“I Swam Enguri” – The War that is not Over
Festival in Media
2017-10-16

On October 13th, screening of Anuna Bukias' documentary "I Swam Enguri" was held in "Fabrika".

"I force myself to add descriptions to the photos. It seems like something is not enough in these shots taken with amazing speed. I'm short of the feeling of connection, of self-identification. The scrap where my childhood photo was taken is somehow closer. The theatre turn seems familiar too, it turned out to be the wall of hotel "Ritsa". The beach, the trees, famous fountain, I'm confused - from where do I know them - from the archive, from the stories told or from my imagination. I don't even believe that I'm here touching something that's always been so far away.

On my own, I won't find anything. I feel feeble. My kindergarten, the 11th school (where mother, aunt, uncle and Avto, another uncle studied), the places where Avto used to take me for a walk, in secret from the boys (my brothers), shops... The only thing I remember is my house. I don't know about anything else here - is it what I remember, or what I know. Still..." writes Anuna Bukia in her "Liberali" blogpost.

Anuna was born in Sokhumi, Abkhazia in 1988. After the war, her family moved to Zugdidi first, and to Tbilisi later. She was 4 when she had to leave her house, her yard, her kindergarten, her street... her home. She's been asked many times after that - "How old were you? Oh, 4? Than how could you remember..." "But it's not true, - says Anuna to me, - I remember. I remember everything very well."

The film starts with her family's video shots. They are at the Sokhumi funicular - mother, father and three little children. A woman in long, white jacket is holding the smallest one (Anuna). The other two are running up and down. Nothing special, just another family day. The family video is followed by the Chuberi pass shots: people, runaways from their own homes, heading slowly the uneven road of the pass. Some of them are holding babies in their hands, some of them - dragging loaded packs. They stop to throw a handful of dirt to dead people on their way and look - maybe they even knew them and continue unhurriedly their forced march.

After 24 years, Anuna goes back to her home, in Sokhumi. The only chance to get to the occupied territory is to cross the border secretly. The barriers are the natural dividing line, the river Enguri and wire line artificially created by the Russian soldiers. There are so-called "connectors" working on both sides of the dividing line. Anuna doesn't and can't show us their faces. Women, men, children and elderlies are hiding behind the trees and as soon as they hear the "connector" saying - "Hey, come on, now", they all run at the same time, fast and silently. The valley is crossed and now the "connectors" of the other side help them crawl in barbed wires. The camera follows them all the time, sometimes makes you run on the plain valley, sometimes makes you go up the tree with the watchman. The trembling camera calms down only when the film moves across Enguri, at "home".

She didn't want to be a film heroine. She thought that she would film the story and show the people left without homes. But it couldn't be arranged so. When working on the film, running within "connectors", showing empty Sokhumi - she turned out in the center, in the center of the story. "Turning out there, on that land, that's when I realized who I am and where I'm from" - says the director and continues telling the story on the screen: goes to her own house but couldn't get in. She knows that an old lady lives there now. That's all.

1 hour film ends with the family video again. It's her brother's birthday; relatives and friends are gathered in the house, celebrating, laughing, having fun. He's standing next to the birthday cake and tells the poem out loud: - „I am a little Georgian, son of Caucasian mountains..."
The screening in "Fabrika" was attended generally by the youngsters. Those, for whom this tragedy is a story happened somewhere far away or those, who were too little, just like Anuna and who's "not supposed to remember a thing". A girl was standing next to me and wiping downpour of tears every minute. And a boy, sitting behind me, was whispering to his friend - what was where and how - when familiar places of Sokhumi came to the screen, adding "as I remember".

The war is not over. It's still going on but silently, secretly.

"I swam Enguri" is very emotional but not sentimental film. Very personal but everyone's story at the same time.

P.S. The film "I Swam Enguri" was screened at the Tbilisi International Film Festival, in the section "Georgian Panorama", 2016. 

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