In the latest international recognition for her debut feature Beginning, filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili claimed the principal prize of the Trieste Film Festival in Italy on Sunday.
The drama centred around a young woman in a rural Georgian village was the juries' choice for the Best Feature Film at the 32nd edition of the festival. The Georgian-French co-production earned the panel's unanimous decision for the selection.
Kulumbegashvili's work was praised at the festival as a "debut film displaying a rare authorial confidence, as well as pure stylistic coherence". The judges also lauded Ia Sukhitashvili as "the astonishing lead actress" of the feature and said the acting, visual and audio elements of the film "continually encourage viewers to question their opinions on this astounding and thrilling story".
In Beginning, Yana, a Jehovah's Witness living in a small countryside village, encounters hostility from locals and law enforcement due to both her religious beliefs and her gender.
International Film Festival Rotterdam called it a "rock-solid debut [which] deals much more in female strength than in helplessness", pointing to the protagonist's decision to "strike at the very roots of patriarchal society" in response to the persecution.
The Dutch festival, set to run this month, selected the film for the Limelight programme, with Kulumbegashvili finding herself in the company of acclaimed cinema personalities like director Andrei Konchalovsky.
For the director, the Trieste award follows prizes for Beginning at eight international festivals, including four honours in San Sebastian and a Toronto International Film Fest prize. The film has also been picked as Georgia's bid for the next Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.