Georgian newcomer Salomé Alexi addresses money and the mortgage crises in her new film, Line of Credit. The unlikely comedy follows determined shopkeeper Nino, who will stop at nothing to save her struggling business. Line of Credit screens March 26 and March 28 as part of the 44th Annual New Directors/New Films, which continues through this Sunday, March 29.

Line of Credit
Salomé Alexi, France/Georgia, 2014, 85m

Description: Things are tough all over. Mortgage crises and other economic woes have hit the entire world, including the Republic of Georgia. Nino, a fortysomething woman with a small shop in Tbilisi, grew up (along with her countrymen and -women) without thinking about the complexities of finance. But the advent of capitalism in the former Soviet republic changed all of that. When the money becomes tight, Nino goes about taking loan after loan, but even as the situation gets out of hand, Salomé Alexi maintains a beautifully light, comedic tone in her feature-film debut. (Her short Felicità showed in ND/NF 2010.) Her camera observes the deadpan humor that exists alongside the desperate straits in which the people find themselves. Entertaining a French tourist in her shop while finagling yet another loan with her employee (who’s been skimming money from her), Nino represents us all: someone trying to keep her head above water while working to make things right.

Responses from Salomé Alexi

On painting and a French education:

Cinema has always co-existed with me. I grew up in a family of filmmakers. However, my personal path to film directing turned out to be a longer road. First, I studied painting at the Art Academy. The years I spent there are very important to me. Those years [becoming familiar] with each artist, each canvas, each era, and painting [generally] are a significant part of my life. I was lucky that I got to study at the French Film School La Fémis as well. It was very important for me to break out of my narrow Georgian surroundings, and to find myself in a strange, unknown world. This was the 1990s, and during that time, the reality I left behind was changing drastically. So my first exposure to film directing occurred in France. Paris is a wonderful place for this. You can watch nearly 300 films hitting the screens weekly in French cinemas.

On the alienating effect of money on Georgia and the lives of its citizens:

The subject of the mortgage crisis represents a larger, much more complicated and controversial problem in the post-Soviet context, than it [does] in Europe or the Western world. I belong to the generation that grew up, and was shaped, under the Soviet system. There are many books, films, and analyses about this period. Though it seems to me that nothing describes the post-Soviet era more precisely than the relationship between people and money there. Each social class of Georgian, or any other post-Soviet society, is affected by troubles that are rooted in ignorance. Seeing this really touched my heart. Usually we don’t know how to deal with money. When our relationship with money isn’t pragmatic, it appears daringly attractive. At the same time, if we continue following this dangerous path, we may end up isolating ourselves from the modern world. 

On acting for the camera:

I had long and extensive conversations with my main actress Nino Kasradze during pre-production and before the shoot. We agreed upon precisely what kind of character she had to play. This made the process and style of working I proposed quite effortless for everybody. Nino was very aware that it’s even more important to hit your marks on set than it is to portray the love you feel for the grandmother who raised you in that same scene. Nino turned out to be a real film actress, and the same goes for the others. Only a few actors asked me what their character had to feel or what was happening in the life of the character leading up to a scene. I didn’t have answers to those kinds of questions anyway.

On post-production and reinventing the bicycle:

The most difficult and challenging part for me, was to first create the film and then to independently engage in post-production. Each time we embark on a process like this, we tend to think that we have to [reinvent] the bicycle, though we soon realize that the bicycle has already been invented. The next step is to ride that bicycle on your own. It is not simple at all, though if one intends to make a film, one must also realize that nothing can be easy.

On bringing a film from infancy to adulthood:

My last film is like a child who still needs my attention, and I have to give it to him. The child has to learn how to walk first. In some sense, this film is like an orphan. I am the only parent. As soon as I sense that the child can walk alone, I’ll start thinking about my new projects.