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Review: Ever Since I Knew Myself


- Georgian documentarian Maka Gogaladze enters into a dialogue with her mother in an attempt to understand the logic and beliefs behind the forging of the Georgian character

Review: Ever Since I Knew Myself

Judgement day arrives for every parent, sooner or later: that moment in which, in order to assert their own identity, the already grown-up children seek to evaluate the upbringing methods they were subjected to, and eventually renounce oppressive patterns. In her autobiographical Ever Since I Knew Myself, Maka Gogaladze uses her personal experience as a starting point for a curious analytical study, exploring not only how she has become the person she is today, but also how Georgian self-consciousness and approaches to life have been shaped through education. The film has just been screened at the 21st Golden Apricot International Film Festival, competing with nine other titles from Western Asia in the Regional Competition (see the news).

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Initiating proceedings with a frame of the sea and subtitles in which Maka recollects how, when she was little, she wrote poems only to destroy them later in the hope of making her mum feel guilty, the film first leads the viewer to expect another childhood-trauma opus. Fortunately, this impression is soon dispelled as the mother comes into the picture as an equal interlocutor – a configuration that makes it clear that the film is more about representing opposing views of different generations than it is about pointing out good and bad examples. Apparently, Maka’s mother was a demanding parent who forced her to take piano lessons and graduate from medical school – two career paths that Maka abandoned to pursue her own choice of filmmaking.

In parallel with their debate on values and perceptions, Maka visits dance and music schools, and attends regular classes to understand the origins of her mother’s soldier-like attitude towards child-rearing. “Nobody nowadays puts their children into the Georgian cradle,” emphasises a teacher ruefully, explaining that feeling tied up would make the babies try to break free, and thus they would learn to fight and realise their potential better later in life.

“Motherland, I will give you my life, be at your service,” recites a girl in another class, gradually helping us understand why the mother treated her daughter like steel that just had to be hardened. For the mum, the final result was of high importance, so she treated her daughter sternly. For Maka, however, the process of achieving a goal is of greater relevance. Still, she values the inheritance of discipline: the lesson that, in order to gain or achieve something one loves and believes in, self-sacrifices are needed. To get somewhere in life, one must say no to certain things.

“Couldn't it be a little easier?” insists Maka. “Life is pointless without a burden and responsibility,” concludes her mum. The ending is reconciliatory, as it seems that the process of making this documentary helped Maka shake off the angst with which she started this journey.

Mostly comprising interviews and observations of educational procedures, Ever Since I Knew Myself achieves cinematic excellence by capturing the atmosphere of a reconstructed environment that unites past and present through a poetic mise-en-scène. Talking-head frames are rarely used; instead, people are captured in their natural environments while some of the conversations between mother and daughter are set against visual explorations of nostalgic interiors with traditional elements, suggesting a spiritual continuity.

Ever Since I Knew Myself was produced by Georgia’s Formo Production.

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