Zugdidi is a district capital in the Samegrelo province of western Georgia, situated right next to the present administrative border with Abkhasia (320 km from Tbilisi). Of the approx. 120,000 inhabitants, one-third are refugees. Most of them arrived from Abkhasia in 1993-94 and found shelter with relatives, in hotels, schools or empty factories in and around Zugdidi. In the twenty years since, the housing situation in some of these shelters could be improved slightly and some families were resettled. But the majority of the refugees still live in poverty, suffering from the same lack of economic prospects that the whole population is faced with. The current unemployment rate of the district population is approx. 80%, and off-migration is high.
In 2008 Zugdidi was briefly occupied by Russian troops, who later withdrew behind the Enguri River which forms part of the present administrative border. The Enguri bridge, the only official border crossing, is about 8 km from Zugdidi and can only be crossed with special permission (or preordered registration in case of foreigners).
As the commencement of the project series "Bring your own chair"artasfoundation together with the Georgian NGO Samegrelo Medea organized a series of open-air cinema screenings in fall 2012. Over a period of four weeks a total of 28 film screenings took place at 13 different places in and around the town of Zugdidi. The open-air cinemas were set-up in small villages or in IDP Collective Centres. A pre-film from the Georgian film history, followed by an international feature film were screened respectively on an entrance free basis.
The objective of this project was to bring film art, after an interruption of 25 years, back to a remote and war-affected region in Georgia. For the local people and those displaced from Abkhazia, the films should open up a window to different regions of the world and present different topics that are currently discussed in international cinema. Thereby, the project reconnects to a tradition of cinema, which existed in West Georgia/Abkhazia until the beginning of the 1990s.
Although screenings and non-political events in public places seemed unfamiliar for the majority of the audience, they were nevertheless well received. The audience ranged from 30 to 120 people, including many children. Of all the films that were shown (12 short films and 14 feature films) , it was particularly the American and European classics, which met the taste of the audience.
During the screenings in Zugdidi contacts with local authorities and schools were established, aimed towards the creation of a locally supported cinema initiative.
A project team, consisting of three employees of the partner NGO and three employees of artasfoundation, was responsible for the evening screenings. In terms of technology, a mobile projection system powered by solar energy was used (Development: Cinema Solaire, Winterthur).
April – Juli 2012: Project preparation in Georgia and in Zurich, selection of films, clarification of screening rights etc.
August/ September 2012: 28 screenings in Zugdidi and different places in the neighbourhood
October 2012: Evaluation
Samegrelo Medea, Zugdidi (Marina Davitaia, email@example.com)
SDC Cooperation office for the Southern Caucasus
All those who supported this project Astrablu Media (Josi Konski), Zviad Arabidze, Natia Bachilava, Lana Chakhaia, Gaga Chkheidze, HFF München (Ferdinand Freising), Hunter Group (Christina Hunter), Lavan Jabua, Tamara Janashia, Nana Janelidze, Maka Jikia, Rusudan Kalichava, Peter Liechti, Fiona Meisel, Stadtverwaltung Zugdidi, Pandorafilm (Eva Blondiau), Birgit Reichert, Cinéma Solaire (Christoph Seiler), Sounding Images (Claus Wischmann), Cyrill Schläpfer, Beat Schneider, Volgafilm (Ludmila Sirokova), Yves Yersin und Stucky Film, Zaentz Media Center (David Bergad) and many others;
those who gave additional financial support
RhW Stiftung, Valüna Stiftung and SDC-Southern Caucasus.
and the project-team
artasfoundation: Patrick Kull (project leader), Adrian Bodisch and Corina Caviezel.
Samegrelo Medea: Marina Davitaia (project leader), Iana Emukhvari, Teimuraz Gitolendia and Shorena Ketsbaia.