USSR, Goskinprom of Georgia, 1934, 46 minutes
Scriptwriters: Shalva Dadiani, Nutsa Gogoberidze
Director: Nutsa Gogoberidze
Cameraman: Shalva Apakidze
Production designer: Mikhail Gotsiridze
Cast: Kote Daushvili, Merab Chiqovani, Nutsa Chkheidze, Ivlita Djorjadze
Released at the end of 1934, the film "Ujmuri" ("Desperate Valley") became the third and last in the directing career of Nutsa (Nino) Gogoberidze. In 1937, her husband, a prominent party functionary Levan Gogoberidze, was illegally persecuted during the Great Purges and shot, while she was sentenced to ten years of exile, after which she did not return to the cinema and got a job at the Institute of Lexicology of the Academy of Sciences of the Georgian SSR.
The tragic fate of Nutsa Gogoberidze directly influenced the dramatic fate of “Ujmuri”, the first Georgian fiction film directed by a woman. The film was “removed” from the history of cinema.
"Ujmuri" was released at the end of the silent era (the last silent films were made in the USSR in 1935), when the sound that had come to cinema had already achieved tangible technical and creative successes. But Gogoberidze successfully continued her stylistic experiments, demonstrating ingenuity and skill, for which no small credit is due to the cameraman Shalva Apakidze (in 1932 he had brilliantly shot Mikhail Kalatozov’s agitational film "The Nail in the Boot").
In the catalogs the film is designated as a film essay, but it can more justly be called a "class melodrama". The spectacular, picturesque, and decorative "extremes" of the silent style brought the conflict between innovators, supporters of collectivization, and backward, dangerous retrogrades to the level of an epic clash of the forces of good and evil (including mythological evil).
Gogoberidze and her co-writer Shalva Dadiani (by that time a well-known novelist and playwright) chose the theme of the irreconcilable conflict of the old and the new very much in the spirit of the times: in the second half of the 1920s, it had already become an integral part of Soviet cinema.
Thus, the first documentary film "Their Kingdom" (1928) directed by Gogoberidze together with Kalatozov and clearly made under the influence of Esfir Shub, contrasted the pre-Soviet, bourgeois Georgia with the Georgia of victorious socialism. The director's second film, “Buba” (1930), also compared - and also within the conventions of documentary cinema - the backwardness of the past and the optimistic reality of the present. In "Ujmuri" Gogoberidze, criticizing the resistance of life on its way out, combined the picturesqueness of "Buba" with a dramatic plot, which includes everything: family conflicts, industrial relations, and the eradication of superstitions.
It would be appropriate to compare “Ujmuri”, one of the last Georgian silent films, with the first Georgian sound film “Mountain Arshaula” by Davit Rondeli, released in early 1936 (its cameraman was also Shalva Apakidze). Rondeli’s film also talked about the struggle between the new and the old (only not in the lowlands of Georgia, but at the foot of Mount Kazbek). In it, as in “Ujmuri”, rich kulaks turned superstitious villagers against socialist construction and its enthusiasts. However, "Mountain Arshaula" has remained in the history of cinema rather as a “relic” of the Georgian sound film, while "Ujmuri", which was mercilessly deleted from it, today has justly taken its rightful place in it as a mature and unique work of art.
Monumental compositions of human figures and clear-cut, attractive human faces with special attention to the eyes - even the main villain looks like a fairy-tale character (perhaps this also led to the censorship’s rejection of the film); the contrast between the shots of the Komsomol construction site and the slow-paced rural life; parallel editing (a table is being set - people and machines are working vigorously); introduction of a sense of sound into a silent image by showing people's reactions to the noise of the construction site or to the buzzing of swamp mosquitoes) - these techniques, perfected during the period of silent cinema, become in “Ujmuri” not only symbols of the transition between two eras, but also evidence of the great, not fully realized talent of Nutsa Gogoberidze.
The infamous Colchis wetlands in Georgia. According to an ancient legend, the swamp belongs to Queen Ujmuri, the zealous keeper of these lands. The locals are afraid of the swamp, but the Soviet authorities do not pander to superstitions and decide to drain the swamp and build a water supply system.