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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'Tangerines': A Profoundly Moving, Wildly Underappreciated Estonian-Georgian War Drama

Movie poster for the Estonian-Georgian film Tangerines starring Lembit Ulfsak, Giorgi Nakashidze and Mikheil Meskhi

“Tangerines” ("Mandariini") is a Estonian-Georgian war drama from 2013 that follows Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak), an ethnic Estonian living in a rural part of the disputed Abkhazia region—an area torn apart by war between Abkhaz separatists and the Georgian military. Ivo is long overdue to flee the dangerous region, but remains anxious to harvest his final crop of tangerines before he departs.

Desperately dependent on his tangerine output for the sake of subsistence, Ivo is soon confronted by a violent clash between Chechen mercenaries (sided with the Estonians) and Georgian forces—leaving a Chechen (Giorgi Nakashidze) and a Georgian (Mikheil Meskhi) mortally wounded. Both men are taken in by Ivo and slowly nursed back to health, even as they clash verbally and spout intense, deeply ingrained hatred for one another.

Slowly, however, the hostility between the two adversaries begins to cool as they come to recognize the humanity and honor in one another, previously obscured by prejudice and enmity. The unlikely camaraderie between the three men eventually leads to a point of profound reckoning, with dramatic and heartrending consequences.

Directed and co-written by Zaza Urushadze ("Three Houses", "Bolo Gaseirneba"), “Tangerines” is a tense, riveting human drama about the absurdity of warfare and the universal value of human reclamation. An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film in 2014, "Tangerines" is alternatingly heartwarming and profoundly heartbreaking—and altogether an exceptional, lesser-known international film that is certainly not to be overlooked.


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