Film Review: Sovdagari (2018)

Netflix’s Sovdagari (The Trader) is a Georgian short documentary film about the importance of potatoes amongst the Georgian villagers. This is a 23-minute documentary that presents the living hood of the villagers and their usual consumption of potatoes. This documentary is about the entire process from production and cultivation to selling it to the local consumers who buy in bulk quantity.

What Sovdagari propels you to think is that when a certain geographical location is doomed and its people are hopeless, they find a way to survive whether they like it or not. Here, potato is their currency, their bread and butter. Potato serves their livelihood.

Sovdagari shows old villagers talking about their lives, the farmers arguing about women, and a poverty line that is stretched on their faces. I liked the part where a very old woman tries to bargain for buying potatoes and reminds him of her old age.

The makers have emphasized the troubling times and alarmed the audience about the consequences of the political, social, and economic meltdown that can raise concerns among the people and make them think about how to survive. Whether they should leave the place where they lived all their lives or find an alternative. So many villagers buy potatoes and made me think about how much they consume daily.

The camera work of this show is the heartbeat that convinces the subjectivity of this short documentary in all bounds. The close-ups and some moments where the camera pauses to scrutinize the deep meanings of human moods like an old man smoking and addressing what he wanted from life or a suited child in his swing looking at the camera.

Then there is one thought-provoking scene that I am not sure if it was real or fake but a facially excited child is asked what he wants to become. He is happy but lost for words. His mom suggests responding that he wants to become a journalist. But he still does not utter a single word and keeps thinking for an entire minute. He doesn’t reflect any sign of grievance or annoyance but a lack of self-confidence. He is struggling to construct a dialogue. His mother gives a staunch look at him and then leaves him on his own. That leads to a few theories for the audience whether he doesn’t have a clue what he wants in life at such a tender age or if he never happened to speak to an outsider and communicate freely. Sovdagari stretches the social and domestic dynamics in their miseries.

Trying something new, I found the language quite interesting. The title word is Sovdagari which is supremely similar to the word Saudagar (soda-gar) in Persian. By reading the history, I find out that Georgia and Persia had relations for no less than a thousand years. Therefore, they had a cultural exchange in the past. So this may be the reason that the Georgian language may have some Persian words.

Sovdagari is the winner of Best Short Film at the Sundance Film Festival.

RATINGS: 6.5/10