City of the Sun

Rati Oneli
  • Georgia, Netherlands, Qatar, USA
  • 2017
  • 103min
  • DCP
  • Color
  • Korean Premiere
CompetitionInternational Competition


Screening Schedule

  • 09월 23일 15:00-16:43 상영코드 215 메가박스 백석 8관 15
  • 09월 26일 18:30-20:13 상영코드 528 메가박스 파주출판도시 2관 15 Q&A
* Unless follwing Subtitle code is marked, all films will have English subtitles.
N None English dialogue without English subtitle
K Korean dialogue without English subtitle
ND No Dialogue


The lives, dreams and destinies of extraordinary characters unfold amidst the ruins of a semi- abandoned mining town. Music teacher keeps demolishing the city to build a new life for himself and his family; miner-turned-actor lives in a limbo unable to make a decision between his passion (theater) and money (working at the mines); and two malnourished champion athletes have to keep running just to survive.


  • Rati Oneli
    City of the Sun (2017)
Director's Statement
In 1932 after a visit he made to the Soviet countryside, Boris Pasternak wrote in shock: “what I saw there cannot be described in any words. It was such inhuman, unimaginable misery, such horrifying disaster, that it became somewhat abstract and wasn’t possible to grasp mentally. I became sick.” When I visited Chiatura for the first time in the summer of 2014, Pasternak’s words immediately came to my mind. Even though it was a different place and time, I instinctively understood what he meant by abstract. The surreal beauty and grand devastation dismayed me. But I was as shocked by the inhabitants' apparent nonchalance and sense of humor about the situation they found themselves in: their simultaneous defiance and complete surrender. They walked on land filled with immense wealth, yet they possessed nothing. They looked death in the eye while riding corroded steel air-trolleys to work, but spoke of human beauty and love while covered in mud inside the dangerous mines. I couldn’t think in any other terms but abstract. I lived and researched alone on and off in Chiatura from August 2014 to May 2015. When I arrived to Chiatura for the first time the city was entirely taken over by lush vegetation: it was literally swallowed by the jungle. I felt like I had accidentally discovered remnants of a great, ancient civilization that had been swallowed up ages ago. It’s as though the people who live there now had no direct relation to the once great city lying in fragments around them. Compared to the ancient mountains and the grand architecture, the inhabitants of the city seemed small, both literally and figuratively. They didn’t influence the environment at all, but were actively and violently influenced by the city itself, which shaped their mentality and daily lives. The inhabitants seemed to carry mythical memories of the times past, but were not fully conscious of their relationship to it. In 2014, I had already lived in Chiatura for several months but I wasn’t sure if I could make a film there. I knew that the magnitude of human misfortune that I witnessed demanded much more from me than just a desire to tell a “story” or document physical destruction. The sense of responsibility was overwhelming and paralyzing at the same time. A dying city presents an altogether different realm of human existence. Here the relativity of time flow is felt strongly; time slows to a crawl and attains almost physical viscosity. Sense of despair and impending doom, mixed with a natural imperative to survive shapes the inhabitants in unconventional ways. Here one can make peace with death, but still find purpose in performing rituals that re-affirm life; here complete surrender and defiance co-exist without contradiction. As an outsider, it was impossible to enter this world just by analyzing it or following standard logic. The only way to gain access into their world was through pure contemplation. Not observation, but contemplation. Living in the city, being part of daily life and rituals, just gazing for as long as necessary, were some of activities that allowed for my own version of truth to emerge from the reality. This freed me as a filmmaker from the usual constraint of needing to tell a standard story. As a result, City of the Sun is my subjective impression of the place where the film events unfold. The characters of the film are bodies existing within the peculiar spacetime of this spectral place. They use their bodies to project themselves down the unknown narrative spiral of their lives. Several improbable but true stories intersect in the film. Athlete sisters run methodically, like robots and it is the only thing they can do to survive. It also seems, however, that if they stop running, a spell would be broken, a catastrophe would strike and the entire city would come to a grinding halt. Zurab keeps destroying the city to build a new life for himself and his family, and Archil moves in a limbo unable to make a decision between his passion (theater) and money (working at the mines). The characters of the film seem to be violently thrown into a life they didn’t choose and cannot escape. The question is whether they will wake up one day or just continue existing in a state of hypnagogia, somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness. The futility of their efforts and the authenticity of their lives is in the balance. Chiatura itself, is the main character and connects Zurab and the other characters. The city is a living organism, where cable cars crisscross in the air above it like blood vessels. It reminds us of an alien outpost, a colony where people are enslaved to provide fuel for the mothership. The city itself is a fantastical space where time is frozen and people live in a hypnotic state. The city and the characters exist in a timeless dimension, rather than a specific locale of a postSoviet nation. The lives, dreams and hopes of the protagonists are interwoven into the fabric of the decaying city and their destinies are bound with it. Editing blocks are connected with each other through poetic, associative montage and allow ample time for the viewer to experience this world and not simply follow the characters’ actions. Character evolution and their metamorphosis throughout the film is organic and unforced. I would like the audience to gradually grow aware of the transformation of characters, rather than to understand it intellectually through a sudden cut or other editing technique. In life, we perceive the changes in people around us gradually, by observing their actions or reactions that seem new to us or feeling the changes in their mood and energy. Similarly, because character transformations in my film are subtle and almost imperceptible, this realization can happen subjectively according to the individual viewer, at any point in film, not simply according to the editing decision, which usually is a cue designed by the director. The film time in The City of the Sun allows the viewer to live with the characters and reflect on the film microcosm together with them. Characters in the film exist in perpetual hypnagogia; their gaze betrays yearn for the unknown. Zurab lives in this nightmare, but he has his own dreams that he uses as the means of escape from the nightmare of the city. Zurab is the most powerful character in the film, choosing to fight, choosing to destroy as the means of survival and making a statement. Unlike other characters, he still retains the power of dreams. He is the most important character with vision. Archil (the miner/actor) is a character who has lost the power to affect his surroundings. He is almost a victim of circumstances unable to choose between theater, his work at the mines or his family. He still retains the ability to dream, but the ability is so feeble that he is permanently stuck in the limbo. Yet, more starkly different are the girls. They literally have no voice. All they can do is run. They live in a harsh reality and they run to survive. They run just to be. Yet, paradoxically, the characters also affect the world vice-versa. The girls are the tiniest, but very important parts of a complex mechanism of the city. The city magically depends on the running and the robot-like resilience of the girls who have no choice but to run in order to survive. It seems as though, if the girls stop running, the city would come to a halt as well. In turn, Archil becomes a link between the 'mythical', 'heroic' world of Zurab and the harsh reality of the girls’ life. Archil is constantly shuffling between these two worlds, unable to choose, but connecting them. On the one hand he can’t give up his dreams and leave the theater, but on the other hand Archil is just one of many disenfranchised workers in the mines who have no voice and no choice but to work for survival. Archil is part of the system, a merciless machine that is bigger and stronger than him. Zurab is more like a mythical hero who battles with the giant ‘Titans’—he feverishly demolishes gigantic buildings as if he tries to destroy archaic idols. He chooses to fully dedicate himself to the fight with proverbial windmills, to be an artist against all odds and perhaps expire in the uneven fight than to give up. Like so, they all become equally important elements of the microcosm of the film. I wanted to approach everything very calmly, almost like a meditation so wherever possible the film uses long takes. My hope is that through a series of long takes the uninterrupted reality could flow to create a very potent sense of film time and space and create for the viewer another dimension where it’s possible for everyone to uncover his own version of the truth. For me, City of the Sun is a testament to human extremes: our desire for monumental architecture and sweeping destruction. The city carries seeds of both universal suffering and hope in its DNA. No matter where we go in the world we encounter similar examples of human ingenuity and carelessness: urban deserts, originally erected to serve human needed and aspirations and subsequently destroyed by the humans they were originally designed to serve. My aim was to make a film which seeps through the viewers’ pores and stays with them, a film that is at times intangible like poetry and to which the viewer can come back again and again for more emotion. I don’t know if I have achieved it, but my primary intention is to convey emotional knowledge and emotional impact. In addition to watching the story, I’d like the viewer to have the sensual experience of reverie. Bresson said, “I’d rather people feel a film before understanding it. I’d rather feelings arise before intellect.”


