Our Criminals Were Real Criminals: Director Levan Koguashvili On Georgia’s Gritty Oscar Bid Brighton 4th – Contenders International

Brighton 4th was a big winner at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, taking awards for Best International Narrative Feature, Best Actor and Best Screenplay. Shot on location in New York, Kino Lorber’s Oscar hopeful from Georgia tells the story of Kakhi, a former wrestler who travels from his native Tbilisi to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, in the hope of helping his wayward son get his life back on track.

Accompanied by cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (currently in London shooting James Mangold’s Indiana Jones movie), director Levan Koguashvili revealed that his film was inspired a true story.

“The starting point was a real encounter with a father whom I met while I was a student at NYU film school,” he said. “I was doing research for my first feature, and I spent lots of time in Brighton Beach. I met this father and son; the father had come all the way from Georgia … Somebody called him at home and said, ‘We saw your son in the streets of Brooklyn and he’s a big-time drug addict. Somebody should save him, otherwise he will die.’ Because, at the time, lots of young kids from Georgia were sent back home from New York in coffins, [having] overdosed.

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“Somehow he managed to get a visa—which was very difficult thing to do—then he came to New York, found his son in the streets of New York and saved him,” he said. “He was a very modest guy. Didn’t speak English, didn’t speak much, but there was strength, and modesty, and dignity, in the way he behaved. I was moved very much by this story.”

Adding to the film’s gritty appeal is a cast of largely non-professional actors. “I don’t remember who,” laughed Koguashvili, “but one of the great American Western directors said, ‘Our cowboys are real cowboys.’ Well, our criminals were real criminals!”

“Yeah,” Papamichael added. “Most of our Russian criminals had spent major time in prison. We would always have dinner in this little Uzbek restaurant in Brighton Beach, and when we first went there, they were celebrating. I’m like, ‘What is this celebration for?’ They said, ‘The owner is going tomorrow. He’s going to prison for two years.’ The waitress was crying! So we lived it. We absorbed the whole environment.”

Check back Monday for the panel video.

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