Taming the Garden
A powerful – and anonymous – man has developed an unusual hobby. He buys century-old trees, some as tall as 15-storey buildings, from communities along the Georgian coast and has them uprooted for his collection in his private garden. In order to transplant trees of such dimensions, the surrounding landscape is ripped apart and the people living close by are forced to adapt to the disruption.
Salomé Jashi’s film shows us a sublime and terrifying spectacle. Majestic trees are uprooted from their land and villages, and sent to be planted in the private garden of a rich landowner beyond the Black Sea. To rip them from the earth, men and mechanical diggers excavate the soil day and night. The inhabitants of the villages on the Georgian coast helplessly watch this migration of their trees, some of which were planted by their ancestors and under which they grew up. These uprooted kings disappear into the night, sometimes followed by slow processions. A muted guilt weighs heavy, the profanation of tearing up such pure souls. As they pass by, other trees collapse, clearing the route of their exile. They are dying for just one man. The community is divided but, along the route of the great trees, the roads are not in good condition, work is rare, and the intangible and irreplaceable heritage of the villages is bartered for easy money. Some resist, but how can one confront the opulent? The felling is brutal, the noise of the chainsaws resounds and the beauty of the finished garden will not appease the amputations and seems to encompass all of the world’s vanity. Each unearthed tree is a stab in the heart. The age-old trees cross the water to join the bitter kingdom. Sacred, they seem to be walking on the waters that endlessly carry stories of uprootings. The journey of these floating trees, although absurd, seems almost probable in this world of exiles where everything can be bought. Here, the stories and lifeblood of a culture are being carried away.
Salomé Jashi was born in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1981. She first studied journalism and worked as a reporter for several years. In 2005, she was awarded a British Council scholarship to study documentary filmmaking at Royal Holloway, University of London. Salomé’s The Dazzling Light of Sunset (2016) was awarded the Main Prize at Visions du Réel’s Regard Neuf Competition as well as at ZagrebDox, Jihlava IDFF, Valdivia IDFF, and several other festivals. Her earlier work, Bakhmaro (2011) received an Honorary Mention for a Young Documentary Talent at DOK Leipzig, and was awarded as the Best Central and Eastern European Documentary at Jihlava IDFF. Salomé is the founder of two production companies: Sakdoc Film and Microcosmos, both producing documentaries and fiction.