Batono Merab of Georgian Film
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”There are a few things that sum up the unique character of Georgian cinema,” says Merab Kokochashvili, legendary Georgian filmmaker, actor, and Director of the Georgian Cinema Development Centre, ”the tragedy and drama elements, and an absurdly ironic view of life and to ourselves. And, of course, an utterly strong love for Sakartvelo, the Motherland.”
Wise, sharp, and endlessly energetic, Batono Merab, as he is respectfully called, is 82 years old. For 29 years he headed the Georgia Telefilm studios, the country’s most productive creative ground for both ground for both documentary and feature filmmaking. Having shot 12 films and participated in the production of dozens more throughout his career, he has now devoted himself to developing the Georgian film industry and training Georgia's next generation of filmmakers.
”Before the Soviet Union collapsed, the Georgian film industry produced up to 100 movies per year. We had more than a hundred cinema theaters. There were ten on Rustaveli avenue alone.”

Today, these numbers are but a distant dream, and Georgian film industry is just a fraction of the empire it used to be. But Batono Merab stays optimistic. As the founder of the Young Directors Union, a non-government organization where his students develop their films, he now works, among other things, on building a film digitizing lab to help preserve and monetize a vast archive of documentary and feature films containing over 100 years of Georgian filmmaking.
These pictures are a part of my ongoing project “Imagining Georgia”
Photographer: Andrew Kovalev (ckovalev.com)
Set designer: Andrew Kovalev
Assistant: Thomas Burns, Tata Melnik, Natalia Eremina
Supervising art director: Abby
Special thanks to:
Batono Merab Kokochashvili
the staff of Georgian Film studios
Soso Gvasalia (SFX)