Tangerines, a Samuel Golden Films release, is an Oscar nominated film from Georgia (the country not the state), written and directed by Zaza Urushadze. The movie stars Lembit Ulfsak, Elmo Nüganen, Giorgi Nakashidze, Misha Meskhi, and Raivo Trass. For my Seattle area readers, you will be able to see Tangerines at the SIFF Cinema at the Uptown beginning on Friday, May 8th.
In the early 90's, a war torn village in Estonia, Georgia has been all but deserted except for two men who are determined to harvest their crop of tangerines before they spoil and go to waste. All is going well until their efforts are interrupted by a skirmish between opposing forces erupts on their doorstep leaving one man from each side living yet seriously injured. Ivo, who has been building crates for the tangerines, decides to take the men in and help them to heal while Margus, his long time friend, neighbor, and owner of the crop they are harvesting, remains fearful of what might happen when more soldiers show up in their village.
This is a movie that plods along slowly yet holds your attention with engaging performances and a story that shows so much heart during a time period ravaged by loss and despair. Zaza Urushadze does a brilliant job of introducing you to each of the characters, there are really only five with significant screen time, and letting them carry the picture in a manner more like what you would expect from a live stage show.
One of the only real gripes I have is the short run time of less than 90 minutes, which may seem odd since I already said the movie was rather slow, but I would have liked to learn more about the two wounded soldiers as well as a bit more back story for both Ivo and Margus. Watching the delicate threads of how the soldiers interact and how Ivo manages to keep them from killing each other with a stern neutrality is absolutely brilliant and executed perfectly. We get to see them as soldiers, as men, as friends, and ultimately as individuals destined to follow disparate paths ingrained in them from birth.
Tangerines is deserving of all the accolades it has received, including the best foreign language film nomination given to it by the Academy, although I do have to say it may not be for everyone. As long as you prepare yourself for a film that methodically presents its message of hope and tolerance with a heavy, deliberate hand, then you will be rewarded with an engaging drama that you will be able to enjoy and respect for all the effort put into creating it.