Screening of Eliso

Film Screening
Event Format
In person
24 Quincy St, Cambridge, MA 02138

Join the Harvard Film Archive for a series of silent films from Georgia.

Verdi, a mountaintop Chechen village in Georgia, is situated so high that, to see clouds, its inhabitants as often look down as they look up. The year is 1864; a local branch of the Russian military administration decides to depopulate the Verdi village in order to provide housing for the Cossack troops serving as the Imperial border patrol. To have this done, the Russians need to deport the Chechens across the nearby border with the Ottoman Empire. A story of deceit and betrayal, violence and resistance, passion and duty, Eliso is a pure tragedy, as sublime and pristine as only tragedy, all the way back to the Greek antiquity, can be. The tragic plays out on a number of levels: from a Romeo-and-Juliet pair of lovers, divided by faith (Vajia is Christian, Eliso Muslim), to what we might call today a genocidal exile of a community coerced out of their homes. As a film, Eliso is a gem. Director Nikoloz Shengelaia, who also co-wrote the script, was a poet before he was a filmmaker; to say that it shows would be an understatement, be it in grandiose-yet-lyrical mass mis-en-scènes or in serene cinematography set almost exclusively in natural light. An unusual combination of things like virtuoso fencing and virtuoso cutting, the film contains sequences virtually impossible to forget. At the lowest point of moral—and the peak of physical—exertion, the village Elder, counterintuitively, commands his people to dance, and, miraculously, it works: in the final shot, whose composition is so impeccable you almost want to freeze a frame and pin it to your wall, the villagers are back on foot, and soldier on.

Written by Daria Khitrova

Time Period


This event is cosponsored by the Harvard Film Archive and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature, with support from the Program on Georgian Studies.

The Program on Georgian Studies is an activity of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University and is made possible by a sponsored research award from the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia.


The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact us at 617-495-4037 or in advance of your participation or visit. Requests for Sign Language interpreters and/or CART providers should be made at least two weeks in advance if possible. Please note that the Davis Center will make every effort to secure services but that services are subject to availability.