Listening to the Silence
Festival in Media

The special screening of Mariam Chachia's documentary film "Listen to the silence" was held at "Frontline Club Georgia" on June 9. The film won Next Masters competition Award at DOK Leipzig 2016 and Georgian audience saw it at our festival the same year.

"Do you have a minute? I'd like to ask you something... This is 4th grade student, Luka Potskhverashvili. He is very energetic and he can do these dance movements so well. Maybe he can attend your lessons. He wants to dance so much..." - says a middle-aged teacher and caresses the head of the boy sitting on the edge of the chair. Mariam Chachia took this shot by chance when she went to the 203rd public school for deaf children to begin shooting. At first, the characters of her film were supposed to be other children but then she met a boy spinning around non-stop and 9-year-old Luka became the main character of the movie.

Mariam came up with the idea of the film when she happened to be at the beauty contest for deaf girls. Shocked, she couldn't really understand how it is possible to dance when you can't hear the music. Then she realized that she barely actually knew anything about this society and that's when she decided to work on this topic. She couldn't go to that school for about first six months as she thought it would make children studying there awkward and uncomfortable. But when she did go there, she realized - they are open to relationships. It is us who has a problem communicating with them.

"Listen to the Silence" is split into chapters. Storyline is stopped several times by appearing of the episode titles written on the long chalkboard.

For about 80 minutes, you are a witness of the world, absolutely unknown and strange to you. You watch the everyday life of a 9-year-old boy and his friends in this almost magical space, where school children of different age learn to dance with counting the rhythm along their fingers. They work whole year to go up the little stage and dance at school closing evening at the end of the year.

This school welcomes children from all over Georgia as it is the only place for deaf children where they learn to communicate with the world with the only way possible - sign language. Mariam herself used to go to school every day for almost a year to learn a sign language before the shootings started.

The main character of the movie is Luka, who sometimes runs after his friends in the yard, plays with them or messes up with the others dancing. Sometimes he's by himself having fun - hurling a huge padlock on the window ledge, thousands of times, monotonously, like he's trying to hear a voice. Sometimes he even dances himself. He likes to dance so, so much and he has a dream to perform at the school evening at the end of the year. Being hyperactive, he's even thrown out of the exercise hall by the teacher saying he's "never going to make him dance again" but Luka is eager to make his dream come true. Watching this joyful, lively child, the only time you are gripped with fear is when you see him standing on the edge of the exercise wall. Just one little move and he may fall. There's no single sound heard. Some people are running down there spreading hands against him and he stands, stands still, motionless. You look at this terrible silence and feel that gap: this fidgety, never calmed little boy becomes absolutely strange and distant.

Even though usually these children go back to their parents some days, Luka is not the one. He lives there and barely sees his parents. Visiting for not long, mother brings him chocolates from Israel - "Look, you wouldn't have eaten any like that. It's crackling in the mouth, look, - says to her son, adding, - I'll go now and I'll be back." And she's trying to explain everything using hands as she is not aware of sign language. With a grimace on his face Luka gobbles up the bar of chocolate. As soon as she leaves, he opens the curtains. Looking out of the window, he follows her with his eyes.

There is a concert at the end of the movie. He comes out at the stage in front of the audience including his own parents wearing traditional Georgian dancing suit and starts to dance. Finally he bows to the audience and leaves the stage. And now? Now what? That's what you think about, looking at this scene.

"Dancing is the only way for them to go up the stage and feel like ordinary children, for a moment at least, - says the film director Mariam Chachia, - this film is for us, and for us - in the first place." 



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