The season’s first snows drop a muffling layer upon Berlin, and our palette from sidewalk to walls of the hof out the window to sky is an unchanging greyish monochrome. As a kind of sensory tonic, the Galerie Für Moderne Fotografie and the Georgian artist collective Goslab present a screening of ‘When the Earth Seems to Be Light’ this Friday. The documentary follows a small crew of skaters in Tbilisi, and has received accolades for its truly cinematic take on the documentary form. Don’t expect any infographics or dry testimonials: the film is a rush of color and movement splaying through the city and its outskirts and the sound editing is ripe with texture over a brooding ambient score. All the same, directors Salome Machaidze, Tamuna Karumidze, and David Meskhi never lose sight of the skaters.
As much as ‘When the Earth…’ is not a textbook documentary, neither is it a souped-up skate film. The riotous beauty of storm clouds rolling over Georgian plains feels just as authentic as the shots of homemade skate ramps made of cinderblocks and wood pallets. What keeps the film so real, keeps it from just being a shiny movie about “disaffected youth in Post-Soviet Georgia” (like something one might expect to see peddled on Dazed & Confused) is the trust and care with which the directors approach the skate crew. They are peers, albeit from a different generation: Machaidze, Karumidze, and Meskhi hail from Tbilisi as well, a city under conservative political and religious control and with nascent histories of skate culture, club culture, cultures that harbor such “disaffected youth”. So when we meet Mishka—an artist and music producer and confidently outspoken—and then Mirian Sulakauri—who is a cook and more quiet than the others—it doesn’t seem like they are being positioned as convenient foils. It’s worth noting that these introductions are carried out in the beginning of the movie by Sandrik, another skater, as Machaidze asks of the others, “and who’s that?”
Interesting, too, is that we get to see the musician, model, and actor Lukas Ionesco skate around Tbilisi and through Meskhi’s shots, while two years ago he starred in Larry Clark’s Paris skate flick ‘The Smell of Us’. ‘When the Earth Seems to Be Light’ could act as a kind of tonic to that movie, too. Whereas Clark wants to see skateboarders as nubile demons, immoral and dripping with adolescent sexuality (which, undoubtedly, some are), here we see the crew in Tbilisi as people. Complicated people in a complicated city, yes. But this is depicted with dignity, by a camera that feels ravenous without being invasive.
The Galerie für Moderne Fotografie is running an exhibition of Meskhi’s photos until the 28th of this month; read our interview with Meskhi here.
‘When the Earth Seems to Be Light’
Screening: Friday, Jan. 13, 2017; 8PM
Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 30, 10178 Berlin, click here for map
GALERIE FüR MODERNE FOTOGRAPHIE
Exhibition: Nov. 11, 2016—Jan 28, 2017
Schröderstraße 13, 10115 Berlin, click here for map