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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



MISMFF 2022, 05: Silence! Here comes the Founder-Director, Dr. Khatuna Khundadze: Exclusive interview, by Siraj Syed

MISMFF 2022, 05: Silence! Here comes the Founder-Director, Dr. Khatuna Khundadze: Exclusive interview, by Siraj Syed      

Q.: How was the first festival conceived and why?

A: If you are in Georgia, in Mestia, and standing on the Terrace Theatre, the first word that come to you will be “mountain”. In Georgia, and in the Caucasus, there was no mountain film festival. I, and my partner, Gegi Paliani, there should be a mountain film festival, and so the festival was born.

A report on the first festival; what happened, how many films were shown, which important people came from all over the world, how many people attended totally, etc.

The first festival was right in the middle of the pandemic. The restrictions were already in place, and, exactly on September 15, 2021, we had the opening, and in Mestia, the red carpet was laid for the first time. It was a celebration for all of Svaneti. After such a long lockdown, people wanted to see and feel something different, and the festival was exactly what they needed. We had an international's Jury. 42 films were screened and the press reported daily on the festival. The festival made people happy.

Is the festival completely independent or does it get support or subsidy from the Georgian Government or any other government sources?

Municipality of Mestia was the first to give us a hand, and that gave us courage. Then there was the Ministry of Culture, and, of course, private sponsors, a bank and a pharmaceutical company, GPC. Without wine there can be no celebration in Georgia, and, of course one of the sponsors was the wine company Mildiani. This year, National Film Centre is also participating, and is our sponsor, along with others mentioned above.

Are any famous Georgian film-makers participating this year, either with their films or as guests?

Front: Khatuna Khundadze and Mariana Ioseliani, mountaineer from Mestia; Back - Nana Jordjadze, film director - Chairperson of the jury and journalist Sofia Megrelidze

Of course they were, and one was the Chairperson of Jury- Nana Jorjadze. We gave a surprise to Nana, and Arsenal, who was my partner from Germany, restored Nana Jorjadze's film, Atlanten. Nana thought the film was lost, and that was a big gift for her.

Which important film-makers attended the festival last year?

In 2021, in Georgia, there were very strict regulations, and we didn't know if the festival would even happen. We couldn't invite many guests, because a certain distance had to be maintained between occupied seats, and it wasn't easy to let everyone in. However, our well-known directors, actors, designers came... and even received awards. This year there should be more, but now there is another problem, fewer flights and unrealistically high airfares.

Are there any international personalities attending this year, besides the journalists? Did any international personalities attend last year?

Here is the list of five such personalities.

Riza Oylum


Nesrin Allam


Jaewon Sheol

South Korea

Siraj Syed

Mumbai, India

Vladislav Davidson


"I am honoured that you count me in this list."

How many films will be shown? In how many categories?

We will screen 24 films, in 2 categories, short and mountain films.

But we will also have special sections.

Mountain section bears the name of Mikhael Khergiani, the most famous Alpinist who died in an accident in the Dolomites, and who would have celebrated his 90th anniversary this year.

In the Mestia Museum, there will be children's sections, and from all around, we will take children to the cinema, where animation and children's films will be shown.

And, of course, Ukraine will be the focus - we dedicate a section to Ukraine.

What are the various prizes? Are they different from last year?

The prizes are three permanents: best short, best mountain and grand prix for both sections. There are two more prizes: Special Jury Prizes. The Trophies have special designs: Svan family towers made of crystal, and Mestia Mountain Crystal, frozen in Crystal, Mestia Gold (for Grand Prix) and Last Rope of Khergiani. Everything in the trophy is made of material found in Mestia, including the wood.

What made you give up your career as a pædiatrician and get involved in films?

Love for the arts and culture...

Ok, I also love children more than anything, and my dream is to make children's films, which are unfortunately, not financed in Georgia today. But I hope it will be possible soon.

Who are your favourite directors and actors/actresses?

Charlie Chaplin und Charlie Chaplin.

As a film-maker, what kind of subjects interest you, and what will your next film be about?

About a child and a doctor, a fantastic story that really happened.


Dr. Khatuna with Gegi Paliani

Resume and curriculum vitae

Dr. Khatuna Khundadze, is a Georgian film director and producer, from Tbilisi, the capital city.

Having finished her studies in Medicine (specialising as a paediatrician), Khatuna changed course and pursued cultural studies in Germany, at the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design, becoming a Master of Arts, in sculpture.

In Germany, Khatuna studied cultural management and worked as a manager of cultural activities, freelance artist, and exhibition curator. She also established a gallery for non-professional artists.

For many years, Khatuna promoted various fields of Georgian culture throughout Europe and prepared reportages for Georgian TV channels. In late 2012, Khatuna, returned to her home country, Georgia, and became the Deputy Minister of Culture of Georgia. Since 2013, she is in charge of the Department for Promotion of Georgian Culture. Many international projects and new ideas were initiated and implemented with Ms. Khundadze’s support. Parallel to her work in public service, Ms. Khundadze continued her studies at the Georgia State University of Theater and Film, in the Faculty of Film Directing, and graduated with honours, with a Master of Arts. She continued her studies at the same university, in pursuit of a PhD.

Currently, Khatuna Khundadze is the first female director of the oldest film studio in (ex-Soviet Union) Georgian Film and Chairman of the Board of Georgian Films Development Fund.

She is the founder and director of Mestia International Short and Mountain Film Festival

Selected filmography

2021- Take the Yodel and Run, Director and scriptwriter.

2020 - Terzo Momdo, long film, in production (Producer)

2016- 1) A.D.2015 - Director and scriptwriter, Producer

 2) Meeting at the Refrigerator- Director and scriptwriter, Producer

 3) A serious Man- Director and scriptwriter, Producer

2014- 1) 48 Hours from Tamar’s Life - Director and scriptwriter, Producer

          2) Sandro Tediashvili – 100 year-old Georgian Clown- Director and scriptwriter

2011 Stretched Strings – a documentary on the Georgian chamber orchestra carrying out its activities in Germany - scriptwriter and executive producer.

2006 Eteri – a documentary – Director and scriptwriter, Producer


2013 Stage design for Thomas Bernhard's play Theatermacher, for Rustaveli Theater


Compiler of 75 books about film, animation and children’s interest.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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