An essay by Davit Gabunia, screenwriter for 'Opening Night'
August, 2008 – nobody will ever forget this month in Georgia. No matter how hard you try, the feeling of terror and sorrow for the killed will stay with you as it did with me. On August 8, very early in the morning I received a phone call: was my younger sister crying that our 19-year-old cousin, Shalva, got killed during a bombardment of a military base in Western Georgia, far from the conflict zone of South Ossetia. Nobody could even suspect that those reservist troops, consisting mostly of young guys, would be attacked by Russian war jets but it happened. During those days I was in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia where I live, desperately trying to continue writing a comedy I was commissioned by a theater long before the war started; trying not to think about the disaster Georgia found itself caught in. I’m not a politician, not judging anyone, not trying to find the guilty, but I couldn’t stay calm those days and kept posting on different international websites for 24 hours a day… Trying not to think about my dead cousin, trying not to think that he was buried far from Tbilisi in our hometown Poti, at the Black Sea side; trying not to think about the fact that I couldn’t travel to my hometown to attend his funeral because the roads were blocked; (trying not to think about) wanting to be by the side of my relatives during those terrible days.
When a friend of mine, director Khatuna Giorgobiani, was proposed to shoot a short film for VPRO Backlight, she immediately contacted me asking to write a script for the film. To be honest, I met this proposal with very little enthusiasm, as it is quite a difficult task to write about the war which has just ended, not enough time has passed for analyzing the events with cold blood. But, starting the script of Opening Night, I probably had a kind of egotistic desire to share my pain, fear and anxiety with others; the desire to show how my family suffered the death of a 19-year-old guy; how inadequate were my attempts not to think about this tragic death. I picked up the phone and told Khatuna that I would write a script about a young actress who plays Juliet and whose brother gets killed in August when she has the opening night of Romeo and Juliet. The story seemed unrealistic, no Georgian theater would ever do this – hold an opening night during the war… but we did in our film.
It’s awkwardly hard to talk openly about deeply private things to unknown people, perhaps that’s why we chose to make a fiction film, not a documentary: it gives us a chance to be fictive, to keep away from reality and at the same time to come closer to it. For me personally, Opening Night is the attempt to convey the feelings I had after my cousin’s death; to show the controversy of the human nature that doesn’t’ tolerate death and the inevitability of accepting reality as it is. The heroine of the film won’t accept the death of her brother: she tries to escape from it in the world of theater. What is this? Weakness or strength? Lust for life or stone-heartedness? It’s up to the public to judge.
This film is not dedicated to the memory of the people who died during the August war in Georgia, it is dedicated to all people who tried to reject the war and its terrible consequences, either in their minds or actions, and who couldn’t; to the moments of truth when one can confess with the simple words:
Screenwriter for 'Opening Night'