Tamara Tatishvili

Film agent Tamara Tatishvili has been working in the Georgian audiovisual sector since 2002. From 2010 to 2013, she was a director of the Georgian National Film Center (GNFC), where she co-authored the Georgian Film Strategy 2010-2012 and subsequently led the implementation of the initiatives aimed at optimizing the public sector support for the development, production and promotion of Georgian films. The GNFC also functioned as a local film commission unit positioning film friendly aspects of Georgia. . Since 2011, Tamara has been acting as the Georgian representative to European Cinema Support Fund – EURIMAGES – as well as the Georgian representative in the European Film Promotion (EFP).

Prior to her appointment at the GNFC, in 2008-2009, Tamara was based in London and worked for BOP Consulting, overseeing research, strategy, planning and evaluation for culture, media, digital industries and innovation. At BOP Consulting, Tamara worked on different projects for the UK Film Council, Film London, NESTA.

In 2004, Tamara co-founded and served as an Executive Director of the “Independent Filmmakers’ Association – South Caucasus” (IFA-SC). She managed three offices of the Association in Baku, Yerevan and Tbilisi respectively, led local teams and ensured joint activities. Through the educational and promotional activities of IFA-SC, she built an extensive network of film professionals to promote the South-Caucasian Cinema on regional and international levels.

At this year’s Odesa International Film Festival Tamara helped organize and moderated the “Gender Equality – Myth and Reality” conference. She talks to Tara Karajica about being a film agent, a policy-maker and a fervent promoter of European values as well as the above-mentioned conference and women in today’s film industry.




Would it be fair to say that after the Avanti program, your first professional contact with Film was with the foundation of the IFA-SC? Can you talk about that experience?

Tamara Tatishvili: The Avanti program and its follow up initiative, the creation of the “Independent Filmamkers’ Association – South Caucasus” was by all means a major catalyzer of developments in the audiovisual sector in three countries of South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia). I always call the Avanti training some kind of a wake-up call. It rang all bells to us, local film industry representatives. It made us aware of how much time has been lost and how much had to be done in order to get integrated in the international film landscape. The notion of European co-productions, the clear understanding of the role of a producer, the scope of international cooperation and many other key elements of film business were totally new to us. We had to first believe in it, then learn a lot and at the same time start acting. Avanti and IFA-SC were amazing years of my life. I was managing the IFA-SC and traveled a lot to Armenia and Azerbaijan. I expanded my network and learned how seemingly close and yet different our cultures are. I admire all the people from the network and all the international professionals who contributed to this program. Not everyone had the same take-away from those years. Yet, for me, it was better than any professional training. It achieved something that looked so far away… I generally do love to be challenged and I did learn a lot in those years.

You were then appointed as Head of the Georgian National Film Center and under your leadership, the Georgian film industry flourished. What was the biggest challenge?

T.T.: Heading the GNFC was an exceptional professional journey. I often repeat that together with my team we actually “lived” the GNFC; we never simply worked there. When you come from a small, post-Soviet country with almost no film market, everything is a challenge. The geopolitical location of Georgia is not a big asset either… In reality, one has no big choice: either you continue looking back with sorrow  at the vibrant past of your country and its Film history while criticizing current grey reality or you transform its weaknesses into improvement goals and work on them. I made the second choice. Reforming the GNFC and re-integrating Georgia in the wider context of European Cinema was not easy. I will never say that my leadership made things flourish, but all I can say and take small credit is that we identified new names and faces in the Georgian film industry and we gave them bold chances. I focused on the future and not just on the past. Five years have passed now since my mandate at the GNFC finished… Well, I can say now that our strategy worked out. Every time I read or watch new stories or films, they are mostly fruits of tiny little seeds we planted years ago.

On a personal level, I never belonged to the Georgian cinematic elite – those people who graduate from local film schools or are related to the existing cinematic talent. In our countries, the notion of “belonging” is still pretty present, openly or in a hidden manner. I knew I was taken as an “outsider” at the beginning, but to be fully open with you, I never cared. I have one simple rule in life: I don’t like wasting time and I judge based on results, not on chit-chat. I try to apply this in my professional life. I am afraid I am a real pragmatist. And, it did work with the GNFC. When I take it as one page of my professional life, I think I did make a leap forward and, more importantly, I have identified what could be done differently… So there will be no room for same mistakes in my next, bigger professional move.

