City of the Sun

Not available for screening anymore

City of the Sun (Mzis qalaqi)

Directed by Rati Oneli

  • Georgia, USA, Qatar, Netherlands 2017; 104 min
  • Original version: Georgian
  • Genre: Documentary
    • Federal Foreign Office Award for Cultural Diversity - goEast
    • Best Feature Film - Documenta Madrid
    • Best Documentary Film - Sarajevo FF
    • Special Jury Mention, McBaine Documentary Feature - San Francisco IFF


The film takes place in Chiatura, Georgia once a thriving mining town that supplied the world’s 50% of finest manganese during the Soviet Union.

CITY OF THE SUN is a surreal vision of a post-apocalyptic ghost town and its several inhabitants. The lives, dreams and destinies of the characters unfold amidst the grand ruins of once “glorious” Soviet architectural and technological achievements in a semi-abandoned mining town of Chiatura.

Music teacher keeps demolishing the city to build a new life for himself and his family; miner-turned-actor lives in a limbo unable to make decision between his passion (theater) and money (working at the mines); and two malnourished champion athletes have to keep running just to survive.

Director's Statement

In 1932 after a visit he made to the Soviet countryside, Boris Pasternak wrote in shock: ‘What I saw there cannot be described in any words. It was such inhuman, unimaginable misery, such horrifying disaster, that it became somewhat abstract and wasn’t possible to grasp mentally. I became sick.’

When I visited Chiatura for the first time in the summer of 2014, Pasternak’s words immediately came to my mind. Even though it was a different place and time, I instinctively understood what he meant by abstract. The surreal beauty and grand devastation dismayed me. But I was as shocked by the inhabitants’ apparent nonchalance and sense of humour about the situation they found themselves in: their simultaneous defiance and complete surrender. They walked on land filled with immense wealth, yet they possessed nothing. They looked death in the eye while riding corroded steel cable cars to work, but spoke of human beauty and love while covered in mud inside the dangerous mines. I couldn’t think in any other terms but abstract.

I lived and researched alone in Chiatura on and off from August 2014 to May 2015. When I arrived in Chiatura for the first time, the city was entirely taken over by lush vegetation: it was literally swallowed by the jungle. I felt like I had accidentally discovered remnants of a great, ancient civilisation that had been swallowed up ages ago. It’s as though the people who live there now had no direct relation to the once-great city lying in fragments around them. Compared to the ancient mountains and the grand architecture, the inhabitants of the city seemed small, both literally and figuratively. They didn’t influence the environment at all, but were actively and violently influenced by the city itself, which shaped their mentality and daily lives.



    Rati Oneli 

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    Aleksandar Govedarica