Nikozi Festival – Festival of Open Hearts

For the people of Nikozi, a Russian cartoon could be the start of a new age of peace.

“According to the old Georgian saying, ‘anything destroyed by evil can be rebuilt by love,’ this is exactly what we mean by this festival”. Bishop Isaiah, Metropolitan of Nikozi and Tskhinvali.

With help from AFG and other sponsors, Metropolitan Isaiah organized the 1st International Animation Festival in Nikozi from September 12 – 18, 2011.

After the Russian-Georgian conflict in August 2008, which ended by the Russian occupation of Georgian territory of South Ossetia, the place where the festival would be held was not chosen by chance.

Nikozi, just a few kilometers from Tskhinvali – the de facto capital of separatist South Ossetia –was mostly destroyed as a result of bombing during the war.

Metropolitan Isaiah hoped a festival would bring joy to the local population as well as psychological rehabilitation, and provide a cultural and economic lift to the poor Shida Kartli region.

American Friends of Georgia (AFG) supported the festival, noted country director Lena Kiladze, because of its potential to bring knowledge and bolster development in the economically depressed region.

Children from the AFG supported Nikozi Art School had the opportunity during the festival not only to watch animated films by famous movie makers from different countries including Russia, but also to acquire knowledge through master classes and various cultural events, noted Kiladze.

“But this is a festival not only for children,” she added.

“It has huge importance in Nikozi’s Shida Kartli Region for its cultural and economic development, for Georgia and for Russian-Georgian relations as well, considering the fact that there are participants and guests from Russia in an area so close to the capital of South Ossetia.”

One of the participants said: “The aim of the festival is to show that culture is our common homeland and it is beyond political barriers and that only love, kindness and peace can conquer evil and hard feelings.” All of the work to revive Nikozi and help its residents is led by Metropolitan Isaiah of Nikozi and Tskhinvali, one of AFG’s partners.

John Bass, U.S Ambassador to Georgia, noted that long term success for Nikozi and other villages in the conflict zone depends less on governments than people working together “to build peace in our hearts and peace in our communities.”

Wonderful animated films were shown, many of which were made by Russian directors from the animation film studio “Animos”, led by Tengiz Semionov. The festival also featured Polish animation, including its Oscar Animated Shorts Winner “Peter & The Wolf” directed by Suzie Temleton and “The Lost Town of Świteź” by Kamil Polak, which is eligible for an Academy Award nomination. Director and animator Irina Kodukova from Belarus arrived in Nikozi with famous Belorussian poet Dmitry Strotsev who came just to support the Festival.

In addition, a delegation of 40 students from the Spiritual Academy in Alaska, headed by Father Paisi were special guests of Bishop Isaia. They also took part in the cultural program of the festival, performed songs and chants in English, Russian and Georgian and befriended the people of Nikozi.

All guests have been noted that the last day of the festival was a particular success, with the children’s shadow theater performances and dances – as well as a beautiful concert by Anchiskhati Choir and the Spiritual Academy’s selection of Italian, Georgian and English songs.

Sponsors and partners of the festival were the Shida Kartli Governor’s Administration in Gori, Kaspi, Kareli and Khashuri Municipalities, Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, Embassy of Poland in Georgia, American friends of Georgia, Georgian National film Center and film Studio “Kvali XXI”.

The festival is a courageous opposition to destruction and misfortune, an attempt to restore peace to the people of Nikozi, and a region that was torn in two by conflict. Metropolitan Isaiah noted it will continue next year – an effort, he hopes, that will demonstrate the art of animation and friendship between people from different countries can soothe the pain and destruction of war.

AFG will continue to donate and support festival next year and hopes that one day Nikozi will be known again as a place of creativity and source of peace in people’s heart, rather than a memory of war and drama.

“The festival brought cultural and economic revival to a part of the Georgian population that has suffered from the war and it brings psychological rehabilitation to the children of the village. I am happy that AFG was part of this and we hope that we can continue our support,” said Marusya Chavchavadze, Executive Director / US.

American Friends of Georgia