Bergamo Film Meeting festival awards ’City of the Sun’

Oneli's work has been praised at international festivals for its selection of characters. Photo:, 19 Mar 2018 - 17:10, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian director Rati Oneli’s acclaimed documentary City of the Sun has been distinguished with yet another international prize, this time at the Bergamo Film Meeting festival in Italy.

The feature, a recipient of awards at Sarajevo and ZagrebDox festivals among other events, was selected for the CGIL Commission Prize that serves to distinguish films linked to labour issues.

Awarded by local union officials to the best film that deal with issues linked to labour market, the prize went to Oneli’s portrayal of the lives and struggles of residents in western Georgia’s Chiatura mining town.

What emerges from the film is that we can and must remain human beings: the protagonists manage to survive in a state of poverty which is always lived with great dignity [...]”.
But most of all we decided to honor this film because it focuses on how we need a job in order to reach a complete identity, and to have dreams and perspectives [...] the film shows us how, being deprived of the dignity and certainty of a job, we all become vulnerable and liable to be blackmailed”, said a release by the festival.

City of the Sun screened at the Bergamo event, an "international exhibition of auteur cinema”, within its Seen from Near section. The program presented 15 documentary works not yet released in Italy.

Festival organisers summarised Oneli’s feature as an illustration of "extraordinary characters unfold[ing] amidst the ruins of a semi-abandoned mining town”.

The film centres around Chiatura, a supplier of about half of the world's manganese demand during the Soviet era.

The feature centres around Chiatura, a town almost entirely dependent on industrial employment. Photo: Bergamo Film Meeting.

Located in the Imereti province, the city and its residents were hit with economic hardship since the dissolution of the USSR.

With mining operations still almost the only source of employment for locals, their lives revolve around the industrial infrastructure and operation.

A co-production between Georgia, the United States, Qatar, and the Netherlands, it was filmed by Oneli, prompted by impressions of the town to return to Georgia from his residence in New York.

I went to visit the city and knew that I had to actually stay and do something. And I moved because of that from New York to Georgia and I spent last three-and-a-half years basically in or around the city, making the film”, the filmmaker told DocumentaMadrid audience in Spain last year.

City of the Sun received the principal award of the Madrid festival, which followed the German Federal Foreign Office’s Award for Cultural Diversity at the goEast festival in Wiesbaden.

Born in Tbilisi, Oneli specialised in Middle East studies and international affairs at Free University Tbilisi as well as Columbia University of New York. The director also pursued a degree in philosophy from the European Graduate School in Switzerland.

His previous cinema work includes short films Leitmotif (2012) and Theo (2011).

The Bergamo Film Meeting festival ran from March 10-18.