Called simply "August 8," the movie (not yet released) apparently is designed to shape opinions in the Russian-speaking world about the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. It does not flaunt big names like Andy Garcia, Rupert Friend or Val Kilmer, who star in "Five Days of August." Instead, it features the lesser-known Russian movie/stage star Gosha Kutsenko, a proud member of his country's ruling United Russia party.
Both August war movies feature dramatic plots and a robust dose of propaganda. Both feature beautiful girls (the Georgian Tatia in "Five Days of August" and the Russian Ksenia in "August 8") who are caught in the conflict's crossfire, and need real men to save them.
Tbilisi gave soldiers and military gear to Hollywood director Renny Harlin to help produce many explosions and battle scenes in "Five Days of August." Probably there will be no shortage of similar explosions and extras in "August 8." The film was mostly shot in Abkhazia, South Ossetia's breakaway twin, which is full of Russian soldiers these days.
Moscow kicked off the silver-screen confrontation with Georgia in 2009 with the campy "Olympus Inferno," which tells the wartime story of an American entomologist, a South Ossetian moth and Georgians with evil accents.
Will Georgia respond with another feature film? That we don’t know. But, at this rate, perhaps annual international film festivals should introduce a category for Best August War Movie.
After a long exchange with legislators (supposedly touching on "lawmaking practices and perspectives for the country's development," according to parliamentary spokesperson Inna Gabarayeva), the Kokoity fans finally left, but some news outlets described the incident as an attempt at a power grab. Several parliamentarians resigned in protest.
Kokoity distanced himself from the group and called on prosecutors to investigate the incident. Calling on South Ossetians not to overdramatize the situation, he asked his supporters to stop twisting his arm about running for a third term.
“Such manifestations of popular love for the president and support for his course create tensions among various groups in our society and lead to destabilization of the situation,” Kokoity said in a statement. “There will be no third term.”
From Carnegie Endowment analyst Thomas de Waal comes a new report on Georgia worth a read for anyone interested in where this experimenting Caucasus country is headed politically, economically, culturally.
In a nutshell:
*The Georgian government's fascination with capitalism, in its pure, unregulated form, may have improved the country's investment environment quite a bit, but has yet to prove of real worth in pulling Georgians out of poverty.
* Georgia's political system has modernized, but has not necessarily democratized. A clique of intellectuals, the brains behind President Mikheil Saakashvili administration, did push through many key reforms, but continues to place itself above public checks and balances. Political groups come hungry for reforms, but low on experience, with plenty of "improvisation and missteps" amidst their successes.
Georgia's current key choices are presented as a triangle with the European model (regulations, strong democratic accountability) at the tip, and the Old Georgia model (family values, patriotism, religion) and so-called Singapore model (everything is for sale, government is minimal) on the sides. While the piece tends to favor the Europeanization option, it provides all the shades of grey associated with these choices.
Stone artifacts unearthed at Georgia’s Dmanisi archaeological site, 90 kilometers southwest of Tbilisi, suggest that early man may have gotten his start in Eurasia and then migrated to Africa, an international team of scientists contends.
The South Pacific island of Vanuatu has spoken: its recognition of breakaway Abkhazia as a sovereign state is official and final.
A video statement released by Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot shed light on the island nation's seemingly bipolar take on Abkhazia. Although Vanuatu’s UN envoy earlier had passionately denied the news, the minister said that his country did recognize Abkhazia.
Carlot said that he had failed to shoot an update to the envoy in New York because he was in Seoul at the time. The envoy, Donald Kalpokas, told The New York Times that he does not want to “touch” Carlot “because he is the minister.”
Carlot said that the recognition came as part of Vanuatu’s battle for “eradicating colonialism from the face of the earth of this planet.” A graduate of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Diplomatic Academy, he asserted that he “has a little bit of understanding of the geopolitical situation in that region.”
