Rezo Chkheidze: “Father of a Soldier raises the question of humanism rather than communism”
Interview by Oleg Kusov, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Interesting guests are always welcomed by Vestnik Kavkaza. Oleg Kusov talks to them not only about the Caucasus. Take My Word is a program which is recorded in video, audio and text formats. Today our guest is Rezo Chkheidze.
- Rezo Davidovixh, Wikipedia says about you: “A Soviet and Georgian film director, an actor, a screenwriter, a tutor, and a People’s Artist of the Soviet Union.” Do you agree with the phrase? I mean “a Soviet director,” because in Georgia Soviet symbols are equated to fascist symbols.
- The phrase has to be corrected. It is an old version of the Soviet period.
- Probably the authors meant that you shot wonderful Soviet films. What is your attitude to the Charter of Freedom which was adopted in Georgia against Soviet symbols?
- I have analyzed certain epochs, and I should say that people and governments always achieve their goals. And a person who was respected and had good relations with the Soviet government lived a good life. If one criticized them on TV, radio, at sessions, one’s suggestions wouldn’t be accepted. It was my position. I never opposed Soviet rule, even though my father was repressed and shot dead in 1937. He wasn’t guilty, he didn’t belong to the wrong party. The Georgian people had a position that we should take the best from such a huge country as Russia. The Supreme Council of the USSR suggested various initiatives on Georgia and Azerbaijan. Many positive things were done. I think at the time we could do more for our nation than we can today. At the moment we have our own Georgian government, but the Moscow government did a lot good things for us at that time. Moscow could distinguish an enemy and a person who constructively criticized it. It didn’t mean that he would betray his land and motherland. I shot “non-Soviet” films under Communist rule.
- It is not an accident that we’ve started on a political topic. Your film “Father of a Soldier” tells not only about a Georgian farmer who went to war to find his son. It tells about the destiny of Soviet people who achieved the victory at the cost of their lives, the lives of their children and parents. This year the film marks its 50th anniversary. Why do you think the film is still topical?
- I think people like the movie. It is very humanistic. It is more about problems of humanism and morality, rather than communism. A father is the highest rank. It is forbidden to ruin such God-given things as grapes, what nature gives. When I presented the film in the State Cinema of the USSR, the minister told me: “Cut the scene!”
- Do you mean when he takes wine carefully?
- The minister and his wife watched the film on December 31st, ahead of New Year's Eve. It was the Soviet times. If a studio didn’t complete a film, the whole plan of Soviet cinema would be broken. So they wanted to accept the film so much. It was Sunday, and there were no other people in the cinema hall, even though usually there were many people when a director presented a film. We ran out of time and came on the 31st of December. The minister shouted at us and said that the Soviet nation wouldn’t watch the film. I asked him: “Why Mr. Minister?” He said: “Soldier Makharashvili beats a Soviet officer, and this is a violation of the charter. If you promote that any soldier has a right to violate the charter, what will we have then? It is a vicious idea. I don’t give an approval for the film’s run.” What could I say? I turned away and left the hall.
In a week I received a call from the Defense Ministry of the USSR. I came there together with my sound director. We show our passports and went to the second floor. We entered. In 5-10 minutes a well-known person came in.
- It seems you mean the head of the chief political directorate, General Yepishev, a friend of Brezhnev, a very powerful person.
- Even an army minister couldn’t, but he communicated with Brezhnev directly. They came in and gave a cold nod. Some of them even didn’t do that. There were about 15-17 generals from various districts. They sat in the hall and we dealt with sound. Nobody told me that he had watched the film before.
- Everybody waited for Yepishev’s reaction.
- I don’t think so. But I didn’t ask them. In five minutes there was a scene where the main hero is sent to war, and the whole village brought various presents and sweets for his son. I heard a good laugh. It wasn’t a funny scene, but it was very kind. And they laughed all film long. It was interesting, they laughed and applauded during the run. When it was the end, they came to us and said: “What does your minister want from us?” I said: “It is not our minister. Our Georgian minister likes the movie so much, that’s why we’ve brought it to Moscow. It is the Union Minister who doesn’t understand the film. ” Somebody interrupted me and said: “He didn’t understand the main thing that the main hero is not a soldier, but a father who tries to find son. Only later he began to fight for the motherland, but initially he was searching for his son. But what did he want?” I said: “He wants to cut the scene.” Yepishev said: “He didn’t understand anything. He is the father of a soldier. It is the title of the film. The hero doesn’t know about the charter of a soldier. His charter is the motherland and conscience, and your hero has a lot of it. We don’t support the view of your minister. Tomorrow we will raise a question on running the film all over the country. We will make a lot of copies, so that all people can see it.” It was a green light.
The full version of the interview with Rezo Chkheidze can be seen in “Video”.