Filmmakers Nino Orjonikidze, Vano Arsenishvili claim UnderhillFest documentary award for 'A Tunnel'

  • Directors Vano Arsenishvili and Nino Orjonikidze appeared at the awards ceremony in Montenegro via a video link. Photo via UnderhillFest., 25 Jun 2020 - 18:21, Tbilisi,Georgia

Filmmakers Nino Orjonikidze and Vano Arsenishvili have been awarded the principal prize of the Montenegrin-based UnderhillFest documentary festival for their work A Tunnel, with the two directors appearing at the ceremony via video link on Wednesday.

Juries for the 11th edition of the festival - which focuses on independent productions in the documentary genre - decided to hand their main award to the Georgian creatives and praised the work for its relevance to "social and political context".

The judge panel, comprised of producer Jelena Mišeljić and film directors Ivan Marinović and Gojko Berkuljan, noted the documentary's focus on a community undergoing a radical transformation of their environment as pinpointing a major theme of the current era.


A post shared by UnderhillFest (@underhill_fest) on


In an almost genre-like manner of narration, [in the film] we are faced with a series of questions about the socio-political context of the turmoil between humanism and capitalism."

We are convinced that A Tunnel will remain for future generations as a valuable historical material which, through a seemingly simple narrative, explains perhaps the key moment of the 21st century," the juries said in their summary for the award selection.

The Best Film Award of the international section of the festival follows screenings of the film at the BRIDGES. East of West Film Days festival at Brussels' BOZAR Centre of Fine Arts earlier this year, as well as its premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2019.

Supported by European and Asian cinema development grants, A Tunnel is a Georgian-German co-production that takes a look at rapid transformation of a quiet village in Georgia into a transit location for a railway set to form a chain in China's global Belt and Road trade initiative.


The infrastructural project brings in workers and heavy machinery for digging a tunnel through a mountain, causing uncertainty among locals who use the site for pastures and also have houses nearby.

There are promises of prosperity and progress, but in the dreamy atmosphere of the fairy-tale village, the coming of the express train feels more like a nightmare" - IDFA

Rifts between Georgian and Chinese workers involved in the railway construction add to the scene unfolding as "gorgeous, disengaged shots perfectly reflect the surrealist atmosphere of a changing world order".

Produced at Artefact Production and Ventana Film, the feature involves cinematography by Arsenishvili and sound by Ana Davitashvili.

Orjonikidze previously worked on English Teacher (Best Documentary of Focus Caucasus section at 2013 CineDOC-Tbilisi), Altzaney and The Bridge. The filmmaker was a nominee for prizes at international festivals including DOK Leipzig and Krakow Film Festival.

Arsenishvili contributed to the three films through co-direction, cinematography and editing while also working as the director for Artefact Production.