‘13 Tzameti’: universal violence

A raw and captivating psychological thriller, «13 Tzameti,» (currently playing in theaters), written and directed by Georgian expatriate Gela Babluani, started off as a small independent French film about an immigrant who gets caught up in a dangerous streak of gambling. The production has been slated for an American remake, possibly with either Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio in the starring role. The original French version’s lead actor, 22-year-old George Babluani, the brother of the film’s director, was recently in Athens for the production’s Greek premiere at the Opening Nights Athens International Film Festival. He spoke to Kathimerini about the film and working with family. It had been said that the film shows influences from the films of Melville, even «Fight Club». How valid is this? There are influences from old French, American and Russian films. But the basic influence was the way our [director] father edits. He does it without sound so that the images are strong enough to stand on their own without music. Why is the plot so harsh? The script was written when we were still living in Georgia. The last period of our life there was very violent and my brother lost lots of friends who were jailed, driven crazy, were armed, or were murdered as a settlement of differences. When he went to France, he realized that man is violent to his core, even without guns. We all could find ourselves in such a situation of psychological pressure anywhere – it’s like having a shotgun stuck against our heads. It’s something people become accustomed to, as is the case with the prevalence of reality TV, where a player can be eradicated with one phone call, or vote. It’s a universal condition, so there aren’t the names of places in the film. How did you prepare for the role? Every day and every scene was different. I love to read and watch films, but I had no references for this film. I don’t know if I did well because even Al Pacino uses Marlon Brando as a reference. My brother allows plenty of time for the preparation of each scene. He is capable of shooting a scene as many as 50 times to get the right result. How different is it to work with family members? It’s hugely different. One is fortunate when this is possible. It’s amazing. But you also need other experiences, work and collaboration with others, to get away from the family bonds at some point. Being part of an artistic family, what kind of guidelines did you inherit? My father, brother and sister are directors, and my mother and two other siblings are actors. I was the only member of the family who did not want to get involved with film. I was a soccer player and often got into family arguments about this. But they let me do what I pleased. When I broke my leg, I started reading more and seeing more films, and it was only then that I started to want to become an actor. What’s the experience of leaving your homeland like? It’s never easy to leave your country and live elsewhere. My siblings have been living in France for about 13 years. I went seven years ago without wanting to. I’d like to return to Georgia and make films there. But the country itself must also provide this opportunity. In France, there are opportunities to try, even if you are not well-known or French. Otherwise, this film would never have been made.