JIM SHVANTE - SVANETIS MARILI (1930)

Kalatozov’s lyrical documentary shows the Soviet state coming to the rescue of an isolated mountainous area of Georgia by delivering much-needed salt.

Film details

  • Country

    USSR

  • Year

    1930

  • Genre

    Documentary

  • Type

    Film

  • Category

    Non Fiction

Alternative titles

  • DJIM CHUANTE Alternative
  • SALT FOR SVANETIA Alternative

Introduction

“The most powerful documentary film I’ve ever seen.”
Jay Leyda, Kino: a History of the Russian and Soviet Film, 1960

Salt for Svanetia could have been standard-issue propaganda about how a remote area full of tribal and religious-superstitious traditions is taken under the Soviet Union’s wing. Instead the story of how the construction of a road links Svanetia to the outside world is an expressionistic hymn to a rugged landscape and the Svan people, nobly facing their difficult lives.

Filmed around the village of Ushkul in northwestern Georgia, the film abounds with dramatic lighting and exciting camera angles. However authentic it may seem in its portrayal of the Svans’ daily lives, much of it was in fact staged, and its ethnographic credentials have been questioned. Ironically the authorities thought Kalatozov was more interested in the Svans’ traditional lifestyle than the improvements that the Soviet Union would bring, and his career suffered for several years.

Luis Buñuel’s Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (1933) examines an impoverished area of Spain and was equally controversial in its portrayal of the local population.

Cast & Credits

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