Online Movie Screening “Namakhvani”

By Dr. Marina Decristoforo, ARISC Fellow 

September 7, 2021, at 5:00-6:30 PM Tbilisi Time (9:00 AM EDT)

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I chose to present my research in the form of a short ethnographic film that explores the situation surrounding the Namakhvani Hydro Power Plant project in Lechkhumi, focusing on the efforts of local activists (the “Save the Rioni Valley” movement), concerns of the wine makers, who fear that their grapes will no longer retain their specific, unique qualities, and the government officials, who have leased the land to the Turkish construction company, Enka Renewables. The tensions that arise between the different actors, and the arguments presented by the two sides (though notably, only one side – that of the protestors – ever responded to interview requests or provided access to field sites) are also emblematic of the larger polemic regarding the direction of Georgia’s future, with respect to democracy, government priorities, religion, agricultural development, and heritage.

Note: After I had already left Georgia, the leaders of the “Save the Rioni Valley” movement, despite earlier proclamations of inclusivity and insistence on eschewing partisan politics, released a statement against the July 5, 2021 Pride events and proceeded to travel to Tbilisi to join the church-backed anti-Pride protests, many of which quickly turned very violent. Following this turn of events, several CSOs, as well as the members of the LGBTQ+ community, cut their ties with the “Save the Rioni Valley” movement, though the latter condemned the violence and claimed to have only attended a peaceful protest-prayer. Though I was unable to document these developments in the video material, I hope to at least provide a close, in-depth portrayal of the protest movement from its early days up to its peak.

Marina Decristoforo (née Kaganova) is an anthropologist and writer from Brooklyn, New York. She holds an MFA in Writing and a PhD in Anthropology, both from Columbia University, and, until May 2021 worked as an Adjunct lecturer in Anthropology at CUNY York. Her dissertation, “Setting the Tone: Fluid Hierarchies in Contemporary Georgian Polyphony,” explores how power, preservation, and death — both semiotic and literal — coincide, intersect, and diverge in the Georgian folk singing communities. Most recently, Dr. Decristoforo has been focused on documentary and fiction film. In 2019-2020 she directed and produced Life in Three Voices, a documentary, which follows a group of young Georgian singers on tour in the US, as well as in their native Georgia, and explores the vocal polyphonic tradition that brings together the most unlikely combinations of people from around the world. Her creative and scholarly work has been published in Catapult, Ulbandus, Failbetter, Paperbag, and The St. Ann’s Review, among others. Dr. Decristoforo is a recipient of the ARISC Research Fellowship. Funding for this fellowship is provided by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs through a grant to the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).

This talk is organized as a part of ARISC Online Event Series that showcase the work of ARISC fellows. ARISC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, medical condition, ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or status as a covered veteran. This talk is free and open to the public.