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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Georgia / France

Dea Kulumbegashvili in the Cannes Official Selection with her feature debut, Beginning

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- The Georgian writer-director is returning to Cannes with her first feature, which travels “from the world of logic to the realm of the senses”

Dea Kulumbegashvili in the Cannes Official Selection with her feature debut, Beginning
Ia Sukhitashvili in Beginning

Tbilisi-based writer-director and producer Dea Kulumbegashvili has been a regular at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2014, her debut short film, Invisible Spaces, was nominated for a Short Film Palme d’Or and was also the first film from independent Georgia to be part of the Official Competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Two years later, her second short, Léthé, was selected in the Directors’ Fortnight. Beginning is Kulumbegashvili’s debut feature and has officially been picked for this year’s Cannes Official Selection (see the news).

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The story follows Yana, her husband David and their son George, who live in a remote Georgian village and are Jehovah’s Witnesses missionaries. The family is treated with hostility by the local, predominantly Christian Orthodox, community. When the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall is burned down during a service by a group of religious extremists, Yana is in shock. And when she learns from her husband that the whole attack was captured on CCTV, Yana will also start to seek revenge. Her decision will trigger a chain of events that will see Yana and her family end up totally isolated and marginalised by the local villagers and the police.

Regarding her approach to the story, Kulumbegashvili stated to Cineuropa: "I want audiences to identify with this unsettling condition where experiences cannot be simply classified as true or false. Here, Yana departs from the world of logic to enter the realm of the senses."

The screenplay was written by the director and Rati Oneli, and Kulumbegashvili was also the co-writer and co-producer of his multi-award-winning debut documentary, City of the Sun [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
. Yana is portrayed by Georgian actress Ia Sukhitashvili (Horizon [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Tinatin Kajrishvili
film profile
]
, House of Others [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rusudan Glurjidze
film profile
]
), and the rest of the cast includes Rati Oneli and Kakha Kintsurashvili (Enemies [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
). New York-based cinematographer Arseni Khachaturan, who also worked on both City of the Sun and Léthé, shot Beginning on 35 mm. The editing was handled by French editor Matthieu Taponier, known for his collaborations with László Nemes on Son of Saul [+see also:
film review
trailer
Q&A: László Nemes
interview: László Rajk
film profile
]
and Sunset [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: László Nemes
film profile
]
, the sound editing by France’s Séverin Favriau, who has previously worked on other Cannes titles, such as Raw [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Julia Ducournau
film profile
]
 by Julia DucournauA Prayer Before Dawn [+see also:
trailer
interview: Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire
film profile
]
 by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire and La Belle Époque [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nicolas Bedos
film profile
]
 by Nicolas Bedos, among others, while the original score was composed by Chilean-American experimental-electronic composer Nicolas Jaar.

The French co-producer of the film, Ilan Amouyal, of First Picture, mentioned to Cineuropa: “In the current film ecosystem, making a debut feature is a privilege. We were lucky to have an incredibly talented writer-director to helm the project. Thanks to the Cannes Film Festival Official Selection, there’s now an approval from the festival that has nourished our collective cinematic consciousness for so many years, and consequently, there's a significant spotlight on the film. It’s now our responsibility to use this opportunity to share Dea Kulumbegashvili’s vision with the broadest audiences possible. Despite the reigning uncertainties with the pandemic, we have a strong team and a wonderful festival behind the film to support our endeavour, and we’ll work relentlessly towards that goal. This wonderful news is just the beginning for the movie."

Beginning is a Georgian-French co-production by Rati Oneli for Tbilisi-based O.F.A, which was co-founded by Dea Kulumbegashvili, with Ilan Amouyal and David Zerat (First Picture), plus Paul Rozenberg (Zadig Films). Furthermore, Steven Darty and Adrien Dassault are serving as co-producers, and Carlos Reygadas and Gaetan Rousseau are executive-producing. The film is backed by the Georgian National Film Center, and the project was previously invited to the Residence of the Cannes Cinéfondation, the Sam Spiegel International Film Lab in Jerusalem, Sofia Meetings and Sarajevo’s CineLink, and was also supported by International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund. The world sales are handled by Wild Bunch.

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