© Weltecho

13 (Tzameti)
France/Georgia 2005

Opening 13 Mar 2008

Directed by: Géla Babluani
Writing credits: Géla Babluani
Principal actors: George Babluani, Pascal Bongard, Aurélien Recoing, Fred Ulysse, Nicolas Pignon

Sebastian (Georges Babluani), an immigrant from the country of Georgia, lives in Paris. He supports his large family through odd jobs, the current one being putting a new roof on the house of Monsieur Godon. This man succumbs to a drug overdoes, but not before referring to a letter which will solve all financial problems. The letter falls into the hands of Sebastian, who follows the scavenger-hunt-like directions to evade detection. This is probably a good thing since the police have picked up the scent. He arrives at an isolated house in the woods, kind of Hansel-and-Gretel for adults, where the handlers are surprised to find him instead of Godon, but, what the heck, the show must go on.

This is an excellent first film by Géla Babluani, but before you are inspired by my positive judgment, be aware that I saw parts of it with eyes and ears covered because of the unbearable suspense. We always know just as much as Sebastian, as if we were in his place and his fears and puzzlement are ours. Don’t go there! The loneliness of the place; the mimic of the 13 gladiators (tzameti means thirteen in Georgian), the stares of the millionaires who bet huge sums, are hugely dramatic, made more so by the stark black and white contrast which heightens the effect. In spite of the violence, there is never any blood, but evil seeps through everywhere. Perhaps Sebastian’s family benefits in the end. Is the sacrifice too much? This film has already won prizes at festivals, including the grand jury prize in Sundance and best new film in Venice. Supposedly, there will be a U.S. remake, although who could top this original? Director and lead actor are brothers, sons of the Georgian director Temur Babluani. They studied in Paris, and I saw the film in French with German subtitles. (Becky Tan)

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