What will this be?

T.T.: What will my next career move be? I am willing to take up a new challenge. One should always be open to change… As you know, I reside in Brussels nowadays, which expends avenues to work on a Pan-European level. I am starting to explore potential roles in film funding and/or cultural institutions with access to talent management and curation of festival strategies. Let’s see where this search leads me to…

You are also a fervent promoter of European values in Film and among your many quotes on the subject, these ones particularly caught my eye: “European cinema can also serve as a good example of a value that Europeans fought for together. A common European policy framework safeguards cinema as an art form that offers creative and socially charged content… Cinema can be a motivator to enhance European identity.” Can you talk about your work as a European film agent and policy-maker and elaborate on these quotes?

T.T.: Thank you, Tara, for bringing up this quote… I don’t remember that interview in full, but I could repeat these words with all my heart! As a policy adviser, I, myself, had to learn and act on many issues simultaneously. It is a given fact that the History of my country has never allowed for proper film education, relevant employment entries or clear international cooperation allies. The exposure to European Film helped me to learn, reflect, admit or criticize different issues and be more demanding with myself. It also opened new horizons for life. I promote European Cinema because I believe in its ultimate force of cultural expression. Indeed, European Cinema mostly conveys messages that made Europe. Sometimes, I feel that Europeans forget that nourishing their values has been a major achievement. People take many things for granted these days. In my view, we live in times when core European values shall remain consolidated and Cinema is an excellent ambassador for this. Cinema has a magical power – a quality film is never just an audiovisual journey; it moves you, saddens you and makes you laugh – and one realizes he/she has learned something new. In one word, we could even make ourselves better through films. If we do so, the world will become a little brighter too.

Women in Film is a hot topic today. What is your take on the situation of women in today’s film industry on both international and European levels and across all sectors?

T.T.: I agree with your wording – “Women in Film is a hot topic” today. I have been very careful with it. I am never ashamed to say openly that I was not fully clear about the skyrocketing popularity of the topic and often voiced skepticism. When I say this, I mean the urgency of having a better understanding of what female empowerment really means. It took time. I attended various events related to the subject, I spoke to people and I started reflecting on it. In short, when a profession is historically male-dominated and there are lots of clichés around, time will come to simply prove the opposite. It is about having equal chances and making fair entry points and fair decisions. To me, both men and women, shall be able to make films from any professional perspective related to the filmmaking process. When it is not the case, let’s work on improvements then! I don’t think that someone needs to question this topic anymore. Lots of research has been done and it is a given fact that women are underrepresented in many ways in Cinema. Time’s up, as they say! Now, the most important thing is to create practical means in order to achieve equality.

What about Georgia, a country where the number of female filmmakers is increasing? Georgia is conservative when it comes to women, but in film, this is what forces them into action. Is the amount of successful women working in the Georgian film industry a reaction to this?

T.T.: One reason why I came across this topic at a later stage is the fact that Georgian Cinema has always been dominated by a solid presence of female writers/directors.  Almost all generations in Georgian Cinema had vibrant names. It is a topic of its own! Just to name a few women belonging to different generations: Lana Ghoghoberidze, Nana Janelidze, Nana Dzordzjadze, Nino Kirtadze, Nana Ekvtimishvili, Rusudan Chkonia, Russudan Glurjidze, Keti Machavariani Ana Urushadze and many more.

The new movement of Georgian Cinema is also very female-friendly. Titles like My Happy Family, Brides, Scary Mother, Salt White, Keep Smiling, House of Others and many more are all directed by women. In my view, women turned out to be stronger when coping with the harshness of the economic transition to capitalism and they were not afraid to tell their own stories in the language of Cinema. They went bold. They created strong female characters. They made viewers question our perception of the “role of a mother” in a family, in society, in the world.

