USSR, Goskinprom of Georgia, 1930, 37 minutes
On July 20, 1930 the USSR premiere of the documentary film “Buba”, made for the joint-stock film company Goskinprom of Georgia by the first Georgian woman director Nutsa (Nino) Gogoberidze, artist David Kakabadze and cameraman Sergey Zabozlaev took place.
The film had the subtitle "A Story from the Life of the Mountainous Racha" and told about a village cut off from the outside world, located at the height of 2,000 meters in the region of Racha near Mount Buba. The existence of its inhabitants was completely dependent on the seasons and changeable weather, and their way of life could be called medieval.
In Soviet cinema of the 1920s-early 1930s, educational documentaries occupied an important place (often they also included staged episodes). Following the tradition of such kulturfilms, in "Buba" the progressive achievements of the new Soviet society were opposed to primitive village life.
The director of the film, Nutsa Gogoberidze, was also the author of the script. “Buba” is her second film work. Prior to that, she directed the compilation documentary “Their Kingdom” (1928) with Mikhail Kalatozishvili (who later became known as Kalatozov). Out of this “newsreel picture” (as Gogoberidze and Kalatozishvili called it in a short manifesto published in the journal of Georgian futurists "Memartskheneoba"), only two large fragments have survived, but they are enough to demonstrate the authors' active interest in the avant-garde experiments of that time.
A vivid reminder of Gogoberidze's previous work in "Buba" is an episode with a dance of villagers before the departure of carpenters to seasonal work. It refers to the famous protest dance in the classic film of Georgian - and world - avant-garde “Eliso” (1928, directed by Nikolay Shengelaya). Familiarity with the principles of avant-garde film editing is also felt in the striking episode of harvesting.
However, the potential radicalism of such moments - so important for the famous "ethnographic" film "Salt for Svanetia" by Kalatozov (released in May 1930) - is softened by Gogoberidze's tactful and, at the same time, deep, almost metaphysical sense of customs, rituals, human and natural rhythms of life (prior to her work in cinema, Gogoberidze collected Georgian folklore and studied philosophy).
A significant contribution to the stylistic achievements of “Buba” was made by the artist David Kakabadze, who had a keen sense of Georgian culture and had had an education in international avant-garde (while Gogoberidze studied in Germany at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Jena, he was actively involved in artistic experiments in France). The cinematography of Sergey Zabozlaev also should be noted: he started to work in cinema in the early 1920s, was sensitive to the individual preferences of the filmmakers who worked with him and knew how to combine the monumental and the decorative in the natural and cultural wealth that surrounded him.
Shortly after its release, "Buba" was banned. What caused this? Perhaps, overloading the with “neutral” religious images, or the unfolding criticism of kulturfilm as a simplified cinematic form that interferes with the full-fledged development of Soviet cinema. One way or another, "Buba" spent many years in oblivion and has only recently been rediscovered by the international film community.