CFS: ‘Since Otar Left’ explores familial complications

Jenna Galgano

The influence of family on our lives is undeniable, whether that relationship be beneficial to our growth or harmful. The secrets that we keep and the lies that we tell to our families almost always have some reverberations down the line, as the “Since Otar Left” illustrates.

In the film, three generations of women live together in a small, dilapidated apartment in Tbilisi, Georgia, a town devastated by war, a weakened economy and political disorder. Eka is the strong-willed but ailing matriarch; Eka’s daughter, Marina, is a widow; and granddaughter Ada is a university student. These women manage to coexist, even with constant bickering, and help each other cope with their troubles. 

In the film, Eka’s beloved son, Otar, has emigrated to Paris with the hope of becoming financially successful. He sends home whatever money he can save to his sister and niece. Otar’s letters and phone calls home are the highlight of these women’s lives. However, after Marina finds out that Otar has been in an accident, the women’s lives change forever. 

“Since Otar Left” is the first feature film from French writer and director Julie Bertucelli. Bertucelli is a documentarian who developed her skills assisting distinguished directors Bertrand Tavernier and Krzysztof Kieslowski. 

Using what she learned through her documentary training, Bertucelli was able to present the human soul at its finest in “Since Otar Left.” Bertucelli captures the smallest gestures and intimate moments that frame the film. 

This film has not only captivated audiences around the world, but was honored with several prestigious awards. “Since Otar Left” was the winner of the 2003 Grand Prize at Cannes and won the César (the French equivalent of the Oscars) for Best Debut Film. 

The fifth feature in the ongoing Cultural Film & Lecture Series, “I Know a Place,” “Since Otar Left” will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.; Feb. 7 at 3:30 and 7 p.m.; and Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. 

Admission is free for students with ID from any academic institution and $5 for all others. “Since Otar Left” will be screened in its original languages — French, Russian and Georgian. Gustavo Benavides, from the Department of Theologies and Religious Studies, will be at the Monday evening screening to introduce the film and will lead a discussion afterward.