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LOCARNO 2021 Cineasti del Presente

Elene Naveriani • Director of Wet Sand

"Censorship, terror and silence won’t stop us"


- The Georgian director’s drama recounts a love story between two men who are forced to hide for decades

Elene Naveriani  • Director of Wet Sand
(© Locarno Film Festival/Ti-Press/Samuel Golay)

Georgian director Elene Naveriani presented her first feature film Wet Sand [+see also:
film review
interview: Elene Naveriani
film profile
in the Cineasti del Presente section of the Locarno Film Festival. She tells a multi-layered love story and creates complex and poignant characters. We probed the director over her inspiration for the film and the origin of Wet Sand’s aesthetic.

Cineuropa: Where did your inspiration for this story come from?
Elene Naveriani: I drew inspiration from daily life, from the events and social and political situation currently unfolding around us in the world. The genesis of the project and the idea for the story came from scriptwriter Sandro Naveriani. We then developed the story and worked on it together.

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What is your experience of rural Georgia? What kind of relationship do you have with the country?
I’m tied to Georgia, rural or otherwise. The story takes place in a small village, which we chose because we wanted to portray a microsociety. The village wasn’t selected for its rural characteristics, it was chosen for its closed-off and filmic nature. This story could unfold anywhere, even in a town, although smaller places do expose problems more readily.

What’s the current situation for homosexual couples in Georgia?
I would actually say it’s a “queer” community characterised by great diversity, not just sexual preferences. The film also suggests that there’s a level of tolerance in love and that it won’t be forced into boxes created by society. Unfortunately, current political and religious discourse in Georgia makes it impossible to ensure protection for the LGBTQ+ community. The State refuses to defend our rights and leaves us unprotected. The political powers that be also condemn us to death. But there are thousands of people who are fighting for their rights, and we will fight to the end. Censorship, terror and silence won’t stop us.

You tell your story by way of several different places. Was this a clear choice from the outset?
Yes, we chose the location at the very beginning, so all throughout the writing process, we already knew all the places shown in the film. When I’m writing, I like to feel the film’s rhythm, sees its colours, its light, its atmosphere and its various other elements. It really helps me to better imagine the story and characters. The location is the character of the narration, a character which has to be cast very carefully.

How did you develop the visual concept for the film?
We kept many of the elements offered up by the location. Houses which were once magnificent and bright but which have since disappeared and faded beneath the sun. We wanted to convey what we’d felt when we’d visited the village, that things disappear. They disappear if you don’t take care of them.

Where did the inspiration for the film’s music come from?
It came from me. When I write, I have a list in my head of the sounds and the music which will lend my characters greater depth. Every character has his or her own inner song; sometimes you hear it, sometimes you don’t. Sound is my greatest passion, so the choice of music is crucial for me.

How did you choose the actors for your film?
Some of them come from the world of theatre, others live in the village. But whether it was their first or their most recent role, they all gave something to the film, notably their love and their courage. The two main actors are non-professionals. Gia Agumava, who plays the part of Amnon, recently won the Best Actor award in Locarno. We’re very proud of him. He dared to act in a film which he knew might cause problems in his day-to-day life. But all the actors who took part in this film were aware of this and eager to be a part of it. They knew that we were talking about something which had been ignored for generations. Their bravery and support throughout the process were very important.

How do you think Georgian audiences will react to the film?
I don’t know. Some of them will like it, others won’t. It will be the same thing wherever you go, not just in Georgia. I’m not expecting any particular reaction. The film is now out and living its life. It will either be loved or rejected, enjoyed or ignored, much like life.

What were the greatest challenges you faced while making this film?
The greatest challenge was to stay true to myself and to the entire team.

Was it difficult to obtain funding for the movie?
No, it wasn’t. We were given significant financial support from Switzerland, and people really liked this co-production. We received support from Georgia too. Although it might be harder to obtain such funds in Georgia now, given the greater cultural censorship.

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(Translated from French)

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