You moderated and organized the “Gender Equality – Myth and Reality” conference at this year’s Odesa International Film Festival. What was the motivation behind it? Can you talk about it?

T.T.: Yes, I am very pleased with my new partnership with the Odesa International Film Festival – namely, Vyktoria Tigipko and Julia Sinkevych – who offered me to create the event titled “Cinema: Backstage.” This Conference is a new layer of the well-established Film Industry Office and taps deep into the understanding of a globally significant film area; analyzes its relevance in relation to the Ukrainian industry and identifies alignments and/or critical standpoints. For precisely this reason, we decided to identify the Gender Equality Agenda as the topic of the first edition of the conference. The Gender Equality Agenda is not the highest priority in our countries nowadays. Opinions vary weather it really is a burning issue or not. In this spirit, it was very timely to talk about the real notion of gender equality.  In the first part of the event, the participants were guided through a European and international policy framework by key professionals such as Roberto Olla, the Executive Director of the Council of Europe Film Fund – EURIMAGES, Hanna Slak, the representative of the European Women’s Audiovisual Network – EWA,  Éric Garandeau, Consultant and Adviser to the Minister of Culture of France, and Kate Kinninmont, Chief Executive of Women in Film & TV UK. In partnership with the British Council Ukraine, we presented findings from the Report on Gender Equality and Empowerment in the Creative Sector of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine for 2018, conducted by the British Council Ukraine. For the purpose of putting the presented policies into a practical perspective, we also gave floor to industry representatives from both the region and Europe who reflected upon the reality and pragmatic perspectives of the presented policies. The second part welcomed critical thinking and feedback aiming at better distilling what a Gender Equality Agenda actually means in reality. Its speakers were Julia Sinkevych, the general producer of the Odesa International Film Festival, Yaroslava Kravchenko the founder of Wild Theatre in Ukraine, Polish producer Ewa Puszczynska, Georgian director Nana Janelidze, Hanna Slak, and Belorussian director Darya Zhuk.  I was very happy to see how engaged the audience was. I dare to think that the event contributed to a better understanding of the Agenda as a reality, not as a myth.

According to you – again, as policy-maker –, is gender equality more a myth or a reality? And, how realistic is the 50/50 by 2020 goal that was touched upon during the event and that many institutions are working toward, including the Council of Europe?

T.T.: At this stage, I think it is a reality for a number of solid organizations who have embedded it in their action plans. I admire all the people who thought the topic through and who made us realize there is a need for improvement. The EWA Network, Eurimages, WFTV, the Swedish Film Institute and many more are strategic institutions that contribute to the whole process.  The fact that the 50/50 by 2020 strategy exists on the Council of Europe level is a clear achievement too. It is a constant reminder. It is a shining signal calling for improvement:  let’s make entry points equal and fair! Will it be fully met by 2020?! I don’t know. Probably not at all levels. But a healthy process has started and this counts. I also fully acknowledge that for many film professionals, the gender equality strategy is a myth. It is a form of a better promotion and visibility of female talent – nothing more. This does not frighten me, though. I always prefer healthy skepticism to unconditional consensus. Let’s not forget that myth itself is formed out of stories that were true to a specific group or culture. It means the subject has found its nest and now, its champions have to transform this myth into a clear narrative accepted on a wider level.

Are you a feminist?

T.T.: I have just realized that no one has ever asked me this before… Well, let me remind you that I come from a country with a traumatic socio-political History and complex realities. In Soviet times, as well as in post-Soviet Georgia, we tend to use “ist” suffix very often… We glorified personalities, or movements and then we would mostly be disappointed or feel abandoned. Due to this, I am inclined not to associate myself with specific or doctrinal practice or movements. I think I suffer from Historical trauma in that sense… I am just one woman who comes from post-Soviet Georgia; someone who held top management position in the regional context of South Caucasus in my mid-twenties and someone who managed the GNFC in her early thirties and gave a chance to a number of female debuts in Georgian Cinema and whose team mostly consisted of women. I am afraid I am just a realist. I enjoy making things happen. I am probably not a feminist. But maybe I am an action-oriented dreamer?



This interview was conducted in partnership with: 

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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