Since Otar Left (Depuis qu'Otar est parti...)


I saw this movie at the DC Film Festival and it was one of my favorite selections. Since Otar Left is about a family in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia who has to keep a terrible secret from their elderly mother about the death of her beloved only son.

Eka (Esther Gorintin) is the aging matriarch of a family who is struggling to survive since the demise of communism. Their tiny apartment is home to her daughter Marina (Nino Khomasuridze), Marinaís daughter Ada (Dinara Drukarova), and her cherished son Otar (Gotcha Darbaidze), who provides most of the familyís income. Eka is in love with Paris and once lived there and her stories of her life in Paris inspire Otar to move there. The work he plans to find there surpasses anything that he can get in Georgia. Being the good son that he is, he phones and sends letter and money regularly. One day, Marina received word that Otar was killed and she is naturally devastated, however this is compounded by the fact that she has to tell her mother and she is unsure how to do this or the consequences thereof.

She decides to keep Otarís death a secret and forge letters and sells off her own meager possessions to provide money in the envelopes. This ruse works well until, Eka decides to travel to Paris to visit Otar, and purchases tickets for Marina and Ada to go along. The setting then moves to Paris where Eka begins the search for her son and the other two can do little but wait for the inevitable discovery.

After years of being in competition for their motherís affection, you would think that Marina would happily announce Otarís death to her mother, but it is a darker, and even deeper self-serving motivation that causes her to keep her brotherís expiration date hidden. While it may not be so obvious to us, Ada clearly has her motherís intentions pegged and wants out of the charade. She has her own goals in life and aiding in her motherís sham is not helping her achieve them.

Since Otar Left is touching, and even funny in some places. You feel a little guilty with the knowledge you have of Otarís demise and that really only adds to the sympathetic disposition of Ekaís character. Director Julie Bertucelli orchestrates it so that we wonít want her to learn of her sonís fate yet at the same time we'll want to find out how, or even if she does, discover the tragic truth. Will she learn of her sonís death and her daughterís deception and if so, how will she react to it? The movie ends with some bittersweet closure and perhaps a little sadness, but not for who you might think.

I truly enjoyed this selection and the response of the festival audience was largely positive as well. The movie is spoken interchangeably in French, Russian, and Georgian. This is the first films at the festival and I found it worth the time I spent watching it. An exceptional film that was exceptionally acted. Art!

Grade: A

Note: If you liked Good Bye Lenin, you'll like this movie, and vice versa.

Czarina's Caustic Comment or Captious Compliment: Since Otar Left shows that some little old grandmothers aren't as gullible as you think.

Since Czarina Left

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