Where in the Earth is this “City of the Sun?” The film does not seem to care to answer this question. The solid fact that it was shot at Chiatura-an industrial district in western Georgia which was once an influencial mining site, but now close to being abandoned-is not the point this movie makes as well. The focus of this film is rather the time after those facts triggered new facts, or the ambience of that place after those facts took influence. Thus, the ghostly state after the decay and collapse is what the film is taking notice of. This is why this town is also seen as an abstract model, reminding spectators of decaying and collapsing towns which may easily exist anywhere else as well. A few people make an appearance. The small numbers of mine workers, the neighborhood housewifes, their children and their music teacher, a man pulling down the wall by himself, and two players training to run. These are not the only ones in the town, but this film depicts this town solely by them. The filmic gaze starts off in the sky, then delves in between the underground mine workers, and finally drifts into the town to observe the scene of the town and the face of the villagers. It seems as if there is an invisible observer’s eye abide. This observer’s eye captures dreariness, desolateness, lonesomeness, and a dim sense of warmness and simplicity from the town’s atmosphere. The title of the film comes from Tommaso Campanella’s novel of the same title, a story about utopia. However, this film is paradoxical in that sense. [Jung Han-Seok]


  • Director  Rati Oneli
  • Producer  Dea Kulumbegashvili, Rati Oneli, Jim Stark
  • Cinematographer  Arseni Khachaturan
  • Editor  Ramiro Suarez
  • Sound  Sonia Matrosova, Alexey Kobzar

Distribution / World Sales

  • Contribution & World Sales  Jasmina Vignjevic
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