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BATUMI 2019

Review: The Harvest

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- Misho Antadze's first feature-length documentary counterpoints agricultural and high-tech activities in the Georgian region of Kakheti

Review: The Harvest

Did you know that Georgia is the second-largest exporter of Bitcoin in the world, after China? More precisely, it is in the region of Kakheti, just east of Tbilisi, where some 15% of the world's cryptocurrency is mined, or "harvested". In his first feature-length documentary, The Harvest [+see also:
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, young Georgian filmmaker Misho Antadze counterpoints this activity, which most people do not understand but is generally associated with high-tech, with the predominantly agricultural production in the region. The film world-premiered in Rotterdam's Say No More section and has just screened in the Documentary Competition of the Batumi International Arthouse Film Festival.

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The film opens with a scene that, in a way, says it all: in what seems to be a room adjacent to a butcher's shop, a TV is on, and on it there is a report from a tech conference in Tbilisi, where an AI robot is speaking about its admiration for Georgia. On another wall, there is a painting of Stalin, and the butcher is cleaning meat hooks as flies buzz around.

This buzzing sound soon cuts to the humming of the power transformers that a young man is fixing in his house, and this scene is followed by the buzzing of bees in beehives in a field near a power plant, whose rumble is obviously the loudest. The film relies strongly on the sound design (at times overly so), topped off with Alexander Girav's elegant cinematography and well-measured, associative editing by Antadze and Daphne Rosenthal.

There is barely any dialogue and no music in this strictly observational documentary, which alternates the scenes of rural activities, such as cow-milking or vineyard ploughing, with workers fixing power lines, mechanics fixing a car and kids playing with a drone – or even two boys playing a football video game on a console, followed by a bunch of them playing football on an actual pitch. At one point, a man in a wheelchair is taking care of what looks like a hub with dozens of computer housings and modems.

The contrast, however, is more complex than just a simple juxtaposition: machinery is used in all of these agricultural activities as well, and on the other hand, many of the computers seen in the film are located in houses that are clearly poor and rural. In one scene, three men are taking cows to graze on a hill topped by large satellite dishes.

But this kind of contrast is also not so new any more, and such images are no longer that jarring, since we have discovered that the biggest quantity of fake news during Trump's campaign originated from young hackers in a small town in North Macedonia, or how, in Ghana, internet fraud schemes are combined with religious rituals, as seen in Ben Asamoah's Sakawa [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
.

Bitcoin mining, which requires a lot of electric power, gravitates towards countries with cheap electricity, and this is where resourceful Georgian entrepreneurs have found their niche, which makes the set-up of Antadze's film a lot less surprising. Still, the young filmmaker shows he has the necessary technical chops and a good instinct for concept.

The Harvest is a co-production by Georgia's CineMark and LA-based Pantheon Pictures.

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