Tell my friends that I’m dead
Georgian film about death this week at the FNCC
A car crashes into the living room of a house. But this is not the usual type of car accident, it is the property of a recently-deceased young man, and the car is deliberately crashed slow-motion into the living room by the family members, to turn it into a shrine for the dead man. Once inside the living room, the car is covered with a veil and flowers and soon the family members of the deceased begin to pay their respects. They praise him and express just how much they miss him. Also in the living room are possessions of the deceased, radios, pictures. “Its been 9 years since you left us and still we feel your presence here with us” they say.
This is the starting scene from Dites a mes amis que je suis mort (Tell my friends that I’m dead) a documentary on funeral arrangements in Georgia. The film showed this week at the Franco Namibian Cultural Centre. Set in Western Georgia, the documentary immediately captures the attention of the audience. Although somewhat weird for audiences that find death too much of a sad and depressing thing the story shows how the deceased and his family are never alone but inseparable as if life were celebrating its victory over death.
In Georgia the dead are not separated from the living, people involve them in their family lives, they talk to them as seen at the funeral of one Mr Tsotne who dies and leaves his wife, sister, two daughters and granddaughter behind. His body is placed on the table and covered in a white cloth and his family sits beside him and talk to him, telling him that he is surrounded by everyone that he loved and they all give their personal messages to him. The neighbours play an important role at the funeral. They do all the cooking, they keep the bereaved family’s spirits up, everything has to be perfect as they ask his widow what they must buy for him to take on his journey to the afterlife.
They buy him a suit, a wedding ring, a razor, his favourite thing, dominoes and a toothbrush and tooth paste which they stuff in his coffin. The film can be compared to other funeral arrangement documentaries like ‘Paa Joe: Dead but not buried’ which is a documentary about how the dead are buried in fantasy coffins resembling art sculptures and modern day life-like creatures and buildings in Ghana.
According to the custom in Georgia, the dead protect the living. Another interesting aspect of the film is how the deceased’s tombstones are engraved. Passing through a cemetery in Georgia is like passing through a photo gallery, the tombstones bear pictures of the dead sketched in a life-like manner as if they were still alive and looking at you. This turns the otherwise sombre cemetery into a beautiful scenery.
Directed by Academy Award winning director Nino Kirtadze who is famous for her powerful feature films, the film creates human portraits, shows the joy of life, the mystery of death and makes the supernatural seem natural. The people of Georgia celebrate life’s victory over death.