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David Gurgulia • Director

“I basically daydream ideas for my short films”


- As David Gurglia prepared to unveil his short Dialect to audiences attending EFP's Future Frames at Karlovy Vary, we asked him about his attempt to bring the language of God to the big screen

David Gurgulia  • Director

In Dialect, Georgian director David Gurgulia eschews dialogue to create a spiritual and poetic journey to a retreat in which it is said that the ‘language of God’ can be heard. Dealing with the lines between the sacred and profane, and modernity versus tradition, the film is a careful and engaging use of the short film form. A student of Shota Rustaveli Theater and Film State University in Georgia, Gurgulia speaks to Cineuropa about the challenges of making the film, screening as part of EFP’s Future Frames at Karlovy Vary.

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Cineuropa: The premise of the film is very unique – was there something in real life that sparked the inspiration to create the film?
David Gurgulia: The concept of “children speaking a divine language” loosely resembles an ancient myth I once read. I transferred the story to a place that is based on communities inhabiting the Georgian highlands who actively keep their traditions alive. When I first visited these highlands, I had similar impulses to lead character Mithras in the movie:  the environment was completely different from what I was used to, but the place just demanded that I stay there. So it was this, my first visit to the Georgian highlands, that sparked the initial flame.

The location is crucial to the film – was it a set or was it something that was found?
The forest in the film is real, the house is authentic and the altar for prayers is an actual 5000-year-old “Dolmen”. It belongs to the Tbilisi Open Air Museum of Ethnography. The museum is an astonishing location and the film is mostly shot there. I got quite lucky with the location: I got to film a building older than the great pyramids of Giza and, at the same time, the place was quite close to where I live!

This is a film where sound is obviously very important. How did you approach collaboration with your sound designer for the film?
Dialect became a passion project for both me and our sound designer Otar Bregvadze. Of course, the protagonist in the movie is a sound designer himself and insider tips from Otar were crucial. The actual challenging part was that neither of us had any insider info on how a divine language should sound like so, during post-production, we just went berserk! Working non-stop day and night, it was a process of trial and error.   

Tell us about the casting of those who live in the community – they give very fine, naturalistic performances especially the youngsters.
Mzia Arabuli, the actress playing the high priestess, is of highlander descent herself. I just knew she had to star in Dialect. Mzia gave me a lot of insight about life in the mountains, by recalling stories about things she experienced whilst living there. The twin girls from the film aren’t professional actors at all and were actually baby sisters of my close friend and they were perfect for the role.

The film seems to be steeped in both realism and a sense of the magical and the surreal.
If I have a distinct style, I guess that’s how you’d describe it. I basically daydream ideas for my short films and just add a little bit of imagination to a realistic story line, so that it feels more fulfilling. It’s no fun if butterflies don’t fly in the stomach…

You’ll be screening as part of Future Frames at Karlovy Vary. Are you looking forward to it?
It means a lot to me to participate in Future Frames.  I want to share my perspective and get as much experience as possible while meeting new people. I hope it will open many new doors.

What will you be working on next?
At the moment, I am working on a full-length documentary named And Others… which I am planning to start filming later this summer.  It differs from all of my previous projects.  It tells a story of ancient group of Georgian highlanders, who were forcefully relocated from their mountainous homeland by Stalin.

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