Teaching Materials

Eliso (1928)


The film depicts an attempt by the Russian Empire to forcibly expel the Chechen people from their homeland in the second half of the 19th century and replace them with Cossacks. Against the background of the tragedy of people expelled to the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), the tragic love story of the Chechen Eliso and the Georgian man unfolds.

20th century, Georgia of the 1920s. The second half of the 19th century, Georgia.

  • Nikoloz Shengelaia started directing in the 1920s. “Eliso” is a unique work of his creation! Nikoloz Shengelaia was married to Georgian movie star Nato Vachnadze, and children are directors Eldar and Giorgi Shengelaia. Nikoloz Shengelaia’s films are: Giuli, 26 Commissars, The Golden Valley.
  • Georgian writer, playwright, poet, translator and actor – Alexander Kazbegi is a prominent figure of Georgian literature of the second half of the 19th century. His literary style is critical realism, and the works reflect the strict rules and reality of the Georgian mountain.
    “Eliso” is based on the literary work of the same name by Alexander Kazbegi. The literary source and the film show the period of Tsarist Russian rule, how the regime treats the freedom-loving Chechen people unfairly.
  • Nikoloz Shengelaia has been looking for a long time to shoot a theme that would be original and different from other productions of Soviet film studio. The director and screenwriter of the film studied the historical materials and got acquainted with the archival documents of Tsarist Russia.
  • The baseline of the story has changed in the script. According to the literary source, the anti-national policy of Tsarist Russia was disastrous for all the peoples of the Caucasus. In the film, the issue is more local. The Chechen tragedy has nothing to do with the fate of other peoples.
  • The main role in the film is played by the sister of Georgian movie star Nato Vachnadze – Kira Andronikashvili.
  • Eliso leaves lover, she follows her father and her people to the Ottomans. Instead of personal feelings and emotions, she act in the public interest. How acceptable is the behavior of a young woman to you?
  • The protagonist is a young woman, she is strong both in love and in the public arena. Eliso, who was finally expelled from the village, sets fire to the empty village, why do you think she is doing this?
  • Nikoloz Shengelaia wrote that his goal was not only to film “Eliso” the same way Alexandre Kazbegi wrote it. What is the main idea of the film?
  • How acceptable is the ending to you? If you were a film director, how would you change it?
  • Had the protagonist been a man, would the content and idea of the film have changed fundamentally?

Write about this film
Considering the epoch-making contexts and issues raised as a result of the discussion, while writing the film, focus on the historical background and the current processes in Georgian cinema in the 1920s. Do you think that Nikoloz Shengelaia’s film is a conductor of Soviet ideology? What is the representation of a female character and what specific idea does the character of Eliso symbolize? Evaluate character Vajia, who, because of Eliso, forces the Russian general to cancel the deportation order, but in vain. Eliso can not leave his father in distress, she follow fellow villagers to Turkey (Ottoman). Remember the following episodes from the movie: Crying and Dancing. The mourning and burial of a Chechen woman who died during the deportation first takes the form of a mourning, and then turns into a celebration and dance. The Chechen people are celebrating the victory of life over death, by what cinematic means the director achieves the visualization of this idea. Try to analyze Nikoloz Shengelaia’s specific film in the context of the Georgian film avant-garde of the 1920s.

For Individual work
After watching the movie, read Alexander Kazbegi’s work “Eliso”. In addition, read Akaki Bakradze’s critical letter entitled “Two Elisos” (book: Cinema, Theater, Tbilisi 1989). What was the cinematic understanding of female characters in the Soviet Georgian cinema of the 1920s. To answer the question, get acquainted with the works of other Georgian directors working in this period.

Group work/additional activities
Curriculum links: History, Literature

Find additional information about the situation in Georgia in the second half of the 19th century. What real events did Alexander Kazbegi reflect in the work, get acquainted with and discuss what a literary work is and what is the interpretation of Nikoloz Shengelaia? What is the literary and cinematic ending of “Eliso”? Given the historical events, describe the common and distinctive features of 19th century Tsarist Russia and Soviet Georgia in the 1920s. From today’s point of view, under which regime did Georgia suffer the most?

Additional activities:
After discussion and group work, students can visualize the narrative material. Create a wall newspaper or electronic presentation where you present the material you have prepared individually or in groups: Georgia in the second half of the 19th century, the rule of Tsarist Russia and the troubles of small nations. Ask your history teacher for advice on doing practical work.

Expected Results

As a result of watching the film, discussing and reviewing it, in which it is necessary to use epoch-making contexts and the above-mentioned recommendations, the student will learn more about the historical processes in Georgia in the second half of the 19th century, the Georgian cinema of the 1920s and Nikoloz Shengelaia.


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