by Goran Rebić
During the Many Years is a picture taken during a particularly crucial period in Georgia’s history. It is an honest and sincere documentary that aims to give us a closer look at a reality we have often heard about, but of which few know the true essence. And in its extreme simplicity, it knows how to be more alive and pulsating than ever. At the Viennale 2022, section Österreich real.
In a period of transition
How can a war change the lives of people and an entire nation? How can it change reality when a nation begins a new, important chapter in its history? Director Goran Rebić tried to answer such complex questions back in 1991, when he made the documentary During the Many Years, which was re-presented to the audience on the occasion of the Viennale 2022, as part of the Filmarchiv Austria’s Österreich real retrospective.
In making During the Many Years, therefore, Rebić travelled to Tblisi, Georgia, in the first year after independence from the Soviet Union and just one year before the civil war. The signs of the old regime are still visible, yet people seem to want to start a normal life again. A life in which the customs and traditions of their people are constantly part of everyday life, in which, at last, people can regain their own identity.
In During the Many Years, Goran Rebić’s camera is immediately close to what is being filmed. Small folklore events brighten up the streets of the city. Buildings and monuments often take centre stage. A woman plays a German song. Rehearsals for new plays take place in a theatre. And, in the meantime, people from time to time tell their stories and their hopes for a better future before the camera.
No one knows yet that, unfortunately, war would break out about a year later. And in this interesting as well as aleatory transitional period, the scenes each time filmed by Goran Rebić seem almost like faded photographs. Images of distant times destined to vanish forever. The director, for his part, was immediately close to this reality, to the point of wanting to delve further into it even after the outbreak of the civil war. And only a year later, this little and interesting During the Many Years would be complemented by another fundamental documentary: At the Edge of the World.
A simple and essential directorial approach, in which no use of music is made – with the exception, precisely, of purely diegetic music – proved to be the right way to tell the story of what was happening in a country that had long suffered and would suffer even more in the years to come. And yet, in spite of everything, there always seems to be an albeit faint hope. Just as is indicated by the CCCP inscription on the wing of a plane, which, at the conclusion of the documentary, is gradually obscured by shadow. During the Many Years is a picture taken during a particularly crucial period in Georgia’s history. It is an honest and sincere documentary that aims to give us a closer look at a reality we have often heard about, but of which few know the true essence. And in its extreme simplicity, it knows how to be more alive and pulsating than ever.