A Trip to Karabakh with Commercial Interruption


In David Fincher’s film – The Social Network – there are advertisements for as many as forty-five brands. Some of that is product placement, or embedded marketing, whereas some brands are promoted for free, proceeding from the film plot. Some twenty brands are advertised in Christopher Nolan’s movie Inception. In both films, product placement is done so impeccably that a viewer watching those movies would find it difficult to detect any brand “advertisement.” There is not a single company logo or any individual brand that is so glaringly obvious as to constitute a blight on the viewer’s eye. What has been mastered perfectly by American film directors and producers is yet a formidable task for Georgian filmmakers. In Georgia, advertisement in a movie is more important than the plot of the movie itself. Advertisements take up so much of the running time in Georgian films that they could easily be mistaken for supporting characters. An unfortunate and glaring example of that is Last Trip: Karabakh Trilogy’s Final Part by Georgian film director Zaza Urushadze.

The story of Gogliko and his friends is told in the very first film trilogy ever produced in the history of independent Georgia. In a departure from the first two films in the trilogy, the action in this third film unfolds in present-day Tbilisi. The movie opens with fateful events in 1994 for two friends: Gio (Levan Doborjginidze) is killed while Gogliko (Misha Meskhi) is imprisoned. After serving a fifteen-year sentence, Gogliko is released from prison. On his way home, Gogliko engages in an altercation with a policeman and is sent back to prison for an additional year. That altercation, together with its finale, is quite funny. In fact, there are many funny scenes in the film.

Most of the credit goes to Misha Meskhi, who is a stellar actor and the engine of this movie. After he is released for a second time from prison, Gogliko befriends Gio’s son Luka (Tazo Tskhakaia) and tries to help Luka solve his problems. Luka is in love with his schoolmate, who also happens to be the daughter of his father’s murderer. Gio’s murderer is now a high-level official who believes that his daughter’s love story is a revenge plot against him. Gogliko is thinking about leaving for Karabakh because he feels that there is no place for him in Tbilisi. All of his friends have died. He is a symbol of his generation, the last representative of the lost youths who went through the Abkhaz war, squandered the best years of their lives abusing drugs and engaging in street brawls. The Internet, school discipline, respected police officers – all that is unfamiliar to him.

The film script, music, atmosphere invoke normalcy. Misha Meskhi occupies the role of Gogliko as if he were the subject of a documentary film. This creative work was intended as a tragicomedy and, in that regard, it has succeeded in an unintended way. The

film features a number of comedic episodes, but the only real tragedy here is the abundance of advertisements. Advertisements disrupt the balance of the film and overpower any positive emotions generated by the story. Each product placement is done tastelessly. Ads for beer, the Internet, sausage, vodka, betting shops, drug stores, dominate and inflict irreparable harm on the integrity of the film. They stand out as eyesores in almost every scene. In the final cut, the movie looks more like a very badly staged show at the Super Bowl than a seriocomic creative work.

One often hears Georgian filmmakers and producers complaining that no movie could ever be produced in Georgia without funding from advertisers – companies that demand conspicuous display of their brands in films. That is no excuse. As long as Georgian filmmakers so crudely position product placements in their films, any talk about creative value is impossible. A much better solution would be to reduce the budget by reducing the film’s running time or, alternatively, to negotiate with companies for product placement in some other form. The result would be a much higher-quality movie – and that would be far more entertaining than watching Georgian variations of The Truman Show reappear in Tbilisi movie theaters year in and year out.


This article first appeared in Tabula Georgian Issue # 91, published 12 March 2012.



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