QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM THE RED SEA
New York is the setting for Levan Koguashivili’s Tribeca prize-winning film Brighton 4th, though at first we start in Georgia. Here we meet Kakhi (Levan Tediashivili), an ex-wrestler who spends his retirement helping out his deadbeat gambler brother, walking his dog and watching the young wrestlers train. Soon though he is off to New York to bail out his son, Soso (Giorgi Tabidze), who is struggling to get a Green Card and his head above the water of a gambling debt.
Boris Frumin’s screenplay weaves in a variety of characters from the immigrant community who have made their corner of New York, a hostel run by Kakhi’s sister-in-law, a little piece of Georgia. The arrival of some cheese from the homeland is celebrated, toasts are drunk and everyone works at cash-in-hand jobs despite their qualifications. Brighton 4th is a tale of immigrant improvisation rich in humour. Sergo is an opera singer working as a hotel doorman and Soso also is a doctor who has to move furniture because he’s not yet certified.
Himself a real life wrestler and non-professional actor, Tediashivili imbues his character with graceful ornery kindness. His power comes from the stillness of a man who is completely in control of himself and has never met a problem he can’t get in a clinch with and throw. This is in contrast to his son and brother and many who surround him. Kahki also has insight into the good in people and his trust has an almost magical effect on the people he meets. He tells Lena (Nadezhda Mikhalkova), a woman who is marrying Soso to get him a Green Card, that he sure she will quit smoking when she says she wants to: ‘I can see it in your eyes.’ Even a manager who appears to be exploiting his female workforce has a story and justification and is soon drinking and dancing with the household under Kahki’s influence.
Ultimately, however, this is a story about fatherhood and the unconditional love that comes with it. ‘I wrestled all my life,’ he tells his son. ‘You think I wouldn’t wrestle for you?’ There is a lot of humour. Koguashivili frames shots with beautiful unobtrusive jokes. A pertinent sign or a pig’s head in a butcher mirroring a character’s hangdog expression. As Kahki attempts to resolve Soso’s problems and pay off his debt he becomes embroiled in one scheme after another, but always leading to unexpected outcomes. Brighton 4th is a tragedy played as comedy, a brilliant and humane film full of poignancy and love. In the end there is a defiance in the face of all that can and will go wrong in life. Like Kahki the film trusts people to be good and gifted with that trust, we might just be better.
Brighton 4th just showed at The Red Sea International Film Festival which will run from 6-15 December, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia