City of the Sun

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    City of the Sun

    Mzis qalaqi

    Directed by

    Georgia, USA, Qatar, Netherlands

    2017

    104 min

    • Georgian

    Documentary

    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.

    Awards

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    • Federal Foreign Office Award for Cultural Diversity - goEast
    • Best Feature Film - Documenta Madrid
    • Art Doc Prize - Sheffield Doc/Fest
    • Best Documentary Film - Sarajevo FF
    • Special Jury Mention, McBaine Documentary Feature - San Francisco IFF
    • FIPRESCI Prize - Los Cabos IFF

    Festivals

    Labels & Line Ups

    Credits

    Screenplay
    Dea Kulumbegashvili
    Rati Oneli
    Cinematography
    Arseni Khachaturan
    Editing
    Ramiro Suarez

    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.

    Production
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    Sales
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    Press

    City of the Sun tells a touching story in an engaging way.

    Zuzanna Grajzer, Cineuropa

    Humanity shines through in Rati Oneli's meditative exploration of a half-abandoned mining town.

    Ben Nicholson, Cine Vue

    Rati Oneli

    Rati Oneli

    Georgia

    Rati Oneli was born in 1977 in Tbilisi, Georgia. From 1994 to 2000, he earned a Master’s degree in Middle East Studies at the Free University Tbilisi. From 1999 until 2014, he lived in New York, where he studied International Relations (M.A. 2005) and International Media (M.A. 2011) at Columbia University. He made his first short film, Theo, in 2011. Since 2013, Rati Oneli has been pursuing a PhD at the European Graduate School in Saas Fee, Switzerland. He has been a lecturer at the University of Georgia since 2014. He also works as a producer and editor. CITY OF THE SUN, Oneli’s first feature-length film premiered at Berlinale Forum.