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Brosse Street Journal » Arts and Culture:

Gia Chanturia - Director, Musician, Cartoonist, Revolutionary

By Farid Iskenderov
Brosse Street Journal
Monday, April 25 2005
Print article  |  Mail article   

After a 10-minute wait he walks into his office. The walls are dark blue. In the center of the working area are big orange shelves without backs so the workers can see each other.

Suddenly the door opened, and Gia Chanturia entered. Heís in his forties, big and looks like an athlete, not a cartoon director who is famous for his animated films of former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze before the 2003 election.

His grandparents were famous philologists. He liked etymology sciences, so he decided to become a scientist.

"My grandparentsí names would have helped me pass the exams I needed," he says. "But
I needed freedom, and these names would have affected my own achievements." He said he could never be like his grandparents because he doesnít have enough talents in philology.

He has two sons and a daughter, who is the eldest. She is 12, and her father says she has a creative imagination.

"Sometimes she even gives me good ideas," Chanturia said. "But my little son helps more. The elder son and daughter are growing up now. They have their own interests and friends."

Chanturia says the older we get, the more we die. "Sometimes I want to become a child," he said.

As he spoke, he created a ring from some childrenís red clay, energetically using his hands and then cleaning his desk afterward.

He says itís good practice for making cartoons. "They didnít play with us in schools, and we went on to waste our time in the streets," he said. "My parents brought me up telling fairy tales."

His own three-year-old son watches his fatherís cartoons and then uses words he heard on them like "confidential." He asks about the meanings of the words and his father carefully explains.

"Maybe itís bad for him to watch political cartoons," Chanturia said. "Sometimes our
guests are astonished hearing such words from a three-year-old boy. He watched Mauqli (a Tarzan-like character) and now likes wolves, but doesnít like tigers."

He said there are two important things to know about animation: itís good that
children will watch any cartoon, but bad because they will watch even low-grade ones. "Make a cartoon, and they will certainly watch it," Chanturia said.

"When an actor plays a role, you see some of his person. But in a cartoon the director is more free. Cartoons have another advantage: they donít exasperate. They are soft, but create the effect you need. In addition, you have more possibilities to work with pictures and make jokes and allegories."
He began writing scenarios for his films at 16 "or maybe earlier. I donít remember exactly now". He kept writing through high school, then for "Club of the Cheerful and the Quickest," a famous TV game show in Soviet times. He also played the game himself until the Soviet Union broke up. The Georgian team went to Moscow, but was told it could no longer participate.

"Movies needs a lot of money, equipment and people," he said. "But singers need only a guitar. So I began. We were singing in undergrounds. Mixed vocals and folk. It sounded like
alternative rock. And we had to earn money.

"But we were new and drew a crowd. They ordered some of our music. Somebody even recorded us on camera; I donít know who."

They had long hair, so it became a hippie movement. "People loved us. "It was cheerful, but difficult."

His family didnít want him to go on behaving in such a way. He kept singing louder and louder, as if in protest.

This continued until 1996, when a major Tbilisi musical festival called Margarita was organized for the first time in Victory (now Vake) Park. There was one day for each music style: jazz, rock, and folk. Chanturiaís group decided to play on the rock day, but the organizers said there were too many rock bands. The same with folk bands. The only shortage was on jazz day.

The group, which consisted of six men at the time, performed three rhythmic compositions. At the end of the festival, all the winning bands were announced, but their group didnít hear their names.

"We just thought: íWho gives prizes to underground musicians?í We were walking away, and at that moment a voice advertised the Grand Prix winner. We won it!"

The band won strings and other equipment they very much needed, and began to play again. Later they broke up. One of the band members is in Tbilisi; others are in
France and Poland.

Chanturia then he worked as a disc jockey on different radio stations, and began creating advertisements. He even worked for a while at a drinks factory.

He began working in animation at age 23. "I saw that I didnít like writing," he said. "My girlfriend always had to help me." Chanturia and some associates continued to create advertisements. He bought a computer with money he had earned, tried all kind of techniques, and then made a cartoon on it. It was the first time in Georgia.

In those times, the heads of companies had decided that the computer was an enemy of the arts. They didnít realize that making cartoons on tape was cheaper. Chanturiaís group wanted to try it, but the officials didnít.

Chanturia says a human has to create. "It is our function. Thereís a part of us that wants to say something. Someone is a rock-climber, someone else is a singer. The simplest way to create is to either write or show something."

In 1989 he married and began a family. He admits he is permissive with his children. "I know they donít have to suffer. I prefer to suffer myself. I think Southern nations have this feature: we think weíre good parents, but weíre not. When a mother doesnít want to let go of a son, she is worrying about him for her own reasons. As for me, itís selfishness. But they certainly love us.

"After the Soviet ideology, thereís a lack of faith in God among Georgian
people. I think we cannot stop some things. I control my children so they will not get into narcotics. I was brought up in Didube, a very dangerous district of Tbilisi for such things. Itís very easy to deceive parents in such cases. And I had lots of possibilities to get into trouble. But nobody could convince me to do it."

He said his parents knew very little about religion. "Now we have such a faith problems, too," he says. Chanturia believes these problems began 200 years ago when Georgia joined with Russia. He points out there was a time when Georgian films were specially dubbed with
a national accent to show that the film was from Georgia. But they said we were a single nation. "Do they translate American films with American accents?" he asks.

He was in his second year in the philology faculty at Georgian State University when Zviad Gamsakhurdia began his Georgian national movement. He missed many classes while he took part in the mass protests. He says it was a good period in Georgia, but unsuccessful.

"Later, in (Georgian president Eduard) Shevardnadzeís time, I decided there was no room for science in my life. I wrote short stories, evaluated life, and thought the right time would come."

And it came. Before the Rose Revolution in 2003, Chanturia was making cartoons about Shevardnadze for television. His group was making 145 episodes per year and each of them was 10 minutes long.

"One episode of my cartoons was more effective than a demonstration in the city center," he said. "Even though I thought they were nothing special."

His next two to three years should be filled with work. Heís planning to make a cartoon of the famous Georgian literature tale "The Knight in the Panther Skin."

"The creative technology will be a first for the whole world," he says. "It will look something like animated old colored engravings." He says the cartoon will appeal to adults as much as children.

Now heís working on a new cartoon version of the "Argonauts" story. "I will announce a full-length film with a little humor. We need a little humor in our culture in something besides the music."

Thereís a conflict in his impetuous heart as he considers several new ideas: movies, plays, music and cartoons. But he one goal: to win an Oscar. For a film, a play, a cartoon, it doesnít matter. He just wants to win an Oscar.

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