Smiling Georgia – Raindance Film Festival 2024

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Director: Luka Beradze

Teeth become a community’s most pressing political issue in Luka Beradze’s new documentary Smiling Georgia screening at the Raindance Film Festival 2024 which charts the impact of an incomplete social policy adopted in 2012 which promised a whole town new dentures just before an election. But, having queued to have their decayed teeth removed, the governing party were then extracted from office and their replacement refused to honour the contract, leaving the aging residents toothless. Eight years on Beradze’s cameras return to the Georgian village to meet the people who still resent politicians as a result.

Beradze’s 60-minute film spends some time establishing the seemingly innocuous rural setting where life has a slower pace, governed by cycles of nature, farmland that sustains the local population but its severe deprivation, Beradze shows, has resulted in widespread poverty – meaning that having sacrificed their teeth, few could afford to replace them. In Beradze’s presentation, this is a place on the fringes of political life, where promises are made but more often broken, leaving the villagers in some ways untouched by the changes in government but in others left to suffer the consequences of that neglect.

In that sense, Smiling Georgia is an emotive film filled with people disillusioned with politicians and now suspicious of anything that seems like a freebie – even the television crew that arrives to offer them free dental work, much to the annoyance of the famous presenter. Through interviews with residents and fly-on-the-wall scenes, Beradze captures the stories of lots of different individuals who sacrificed between one and fifteen teeth and the disappointment of being abandoned by the incoming political party, suggesting the widespread impact of making promises either side of an election.

It is an interesting story but in the second half of the film, Smiling Georgia runs out of ideas, focusing on the now older sufferers and their lives but is less sure of what else the documentary wants to say. As a new round of elections begins, the purpose of the film becomes strangely less tangible and the particular focus on dentistry starts to expand into other aspects of rural life – most notably how little ultimately changes for people in Georgia despite the changes in government. It’s an idea that could be expanded further to better understand the sense of betrayal and suspicion that lingers in this village a decade on and to explain why some locals refuse help when it is offered.

Smiling Georgia is screening at the Raindance Film Festivalwhich runs from 19 – 28 June in London cinemas.

The Reviews Hub Score:

Wry smile

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The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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