A Jehovah’s Witness wrestles with persecution and patriarchal confinement in this powerhouse debut from Georgian filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
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“Georgian writer-director Dea Kulumbegashvili’s fierce feature debut, about a Jehovah’s Witness whose faith is tested, opens with an act of hostility. The camera observes from a fixed point at the back of a Kingdom Hall as the space fills and blinds are eventually drawn. Minutes into the service, someone throws a firebomb into the room. The camera continues to watch as flames start to spread.
Beginning centres on Yana (Ia Sukhitashvili), former actress and dutiful wife of congregation leader David (Rati Oneli, who cowrote the film). Yana must navigate both her domineering husband and Alex (Kakha Kintsurashvili), a dangerous man who insists he is a police detective from Tbilisi. Kulumbegashvili draws parallels between the local contempt for Jehovah’s Witnesses – a religious minority in the Georgian mountain town of Lagodekhi – and a broader patriarchal contempt for women. Sukhitashvili’s subtle performance brings interiority to a character who might otherwise be defined entirely by her suffering.
The director favours a static camera and extended takes that give her compositions a holy quality. The length of certain scenes feels confrontational, not unlike Chantal Akerman’s long takes in her 1975 feminist classic Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Through this rigorous aesthetic, a distinctive point of view emerges.” — Simran Hans, The Guardian