Apr 14, 2017 at 8:30 pm
Letters To Max
Conversation following the screening with Eric Baudelaire
What is the job of a diplomat for a country that does not exist? With this question, acclaimed filmmaker Eric Baudelaire initiates a wide-ranging correspondence with his friend Maxim Gvinjia, former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Abkhazia, a country with physical borders, a government and its own flag, but has not been recognized as a nation. A small state by the Black Sea, Abkhazia is an independent country depending on who you ask. It seceded from Georgia after the 1992-1993 civil war (which saw Russian troops assisting its efforts, much like they did in South Ossetia, and more recently in the Crimea). But it was never recognized by the United Nations or by most of the world’s countries. Only Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru have done so.
In Letters to Max, a fascinating discussion with Max transpires through a series of short letters where each letter poses a question (about Max’s political career, about his country, about the war, about life after the war) which Max answers on the film’s soundtrack, illustrated by beautiful and impressionistic images of the place itself. It is a remarkably forthright, poetic and insightful conversation about an isolated conflict that has come to be viewed less of an anomaly and more of a precursor in this post-cold war landscape.
Letters to Max
103 min., 2014
Abkhazia is something of a paradox: a country that exists, in the physical sense of the word (a territory with borders, a government, a flag and a language), yet it has no legal existence because for almost twenty years it was not recognized by any other nation state. And so Abkhazia exists without existing, caught in a liminal space, a space in between realities. Which is why my letter to Max was something of a message in a bottle thrown at sea, a wink to the world of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi that Maxim Gvinjia seems to inhabit. But my letter arrived, and somehow fiction has penetrated the real.”
And so Eric Baudelaire launched on a letter writing campaign, 74 letters sent over 74 days, a script for a voiceover to a film in which Maxim Gvinjia, former Foreign Minister of the unrecognized state of Abkhazia, becomes the narrator. The film is structured by this exchange: letters that should not have arrived and yet somehow reached Max, his recorded responses, and images that Eric Baudelaire filmed in Abkhazia once their correspondence ended.
Eric Baudelaire is a French artist and filmmaker. His first feature, The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years Without Images (2011) retraced the revolutionary wanderings of the Japanese Red Army between Beirut and Tokyo. It premiered at FIDMarseille and won the Special Jury Prize at DocLisboa. The Ugly One (2013), which premiered at Locarno, was his first narrative feature. Also made in collaboration with underground filmmaker and former Red Army militant Masao Adachi, the film extended,through fiction, questions of resistance and regret raised in The Anabasis… Baudelaire’s research-based practice also includes photography, printmaking and publications which have been shown in installations alongside his films in solo exhibitions at Bétonsalon in Paris, the Bergen Kunsthall, the Beirut Art Center, Gasworks in London, the Taipei Biennial 2012, and Berlin Documentary Forum 2.
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