Anna's Life: "Don’t you know you can’t do anything without money?"
by Fabien Lemercier
- The hope of exile to America lies at the heart of the promising debut feature by Georgian director Nino Basilia. A highly realistic film that knows how to manage suspense
Taking radical decisions that change a person’s life completely along with those of their loved ones, trying to turn a dream into reality by agreeing to throw yourself into the unknown and burning your bridges behind you as you go: the dream of exile is far from easy to achieve, especially when you’re stuck in an economically precarious position in which money is a major daily concern and when leaving your country calls for sizable financial means. This is the subject matter broached with remarkable realism and strength of empathy by Georgian director Nino Basilia in her debut fictional feature Anna's Life [+see also:
interview: Nino Basilia
film profile], in competition this week at the 17th Arras Film Festival, after most notably taking home the main award at the Cinema Jove Festival in Valencia.
Written by the director, the screenplay centres solely around Anna (played by revelation Ekaterine Demetradze), a young and pretty thirty something divorcee who alternates cleaning for private individuals with restaurant work to ensure her survival in Tbilisi and above all that of her son Sandro, who is autistic and lives in a special institution. She lives the life of a toy soldier and brave mother, counting every penny and saving scraps of food, interspersed by visits to her grandmother, who she also looks after and is losing her marbles. It’s a picture that may seem bleak, but that the filmmaker manages to not make too gloomy, on the one hand thanks to the fighting spirit and goodness of the main character, who she paints a meticulous portrait of, showing her actions at work and her movements, and on the other, thanks to the fact that Anna is driven by one goal: to get a visa for the United States, where she’s been invited to go by a friend of her best friend Irma. She is filled with great hope for a new life which presents her with a few moral dilemmas, as she would have to leave her son and grandmother behind, but which is the only foreseeable way for her to lift herself out of the poverty she is stuck in and finally pursue the medical career she studied in vain for in Georgia. But to make her dream come true, she needs money: the American embassy refuses to grant her a visa as she doesn’t earn enough money and local social services deny her the right to any benefits ("if we were to help everyone, the government would go bust", "don’t try to use your son to make us feel sorry for you"). Determined not to give up, Anna accepts help from an old suitor of Irma’s, who lures her in with the promise of a false visa. But the price is high, and after flirting with the temptation of stealing the money or selling her body for cash, Anna decides to sell her apartment. She has just one month to clear the place out, and soon finds herself in the throes of a desperate downward spiral.
A mix of humanism and persistent observation, Anna's Life is a particularly striking debut feature with the quality of its portrayal of the everyday life of a woman who is faced with a string of critical moments of dilly-dallying, and whose moving determination keeps the plot marching forward even when her hopes are at a standstill. Like a butterfly trying to escape a fate that will confine her to a life without prospects, Anna fights her destiny. And Nino Basilia, who is highly skilled at handling the narrative suspense, uses this amazing character and solid direction to pay striking tribute to all women who try to move mountains in a socio-economic context in which the yardstick of money throws up watertight barriers to the best of intentions, dreams and solidarity.
(Translated from French)
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