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The film Repentance, one of the best-known symbols of glasnost, gained all-union appeal in the Soviet Union for its timeliness in raising an issue of grave concern to all "new Soviet men": the need of each survivor of the compromised past to ask for and receive forgiveness in order
to move on into the future with a clear conscience. At the same time, Reperltc~rzceis one of the most national works to come out of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The story of Tengiz Abuladze's film tells much about relations between center and periphefy, between Russian and nowRussian interests in the Soviet Union. Repentance vividly illustrates the tendency of the center to base its conclusions about non-Russian art on a "common Soviet heritage" rather than unique historical and cultural traditions of the non-Russian peoples of the multinational Soviet state. This tendency can lead, ultimately, to a misreading of text and underestimation of the intensity of non-Russian national interests and is certainly a factor in the center's lack of readiness regarding nationalities issues. In this article I hope to elucidate this complex. synthetic, polyphonic work and, by doing so, to correct misreadings, particularly those anticipated and denied by the film itself.
began to take on life in the Conceived in vague outline some twenty years ago, Repentance early 1980s after a near-fatal automobile accident convinced Abuladze to shoot the film no matter what the consequences. The director was subsequently encouraged by Eduard Shevardnadze, then Georgian party secretary, who offered Abuladze a special slot of television time exclusive to the Georgian republic and uncensored by Moscow. Nevertheless, Abuladze was clearly nervous. As a statement of commitment to the film, he cast his own family members in leading roles.
Halfway through filming, Georgi (Gegi) Kobakhidze, Abuladze's young lead, was arrested for involvement in an airplane hijacking following a Georgian wedding. Together with his wife and friends (sons and daughters of prominent Tbilisi families). Kobakhidze was accused of "naziist" tactics and paraded on republic television next to a young Orthodox priest with an uncanny resemblance to Rasputin. Rezo Chkheidze, head of the Georgian Film Studio. Abuladze's long-time colleague, and the director with whom Abuladze shared his first prize at Cannes in 1956 for Magdana's Little Donkey, halted production. Several months later, with the fate of the young hijackers still unknown, filming resumed. Mirab Ninidze, a young Georgian theater actor, replaced Kobakhidze. When the film was finished, it was screened once and shelved. Three years and a great change of political mood later, however, Repentance was again eleased, this time with fanfare, as the symbol of the new age. Special screenings were organized all over the USSR, with support from official party organizations. Reviews appeared everywhere. Abuladze received the Order of Lenin and was invited to accompany Mikhail Gorbachev on his first visit to New York.
For its creator. Repentance had been a bold and dangerous act. As a finished work, it was just the thing the new Soviet leadership needed in 1986-an anti-Stalin film produced in a "brother republic" (and best of all, in Georgia, Stalin's homeland), a sure winner at foreign film festivals, and a good money-maker. Sold for the highest price of any film in the history of Soviet cinema. Repentance filled state coffers with hard currency and gave new life and breath to the official de-Stalinization campaign.
In its new role, Repentonce began to take on the contours of a partiinyi pokaz production. Excerpts from a bulletin distributed by Soiuzinformkino illustrate this fact: The film Repentance is not only an outstanding work of cinema art but an important event in our social life. Its political significance is so great that all ideological organizations should participate in the work on this film. It is desirable that the explanatory and advertising campaign be led by propagandists and instructors from the party obkom, gorkom, and Komsomol in each city, by the most qualified lecturers in the field of social sciences, . . . that the first showing of the film be organized for active members of the party and Komsomol in each city, . . . preceded by introductory materials taken from this publication and other articles in the central press. . . . Following discussion by active party and Komsomol groups, there should be a press conference with the usual cast of guests. Before the film is shown, it would be apropos to request a propaganda expert from the party obkom or gorkom or a qualified lecturer from the Znanie society to give an introduction to the politics of glasnost, the present course as set by the Twenty-seventh Party Congress. V. 1. Lenin taught
that truth is the mandatory condition of party and government work with the masses. The film Repentance realizes, through artistic means, this teaching of Ilich."
Date Added: 10/27/2012 by Julie C.
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