According to a Svaneti tradition, a historic province of Georgia, a widow must marry the first man who asks her hand. This retrograde mentality is the subject of Dede, directed by Mariam Khatchavani. The film won the Special Jury Prize of the East of the West competition of the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Dede, set in 1992, takes place in Svaneti, in the Georgian mountains. Here, a young woman named Dina (Natia Vibliani) is to marry David (Nikru Khatchavani); her marriage was arranged by her grandfather. However, when David returns from war, she falls in love with the handsome man who saved his life, Gegi (George Babluani). She runs away with Gegi, has a child with him, and though she is estranged from her disapproving family, she leads a very happy life, which comes to an end when Gegi is tragically killed.
From there on, a situation quickly escalates: Girschel (Girschel Chalidze) marries her on account of the aforementioned tradition and Gegi’s family lay claim to her child. Suddenly, Dina finds herself having to leave her home and her little boy forever.
Dede was shot in Svaneti, with a cast of natives from the region, who speak their native language in the film. Though Khatshavani deals with aggressive themes, her anger is not directed towards her native region; her love for it can be seen in the important role that landscape plays in Dede, giving it a charming folkloristic outlook. As Khatchavani wrote in an official statement, Svaneti is “something of a paradise … and this is the reason why the locals don’t leave [it], even though life can be difficult.”
To be sure, Dede tackles the battle between the new world and the old world, but its director also not fooled by any one of those options being better than the other. The heavy feminist undertones of the film are critical of the patriarchal impact on either one: in the old world, they are prominently represented by the objectification of women through dangerous retrograde traditions, while in the new world, rarely seen in the movie, it surfaces unexpectedly in the form of guns and weapons used in nameless and unspecified wars. Finally, the film is not an easy watch. Though the story is linear and easy to follow, Dede’s rhythm
Finally, this is not an easy film to watch. Though the story is linear and easy to follow, Dede‘s rhythm is unwavering and is all too uniform to allow it to be viewed passively. As a result, the spectators are kept distant enough to grasp the inevitability and hopelessness of the situations of her victim, as if Dina was a character of a book by Emile Zola, subjected to the inevitability of a preordained order of things. Indeed, the ending of Dede is itself rather bittersweet: it can be viewed as compromised, or the start of a new beginning, but it’s certainly unconvincingly happy. – ★★★★
DEDE | 2017, Georgia / Qatar | Drama | Directed by – Mariam Khatchavani / Produced by – Mike Downey, Vladimer Katcharava, Igor Nola, Sam Taylor / Written by – Vladimer Katcharava, Marian Khatchavani, Irakli Solomonashvili / Cinematography by – Konstantin Esadze / Music by – Tako Jordania / Editing by – Levan Kukhashvili / Starring – George Babluani, Natia Vibliani, Girshel Chelidze, Nukri Khatchvani, Spartak Parjiani, Sofia Charkviani, Mose Khatchvani / Running time: 97 mins.