"Mandariinid" is part of the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival. It was submitted by Estonia/Georgia (English captions) and takes us to wartime Abkhazia in 1990. Written and directed by Zaza Urushadze, this award-winning drama (Urushadze won in the Mannheim-Heidelberg, Warsaw and Tallinn Film Festivals, and nominated at the Palm Springs International Film Festival) has finally gone into wide release. In it, we witness the fiercely held loathing between Chechnya and Georgia. It is partly religious (Christian vs Muslim) and partly political.

Most of the residents have returned to Estonia where their families originated decades earlier. Two fellows, Ivo and Margus, stayed behind; they are in the tangerine business: Margus raises, harvests and sells them, while Ivo builds crates for shipping. After hearing gunfire, they find one wounded mercenary from Chechnya and four dead near their gate (three Georgians and another mercenary from Chechnya). They bring the wounded man into Ivo's house, and as they bury the four combatants, one Georgian shows signs of life, so they bring him, gravely wounded, into Ivo's other bedroom.

Now our story begins. Here is the cast:
  • Mikheil Meskhi is Ivo, a hawk-faced older fellow, who never hesitates; he instantly helps others, regardless of their "side" in this misery.
  • Elmo NĂ¼ganen is Margus, the fellow with the tangerine orchard. He wants to make this sale so he can join his family in Estonia.
  • Giorgi Nakashidze is Ahmet, slightly wounded but eager to "kill that scumbag in the next room!" Ivo eventually gets him to promise not to kill Nika unless he steps outside the house.
  • Misha Meskhi is Nika, a Christian with shrapnel in his head. His hatred for Ahmet is every bit as venomous.
With war being waged in the neighborhood, these four men have to find a way to control their loathing as they heal, play checkers, cook, chop wood, and drink tea together. Slowly their prejudice seeps away even though they are unaware that it is happening.

This has shocking moments, military-type language (profane), gunfights and burial details. We come to care about each one, which is a vital element for me if I am to recommend a film. I recommend this one. Watch for it in your local art house cinema.
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This trailer has English captions:
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