Vanuatu is the fifth country after Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru to recognize the independence of Abkhazia, which rest of the world regards as part of Georgia. The breakaway region's official news agency, Apsnypress, reports that a local textile shop has sewn a flag for Vanuatu to commemorate the news.
As would any farmer with 750 hectares of land to cultivate, 68-year-old Piet Kemp likes to talk crops with the locals. But Kemp usually needs a Georgian translator to do his talking. A continent away from his native South Africa, Kemp now runs a corn business in the southern Georgian region of Kvemo-Kartli, not far from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
While Georgia is busy removing Stalin monuments and scrubbing Soviet memorabilia off streets and minds, neighboring Azerbaijan prefer to keep its urban décor policies more focused on current events. Azerbaijani news outlets reported on June 8 that a monument to ex-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been demolished in the town of Khirdalan, 25 kilometers north of Baku.
In late January, weeks before street protests toppled Mubarak, Azerbaijani officials resisted calls to scrap the statue. But now, with Mubarak gone, Baku wants to keep the good vibrations going with his successor government.
Photos posted on News.az suggested that Mubarak will be replaced by a more ancient Egyptian figure. Perhaps Tutankhamun?
So far, the late Azerbaijani President Heydar Alyev is expected to retain his own pedestal in Khirdalan's Egyptian sister city of El-Kalubia.
Hollywood’s treatment of the Russia-Georgia war in 2008 is about to hit movie theaters in the United States. The Georgian-funded action flick, titled Five Days of August, seems to blur the line between entertainment and propaganda.
First, you make international headlines -- thanks largely to Russian media assistance -- with reports about recognizing breakaway Abkhazia as an independent country. Then, your envoy at the UN declares that you did not recognize anything, much less Abkhazia, and calls the news “defamation” and “disrespect.”
But Abkhazia's de facto Foreign Minister Maxim Gunjia, the original source of the recognition story, sticks to his claim that the recognition did happen, and says that he holds written proof of the deed. Perhaps the UN envoy is just not in the swing of things, he adds.
There has got to be a way to make your word final on this. Since phone, email and pigeon inquiries from Tbilisi do not reach your South Pacific shores easily, perhaps posting a statement on your official website can help? Or your Facebook fan page, which now has 196 “likes,” including one from Georgia.
Do it at least for New Zealand (one of your major aid donors), where media have started asking if the Kiwis are at risk of being dragged into this perceived South Pacific rivalry between the US and Russia over Georgia.
Forget the story about American soldiers staring goats to death in Iraq. Russia's state-run Perviy Kanal television station can top that; it claims that the US military is now busy waging bacterial warfare against wild boars in Russia's North Caucasus.
In a documentary opus that aired this week, reporter Anton Vernitskiy alleges that Washington has been setting up labs in Azerbaijan and Georgia to spread death and disease on the home turf of its former Cold War foe. Soon after US-financed disease monitoring labs appeared in Azerbaijan and Georgia, Vernitskiy tells viewers (as a gong sounds in the background), a strange flu started decimating wild boar populations in the region.
Vernitskiy even took the pains to travel to Tbilisi to interview US Ambassador John Bass, who told him that the labs are perfectly harmless.
But this is not all. Citing disgruntled ex-Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, the documentary argues that former President George W. Bush in 2005 egged on Tbilisi to use force against breakaway South Ossetia -- a suggestion that allegedly led to war with Russia three years later.
In the meantime, Vernitskiy continues, Georgia has also been busy lending financial and logistical support to Islamic militants -- a claim that has nearly become old hat for pro-government Russian news outlets.
Vernitskiy’s saga may not be worth retelling if did not air on Perviy Kanal, the Kremlin's main TV messenger. The documentary may not cause more than eye rolling in Washington, but Russia and Georgia both use media to keep their official animosity alive.
So if bears in Russia suddenly start having asthma attacks, you can be sure Perviy Kanal will know where to look for the culprit.