Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry (2023) (Shashvi Shashvi Maq’vali)

Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry directed by Elene Naveriani is an enchanting story of a strong heroine’s middle-aged love and feminism in a small Georgian village.

All Your Life

by Alexa Dalby

Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Adapted from feminist author Tamta Melashvili’s first-person-narrator novel of the same title (Bakur Sulakauri Publishing) by director Elene Naveriani and Nikoloz Mdivani, Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry is the enchanting story of 49-year-old Etero (Eka Chavleishvili). She is a lumpy, happily unmarried virgin in a small Georgian village, an object of strangeness to her nosy neighbours. She loves her life and its monotony as it is. One day, while listening to a blackbird sing and picking her favourite blackberries, the slope of a ravine gives way beneath her. She has a near-death experience which changes her life.

From then on, Etero decides to experience everything she has missed out on. Among other things, she has sex for the first time (surprisingly in the stockroom of her small household goods shop) and falls in love with Murman (Temiko Chichinadze). She also delights in her middle-aged body with all its imperfections.

Though she doesn’t know it, Etero is an instinctive feminist. She doesn’t want her love affair to result in the conventional and not-overly-happy lifestyle of the local married women, who view her with a mixture of condescension and caution. Now she is not afraid to speak her mind to them.

There’s an unexpected twist in the tale.

presents an endearingly timeless rural Georgia in their film. Not a frame is wasted, each has meaning, and their static framing as the story develops suits it very well. Neverani says, “For BLACKBIRD BLACKBIRD BLACKBERRY we needed to film the shapes and volumes of bodies that are usually absent from the screen. We paid great attention to show them with sympathy, tenderness and to emphasise their textures in order to create the necessary intimacy and erotic tension needed for the narrative.

“When I read the novel BLACKBIRD BLACKBIRD BLACKBERRY it was clear to me that Eka Chavleishvili was an actress who could play the character of Etero. I worked with Eka on my last film, “Wet Sand”. Her rigour, her sensitivity and her approach to acting fascinated me. When I imagined that we would watch Etero for 90 minutes, having Eka play the role, with her charisma and captivating presence, it seemed an obvious choice to me. With Eka and her professionalism, I couldn’t imagine putting a less subtle, sensitive and powerful personality next to her.”

But as of early May, when this film is released in the UK, urban change may be happening. There are reports and videos that anti-Russification-law protests are going on in the capital Tbilisi.

Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Directors’ Fortnight. It triumphed in the Swiss Film Awards. Respected stage actress Eka Chavleishvili also won Best Actress at both the Belfast and Dublin Film Festivals. The film is released on 3 May 2024 in the UK and Ireland.

© Susy Lagrage

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