REVIEW: Tangerines | Lotterywest Festival Films

Perth Arts Live is excited to announce that our good friend and freelance writer Gemma Sidney is joining our humble ranks as contributor starting this week!

Gemma Sidney is a writer and marketing & communications specialist based in Perth, Western Australia. She has over ten years of professional experience in Perth and abroad, speaks French, and very much enjoys wordplay and good grammar. You can hear her reviews of Lotterywest Festival Films Tuesdays at 7:30am on RTRfm’s Breakfast with Caitlin, and she has generously offered to let us publish her written reviews on Perth Arts Live.


Tangerines image



This was my first trip to Somerville of the season, and I thought I was all set. I took along a cooler bag of snacks and a picnic rug. When I got there I saw some people wearing beanies, others carrying woollen blankets. Perth brought the cold, and everyone seemed to be prepared. Except for me. It was a particularly chilly night, but I didn’t allow my ill-preparedness to get in the way of my enjoyment. I spent the duration of the film huddled underneath my damp, plastic-backed picnic rug.

As for the film, Tangerines is the 2013 work of Georgian director and screenwriter Zaza Urushadze. By Georgia, I don’t mean the state in North America or the Vance Joy song, but the country sandwiched nicely between Turkey, Russia, and the Black Sea.

Tangerines was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards last year as well as for a Golden Globe, and has won a host of other awards. Knowing this in advance, I had high expectations for this film. I wasn’t disappointed.

Tangerines is set in 1992, during the Georgia-Abkhazia war. I spent a bit of time looking into Georgia’s history – and what a bloody history it is. The people of Georgia and the independent regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have known many battles and unrest.

The Georgians asserted their independence from Russia in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Meanwhile, Abkhazian separatists sought Russia’s support (i.e. arms, funds, manpower) so they could become independent from Georgia.

While the Georgia-Abkhazia war lasted just over a year, thousands lost their lives and those displaced numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Ethnic cleansing and gross human rights violations occurred on both sides – which sets the scene for Tangerines.

Ivo, a humble carpenter, spends his time making crates for his farmer friend Margus’ tangerine crop. Since the war broke out, their families have fled to safety, but the two friends stayed behind for one last harvest. One day the sound of gunshots and a bazooka are all too close. Coming upon the scene, Ivo and Margus discover two survivors: a Chechen mercenary, fighting for the independence of Abkhazia, and a Georgian fighter. As the men are slowly nursed back to health in Ivo’s care, their thirst for revenge upon each other grows stronger. Ivo stipulates they must not kill each other under his roof – not without killing him first.

This film isn’t all seriousness. There are plenty of funny moments that break up the tension, and the film is better for it. I had braced myself for a lot of violence and brutality, and while the film does contain its fair share of tragedy, it doesn’t contain any gore.

The characters are developed nicely and the main players are all rather likeable. The storyline is simple, with suitable doses of pathos and sentimentality. It’s all very real – like the bleak yet beautiful Georgian landscape.

I totally identified with Margus, who cared so much about his little orange charges. Like him, I hate the thought of things going to waste. But there was a war on, so it was inevitable that the defenceless tangerines would become casualties, too.

Despite a few plot holes – like scars healing mighty quickly over the period of just a few days – Tangerines was pleasant watching and carried a strong message: one of acceptance, understanding and compassion. What does war really mean? Human cost and great suffering, with both sides paying the price. There can be no real winners.


Tangerines is now showing as part of Lotterywest Festival Films, Season 1. At UWA Somerville nightly until Sunday 13 December, then at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday 15 to Sunday 20 December. Tickets/more info:

Re-stream Breakfast with Caitlin on 8.12 here.



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