Glory to the Queen takes us by the hand into a world we have often heard about, but which we are not completely familiar with. A charming, extremely fascinating and all-female world. Not one, but four contemporary stories that immediately give us a welcome feeling of optimism.
Nona Gaprindashvili, Maia Tschiburdanidze, Nana Alexandria and Nana Iosseliani. What do these four women have in common? Simple: during the Cold War, they ensured that their nation, Georgia, could have a source of pride. The four women, in fact, were in their time great chess champions. They are therefore the protagonists of the documentary Glory to the Queen, directed by Tatia Skhirtladze and premiered at the Diagonale 2021.
The four champions have been true heroines for their country in the past. So much so that numerous girls born in those years were even called Nona, Nana or Maia. And so, the director, through a journey between past and present, shows us the great impact that both the four women and chess itself has had and continues to have on the national culture.
Interviews, archive footage, but also scenes from chess championships or images of the four protagonists walking through the streets of the city accompany us throughout the screening. Past and present alternate, mingle, merge. And through an important past we see what becomes of the present today. In Georgia, chess has always been an important game. Suffice it to say that women used to bring a chessboard as dowry to their weddings as proof of their intelligence. It is not surprising, then, that our four protagonists had such a strong influence on the lives of citizens.
Away from the chess world, the champions have a normal life. There are those who let themselves be filmed by the camera while cooking for their family (even though they never cooked in real life), those who take a walk in the park with their mum, but also those who, years later, now far away from the chess world, dedicate themselves to creating new perfumes. During the Cold War, a clear image of the champions had to be conveyed to the audience. Yet their life was not just that. Their life was much more. And in Glory to the Queen, the director also shows us what it is like to participate in competitions, to live in constant tension and even to have to take care of one’s physical fitness in order to be able to endure everything.
To this end, a rather classic mise-en-scene proved to be the best solution for this documentary: archive images or more recent interviews and moments relating to the competitions alternate in a balanced way, avoiding any rhetoric while creating a good narrative rhythm. The viewer, for his part, is fascinated by the story of these four women and slowly becomes more and more fond of them, who, in turn, soon become familiar figures. Glory to the Queen, then, takes us by the hand into a world we have often heard about, but which we are not completely familiar with. A charming, extremely fascinating and all-female world. Not one, but four contemporary stories that immediately give us a welcome feeling of optimism.
Original title: Glory to the Queen
Directed by: Tatia Skhirtladze
Country/year: Austria, Germany, Russia / 2020
Running time: 82’
Screenplay: Ina Ivanceanu, Tatia Skhirtladze
Cinematography: Sebastian Thaler
Produced by: berg hammer film, Amour Fou Vienna, 1991 Productions, Playground produkcija