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Arts & Culture

Oscar-Nominated 'Tangerines' Delivers Familiar Anti-War Message With Eloquence

Elmo Nuganen as Margus and Lembit Ulfsak as Ivo are Estonian immigrants who remain in Georgia as fighting moves closer and closer to them in "Tangerines.".
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Elmo Nuganen as Margus and Lembit Ulfsak as Ivo are Estonian immigrants who remain in Georgia as fighting moves closer and closer to them in "Tangerines.".

Estonian-Georgian film explores 1992 conflict

Film Review: "Tangerines"
KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews the foreign film, "Tangerines."

ANCHOR INTRO: Earlier this year, “Tangerines” received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says the war it depicts is old but the themes remain relevant. The film “Tangerines” doesn’t say anything new about war but rather serves as a poignant reminder that the human race sometimes just seems bent on destroying itself. The film is set in 1992 as the Soviet Union is dissolving and the conflict between Georgian and Abkhazian separatists intensifies. Two immigrant farmers opt to stay in Georgia long enough to harvest their bountiful tangerine crop. But the war lands right in their laps. CLIP fighting Ivo takes in a pair of wounded soldiers from opposite sides of the battle. Each vows to kill the other as soon as they can get out of bed. But Ivo insists there will be no killing under his roof. Being confined in a small house and forced to share meals together has a humanizing effect on the men. Wars are much easier to fight if the enemy has no face, and people are easier to hate when you don’t know them as individuals. As the men spend more time together ethnic, religious, and geographic divisions start to fade and they develop unexpected bonds. The gorgeous landscape serves as a mute witness to the ugly violence as Ivo and the film plead for peace and compassion. The anti-war message is not new but the film delivers it eloquently and with quiet, insistent dignity. And sadly, it’s a message that’s still not being heeded. Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

Earlier this year, “Tangerines” (opening Friday at Landmark's Ken Cinema) received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. The war it depicts is old but the themes remain relevant.

The film “Tangerines” doesn’t say anything new about war but rather serves as a poignant reminder that the human race sometimes just seems bent on destroying itself. The film is set in 1992 as the Soviet Union is dissolving and the conflict between Georgian and Abkhazian separatists intensifies. Two Estonian immigrant farmers opt to stay in Georgia long enough to harvest their bountiful tangerine crop. But the war lands right in their laps.

Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak in a masterfully unstated yet strong performance) takes in a pair of wounded soldiers from opposite sides of the battle. Ahmed (Giorgi Nakashidze) is a Chechen mercenary, and Nika (Mikhail Meskhi) is a Georgian soldier. Each vows to kill the other as soon as they can get out of bed.

But Ivo insists there will be no killing under his roof. Being confined in a small house and forced to share meals together has a humanizing effect on the men. Wars are much easier to fight if the enemy has no face, and people are easier to hate when you don’t know them as individuals. As the men spend more time together ethnic, religious, and geographic divisions start to fade and they develop unexpected bonds.

Writer-director Zaza Urushadze uses the gorgeous landscape as a mute witness to the ugly violence.

Margus (Elmo Nuganen) keeps reminding everyone of the beautiful crop of tangerines that need to be picked, and they remain a symbol of something positive and thriving that exists in the midst of the brutal fighting. Urushadze and his character Ivo plead for peace and compassion. The anti-war message is not new but the film delivers it eloquently and with quiet, insistent dignity. And sadly, it’s a message that’s still not being heeded.

"Tangerines" is unrated and is in Estonian, Russian and Georgian with English subtitles.