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'Dede' (2017) Review: Some Customs Are Good, Others Should Be Forgotten

By: William A Greene @damnbetic

Mariam Khatchvani’s love story is a rare instance of depth in an increasingly shallow cinematic environment. It is a tale which provides a revelatory introduction to the culture of its setting in remote Svaneti Provence of Georgia which could only be provided through a local. Dede offers both a critic and knowledgeable exploration of the traditions of the region. Cinematographer Konstantin Mindia Esadze sets a backdrop with depictions of the gorgeous country with unrelentingly harsh elements. Khatchvani remains in sync with this environment through the story’s depiction of loving family and individuals swept into a storm of tradition. Traditions they seem to feel are beyond their ability to prevent.

Dede is at once a tale of doomed love, regional documentary, and feminist critique. Set directly after the Georgian Civil War, the film provides viewers with a Shakespearian Tragedy of love clashing with tradition. Within the first few minutes of the film the returning war heroes, David and Gegi, find themselves as brothers in arms and romantic foils through their relationship with the heroine Dina. In true poetic form, we see David, a war hero who is bringing his village additional food, telling Gegi, the friend who saved his life, that he will help him find the woman he fell in love with as soon as his own arranged marriage is completed. Neither man knowing at the time that she is the same woman. Dina is in love with Gegi, yet betrothed to David through an antiquated, at least in Western Eyes, system of arranged political unions. These traditions continue unfolding in a social pattern which serves to demonstrate the economic and environmental circumstances in which they developed. A method further affirmed through Dina’s childhood friend Girseli with the local priest.

In this manner, Dede provides a regional cultural documentary through a symbolic retelling of Svaneti’s cultural history. This mountainous, land-locked province has long been a koshki of Georgian culture and tradition. In keeping with this tradition, Khatchvani portrays the wealth of religious valuables which were brought to this province for security. Many of these items are still present in residences and villages today. In several places throughout the film, the storyline interacts with prestigious items such as this. Such as the elder court’s swearing on the Icon of St. George to absolve Gegi of murder charges. In other places, the film portrays cultural events such as the celebration of New Years, religious customs, children playing with home baked toys, and traditional music (including three voice, pentatonic harmony) and instruments. In a form equal to the portrayal of Svan culture through tradition, Dina herself is a patriotic embodiment of the struggle of the Svaneti people throughout its history to remain free from outside rule, never truly having been conquered.

Finally, and perhaps most noticeably in the social environment of today, Dede is a resoundingly feminist critic of elements of Khatchvani’s culture. This film provides a resounding cry for freedom from repressive elements of tradition which serve only to elicit unnecessary pain in a province whose environment is unsympathetic enough already. Throughout the film’s portrayal of beautiful culture and people, there is the ever present threat of blood feuding, the kidnapping of women, and the exchange of women as political commodities. Dina rages against a system which works at every waking moment to break her. Never forsaking her home, man she loves, or only son, she sacrifices freedom to elicit change. Rather than a fleeing victim as women are so commonly depicted in films such as these, the women stand and fight despite overwhelming odds. Often sacrificing their own happiness to protect those they love; Dina lives in exact opposition to the traditionalists in her culture who blame women for their acts. Showing, definitively, that the inability to abandon the antiquated traditions only serve to harm the
community, leaving only loveless men, broken women, and fatherless children in their wake.

Director: Mariam Khatchvani
Cast: Natia Vibliani, George Babluani, Girshel Chelidze, Nukri Khatchvani, Spartak Parjiani,
Sofia Charkviani, Mose Khatchvani
Cinematographer: Konstantin Mindia Esadze
Music: Tako Jordania
Language: Georgian
Screenwriters: Mariam Khatchvani, Vladimer Katcharava, Irakli Solomanashvili
Producer: Vladimer Katcharava
Editor: Levan Kukhashvili
Production companies: 20 Steps, Film and Music Entertainment, MP Film Production, Montauk Film Production

Runtime: 96 minutes

Official Site: https://www.widemanagement.com/dede

Grade: B

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