Art and peace-building
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Bring Your Own Chair

Bring your own Chair is the programmatic name for a mobile open-air cinema in West Georgia. Zugdidi, the capital of the Megrelia and Upper Svanetia region (320 km from Tbilisi) was the starting point for this project in 2012 and 2013. The city is located near the so-called ‘administrative border’ to Abkhazia, which strictly separates the regions since the Abkhazian¹ war of secession (1992/1993). Around a third of Zugdidi’s 120,000 inhabitants are refugees from this war. Most of them have found refuge with relatives, in hotels, schools or empty factories in and around the city. In the many years since then, the housing situation in some of their dwellings has improved slightly and some families have been resettled. However, the majority of the refugees continue to live in poverty and in particular suffer from the lack of economic prospects that also affects the local population. The unemployment rate in the region and emigration are very high, also by Georgian standards. In 2008 Zugdidi was briefly occupied by Russian troops. These troops later withdrew behind the Enguri River, which now forms part of the current administrative boundary with Abkhazia¹. The only official crossing at present is the Enguri Bridge, about 8 km from Zugdidi and can be crossed only with a special permit. In 2013, artasfoundation was able to cross this bridge with the project and continue it – at least to a small degree – on the other side.

There has been no cinema in West Georgia since the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The younger generation grew up with television. The aim of the Bring your own Chair project was not only to continue a lost tradition here (in the Soviet era cinema screenings were widespread in local cultural centres), but also to give the people of this region the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas in public space – independently of party-politics. For the artasfoundation team itself, the mobile cinema was an ideal opportunity to get to know the region and the needs of its inhabitants.

 

Bring Your Own Chair II (2013)

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The Georgian population in Mingrelia and the region adjacent to Gal/i (beyond today’s so-called ‘administrative border’ to Abkhazia¹) has suffered greatly from the wars from 1992 to 1993 and in 2008, and from the ensuing refugee movements and the destruction of economic structures. Bring your own Chair complements existing initiatives for material reconstruction. Through film events it invigorates the public space and creates impulses for new ideas and new relationships.

Concretely, the aim was to create structures that allow residents of the Zugdidi and Gal/i regions to regularly watch high-quality international films. After more than 25 years without a movie theatre, the people of this peripheral region should have a new window to different parts of the world, and film art should became accessible regardless of income.

To this end, artasfoundation carried out the first cinema project on one side of the administrative border in 2012: In early autumn, a mobile open-air cinema was on the road in Zugdidi and the surrounding area, showing films on 28 evenings at 13 different locations.

This experience was followed up in 2013. In addition to film screenings in Zugdidi and the surrounding area, the mobile cinema route was now also extended to Abkhazia¹. However, this was only partially possible, as the necessary additional approvals could not be obtained at the last moment. Through cooperation with a local partner NGO in Gal/i, at least part of the planned project could be realised.
The film programme included international studio films, films from the South Caucasus as well as a special children’s film programme.

In 2013, cinema activities in Zugdidi were expanded, and a local film club Magic Lantern Zugdidi was founded there in a cooperation between the Swiss Zauberlaterne association and local organisers. From autumn onwards, this club presented regular film sessions for children and young people. The programme was prepared by the Zauberlaterne association according to an overall media education concept, with artasfoundation arranging contacts, organising the transfer of know-how and providing the infrastructure. The open-air cinema events in Zugdidi and the surrounding area were advertised under the name of Magic Lantern Zugdidi.

List of films
Press

Place and year
Zugdidi, 2013

Project team
Patrick Kull (project manager), Corina Caviezel and Tom Kotitschan for artasfoundation and Marina Davitaia (director), Shorena Ketsbaia, Elene Kikalia, Marta Todua, Lasha-Georgi Todua, Nino Toloraria, Tamuna Tchania for Samegrelo Medea

Partner organisations
Samegrelo Medea, Zugdidi
Sukhum Youth House
Avantgarde, Gal/i

Financial contribution
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for South Caucasus (SDC)

Practical support
Lana Chakhaia, Gaga Chkheidze, Levan Jabua, Tamara Janashia, Maka Jikia

Bring Your Own Chair I (2012)

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Photo: artasfoundation

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Under the title ‘Bring your own Chair’, artasfoundation and the Georgian NGO Samegrelo Medea organised a series of open-air film screenings in autumn 2012. Over a period of four weeks, a total of 28 film evenings took place at 13 different locations in and around the city of Zugdidi. The open-air cinema was set up in small villages or at IDP Collective Centres.

After public film screenings had been absent from the region for more than 25 years, the aim of the project was to bring film art back to a remote and war-torn region of Georgia. For the local population and the people displaced from Abkhazia¹, the project opened a window to different regions of the world and presented topics that are discussed in the international film scene. Thus it could reconnect to a tradition of film screenings that had existed until the 1990s in West Georgia/Abkhazia.
Although the new film screening events, non-political events in public places, were unfamiliar to most visitors, they were very popular. The audience ranged from 30 to approximately 120 people, including many children. In the programme (12 short films and 14 feature films to choose from for each location), European and American classics were particularly popular

In the course of the film screenings in Zugdidi, contacts with local schools and authorities could be established with whom the development of a locally supported cinema initiative could begin.

List of films
Video

Place and year
Zugdidi, 2012

Project team
Patrick Kull (project manager), Adrian Bodisch and Corina Caviezel for artasfoundation and Marina Davitaia (director), Iana Emukhvari, Teimuraz Gitolendia and Shorena Ketsbaia for Samegrelo Medea

Partner organisations
Samegrelo Medea, Zugdidi
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for South Caucasus (SDC)
Cinema Solaire, Winterthur

Financial contribution
RHW-Foundation
Valüna Foundation
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for South Caucasus (SDC)

Practical support
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 and Stucky Film, Zaentz Media Center (David Bergad).

¹artasfoundation would like to underline that its use of names and titles particularly in regards to conflict regions should not be understood as implying any form of recognition or non-recognition by the foundation or as having any other political connotation whatsoever.