Review: Little Man, Time and the Troubadour (2019)


Little Man, Time and the Troubadour (2019)

Directed by: Ineke Smits | 104 minutes | documentary

According to a large part of the international community, the mountain state of Abkhazia, located on the Black Sea, is an autonomous republic within the territory of Georgia. In practice, the country has in any case been independent since 1993, although that independence is not recognized by most states. Russia, which had stationed troops in Abkhazia for some time, recognized its independence in 2008. Around that time, Russia was waging war against Georgia.

Before we go any further: In February 2022, Russia recognized the independence of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and started a war against the country, which is much more resistant than smaller Georgia. Also in Abkhazia the nation-state is in any case a flexible concept, and the question ‘what is my country?’ the overarching theme of this documentary. Director Ineke Smits follows the puppeteer Sipa and his surroundings, and interviews them about the subject.

The explosive Caucasus has no unambiguous history. Sipa’s family fled to Moscow in the 1990s, as Soviet Georgians. Then it was Georgia that was at war. Regardless of the loyalty to the motherland, the land of Sipa’s family was Abkhazia. So what’s your home? In an attractive, sensory visual language (a lot of backlighting, dancing and singing; we see, among other things, a bicycle riding up a cypress hill in the style of the Italian film classics), Smits gives the philosophical answer.

‘The question is more important’, is a statement from the philosophy of science. Whose deed. It does not make the schizophrenic situation of the educated Abkhazians any easier, but Smits allows them to go about their business. The result is very personal, diverse and little political. So much the better, because the unequivocal answers that have recently been offered for the Ukraine question are hardly uplifting. The way in which Smits shows us the protagonists of her docu is just that.