacking female voices and female figures in the competition commissions of the Georgian National Film Center and other structures within the industry. We are also lacking female voices in panel discussion and public talks.

To bring this brief introduction to a close, I feel that the woman artist of today must be a feminist artist – one who listens to marginalized groups gives them a voice and expresses their needs in a creative form, through cinema or other types of artistic expression. She is the one who hears and one who delivers; she is also one who changes reality around her.

I have the feeling that female artists are developing a voice inexistent for centuries. The time in which we were anonymous is now over – it is time to speak out. There is no future without us, and much more than that: The future is us! The future is female!



[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.


Anna Dziapshipa

Anna Dziapshipa has an experience and professional biography in art history, film producing, cultural management and experimental video. She is co-founder of documentary film company SakDoc Film. Anna holds a master’s degree in Art History. In 2009 she conducted the first Documentary Film Pitching Forum Pitch.Doc as part of Tbilisi International Film Festival. Anna also was coordinating various trainings and workshops. Currently she teaches Film producing course in GIPA and works on her personal projects a director. She is collaborating for various organizations like Indigo, Chai-khana etc. writing articles, making photo, video and multimedia projects. Her projects are part of various local and international exhibitions and forums. She is one of the founders of Abkhazian Virtual Archives