Ineke Smits Asks: What is a Country?

    Dutch director Ineke Smits wrestles with the question in her new project How Sosruko Stole Fire From The Giant. The film, set in the largely unknown region/country of Abkhazia, will shoot in April and June/July 2018, with a three-week edit break in-between, before post-production and a late 2018/early 2019 delivery.

    “It is a hybrid film – a documentary, but it has a very strong fiction side to it,” says Smits. “Where the hell is Abkhazia? That’s one of the reasons why I want to do it there. It is in the Caucasus, a small country according to itself.” It is recognised by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru (a number of other small countries, such as Transnistria and Tuvalu, withdrew their recognition in recent years). “But my film is not really about this. My film is about a very topical question – what is a country? Look at Catalonia and what happened there … look at Brexit, look at the wall that Trump wants to build.” The more obscure her choice of country, she argues, “the better for the universal story I want to tell or the question I want to ask.”

    Produced by The Film Kitchen, Smits received an OASE grant from the Film Fund/Prins Bernhard Cutluurfonds, before garnering research funding from the NPO Fund and the Netherlands Film Fund. EO/IKONdocs came on board as a broadcaster and Smits is confident of VAF and Belgian tax shelter support via co-producer Inti Films. The project was granted a financial contribution of €83,258 in the recent round of Netherlands Film Production Incentive awards.

    During the film, Smits will travel the country with Abkhazian artist Sipa Labakhua, who creates one-man marionette shows similar ‘to the works of William Kentridge’. He has devised a new show especially for the film. “What I am not interested in is geo-political stuff, politics, flags, borders, laws, parliaments, specialists. I am interested in the soul of people, what makes your home your home – that is my main focus. So with Sipa, I am travelling around with his show and picking up stories – he is like a troubadour – and the stories together form different views on what is a country. A very theoretical thing made very cinematic.”

    Photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz