By Dan Clendenin
The Trader (2017) — Georgia
Gela, the “trader” in this ethnographic film, is what you might call a traveling salesman in the rural countryside of the Republic of Georgia in Central Asia. He fills his dilapidated mini-van with an eclectic mix of household items that to many of the impoverished villagers are downright exotic — a sponge, a lint brush (“a vacuum cleaner for your body”), a gas container, soap, toilet paper, and a bubble blower. This is a cashless economy, though, where nobody has any money, and so a typical exchange is as follows. “How much is this dress?” Response: “Five kilos.” That is, five kilos of potatoes, which is the only “currency” that Gela accepts. A pair of boots? Twenty-five kilos. There’s no narration in this film, just the camera lingering on the locals when Gela stops his van in their village. The director Tamta Gabrichidze won Sundance’s 2018 Short Film Jury Award for this poignant take on her fellow countrymen, where, as one man put it, “potatoes are money for us.” In Russian and Georgian, with English subtitles. I watched this “Netflix Original Documentary” by online streaming.
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