Salome Jashi’s first feature length documentary is The Dazzling Light of Sunset. It has many beautiful moments that overshadow some of the weak ones. Here she captures a village in Mingrelia, a historic province in Georgia. It’s a region proud of its contributions in history, a healthy kind of proud. Both citizens and professionals capture its culture through cameras, statues, and in more different ways. One of the earlier scenes in the documentary show media personnel. They scrum over the bust of a Mingrelian who fought for the Soviet Union. This hero without a name is an oddity from other notable Mingrelians for reasons too many to note.
Dazzling, thankfully, doesn’t spoon feed the stories it tells. Jashi also portrays a people in perpetual preparation. There’s always someone setting up a music stand before a choir performs. Or before the staff of a church performs a mass at a n Orthodox church that, in georgian fashion, is more bare than its Russian counterparts. Old women light candles the same way some people in Christian denominations do – performing within a tradition with rituals that have many meanings and none at all. The documentary shows its elder participants doing their best to pass on their culture to younger generations that, like most young people, are becoming more secular.
The mix of Georgian modernity and tradition that Dazzling shows is interesting. Although yes, its understandable if there are moments where some viewers might check out. This happens in slice of life documentaries. It especially happens here where a film concern itself in the events before or after the main event and sometimes films need to capture a main event or two. A few scenes also have participants waiting around to do things. And it takes a lot of work to make observational cinema gripping. During some of these filler moments, Jashi pulls her camera away, which can give us a mix of ambivalent reactions.
Nonetheless, Jashi, as a filmmaker, eventually ties all of these seemingly disparate scenes together. Dazzling, then, feels like a metatext, Jashi playing the person really behind the scenes as she captures the person in the middle of her and the stories she tries to capture. That middle figure is Doriko, the only open source broadcast journalist in Western Georgia. Jashi’s interest in Doriko revolves around the way the latter writes about the occasional tragic death and other human interest stories that she captures. Both see a poetry in their depiction of how time passes, and it’s nice to see them share that poetry to whoever’s watching.
Watch The Dazzling Light of Sunset on OVID.