TBILISI, DFWatch – Just days before the premiere, two cinemas in Azerbaijan have decided not to show a new Russian movie set during the 2008 Russia-Georgia war.
Much of the new movie “August. Eight” was shot in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the backdrop to the story is the war as seen from the Russian side of events, but director Dzhanik Fayziev denies that it is a political film.
21 February is the world premiere of “August. Eight”. Before its release in Baku, a campaign was started against it on Facebook driven by Georgian-Azerbaijani solidarity regarding breakaway areas. Russia does not support Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Facebook campaign was successful and lead Park Cinema to pull the film off its schedule, as well as recalling all advertisement material. Now also Azerbaijan Cinema has followed suit.
“August. Eight” has been criticized as Kremlin propaganda by commentators in Georgia; it portrays Georgia as the aggressor and filming took place inside both of Georgia’s disputed regions. Some scenes were filmed on an elaborate set built in Sukhumi.
Filming took place between March and August 2011. In addition to Sukhumi and Tskhinvali, scenes were also filmed at spots around the North Caucasus, including the Abkhazian town Tkvarcheli, the North Ossetian villages Ursdon and Nar, along the Georgian military highway and in the Darial gorge. A trailer was released onto the internet.
The project was heavily supported by the Russian government. Apart from being almost entirely financed by the state film fund — 16.7 million out of its total production cost of 19 million US dollars — actors also received training at a Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs base.
But director Fayziev maintains that it is not political, but part love story, part fantasy. Some of the story is based on Danish writer H.C. Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen. It was developed into a film script by the American Michael Alan Lerner, an experienced war reporter who in 2004 made a film called “Deadlines” about the difficulty of reporting the truth in times of conflict, set in the Beirut war in 1983.
The fantasy parts of “August. Eight” take place inside a little boy’s mind, made by computer generated imagery which takes up 33 out of the film’s 120 minutes. The rest is about his mother, played by Svetlana Ivanova, who comes after him to Tskhinvali to save him after the war breaks out.
This is the third film made with the 2008 South Ossetia war as a backdrop. The Russian-made “War 08.08.08” was released only three months after the war and perceived as heavily politicized. “5 Days of August” of last year was a Hollywood film with Georgian scriptwriter and co-producer. It was not financed by the Georgian government except in the early stages, but is widely perceived as telling the story of the war from President Mikheil Saakashvili’s point of view. It starred Andy Garcia, Val Kilmer and Rupert Friend, and had a budget of 12 million US dollars.