Do you know those documentaries hidden in the Netflix, short and extremely surprising? It is the case of The Merchant (Sovdagari). The story takes place in Georgia and was recorded in 2017 by documentary filmmaker Tamta Gabrichidze. There are 23 minutes – which could go on for hours – of beautiful images and a questioning reality of our customs, how much we value capital, what times we are living in and what is really essential.
The narrative takes place in a rural village that has the production of potatoes as its source of survival. A merchant (the merchant) goes to the place with a van full of second-hand materials to sell them and receive the value in potatoes. “25 kilos of potatoes”, he replies to consumers when they ask for the price of some boots or scarves. This is the first stalemate in the film: they have a currency that is very devalued, so they still live off barter. Continue the text to understand more.
HOW IS THE REALITY IN GEORGIA?
Georgia lies between the European and Asian continents, taken by the Black Sea, which attracts many tourists for the landscape. However, it is not quite the reality portrayed in the documentary. Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, went through the separatist movement and goes through a serious financial crisis currently. This village shows all the scarcity, lack of public policies and inequality. Very different from what we usually see when researching the country.
The documentary filmmaker is able to show the beautiful landscapes in The Merchant (Sovdagari), who make contracts with houses in precarious conditions and grayish colors, which bring morbidity and melancholy to the film. The images are filled with stories quickly painted, but with a lot of depth in the context. They are people who lead life differently, that almost make us think they are in another time.
OTHER WAYS TO SEE LIFE
Cell phones, televisions and even money are things that are not present in the reality of the residents of this village. There is a another way of looking day to day, time and everything around you. The clothes are different, as in the past. Children play in the street and admire themselves with soap bubbles. Potato plantations are grown entirely by hand. There are no machines, no agribusiness and no answer when the documentary filmmaker asks a boy “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.
The film plays the role of representing this distinction between the world here and there. The merchant is the capital, the city, the one who builds that bridge. Women, men and children who go to the van to buy or simply admire the products are representatives of a life without all that we consider essential.
BUT WHAT IS REALLY ESSENTIAL?
A lady, without money, without potatoes, wanted and said that a grater was essential for her survival. But there was no way to buy and ran out. Some children admired themselves with a sink sponge. Others, with toilet paper. A woman traded a bag of potatoes for a pair of boots.
The Merchant (Sovdagari) questions what is really essential. We are used to many things that seem essential to us to live. But how do Georgian villagers live without it all? What’s so different? And we don’t have to go that far. In Brazil, there are also striking differences in the possession and need for materials and customs.
The short 23 minutes do not handle and are not willing to resolve these questions. On the contrary, they insist on just raising them up so that we can discuss them now. What is really essential for us?
Have you ever watched The Merchant (Sovdagari)? If not, click here. Then comment here what you think 🙂