A film about border demarcation in the 21st century

Watch: I didn't cross the border, the border crossed me

It is an absurd and almost unbelievable story: When Russia began erecting barbed-wire fences along the border with Georgia following the 2008 war between the two countries, it did so right through the middle of existing South-Ossetian villages and their surrounding communities. This is also what happened in Churvaleti: families and communities were separated, and border patrols now walk past every two hours and take into custody anyone who gets too close to this border. Nevertheless, the residents are always finding new ways to keep up their contact with those on the other side of the fence. Take Makho and Gocha, for instance, who have been friends since youth. Back then, they were always there for each other – until, all of a sudden, they and their families found themselves on different sides of the border. I didn't cross the border, the border crossed me is a story about friendship in times of political pressure.

You can watch the documentary here:

(75 minutes, English subtitles)

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Filmmaker Toma Chagelishvili has for quite some time been following in the news the story of the demarcation of the border: “The illegal border only ever used to pop up on the news when public figures paid it a visit. I’ve been observing what’s been going on there and what’s been reported by journalists who’ve come back from there,” he says. And so it is hardly surprising that a visit by representatives of the EU became part of the Georgian filmmaker’s work of documentation.

At one point, viewers learn that a resident of the village of Churvaleti has been arrested while crossing the border. “Of course, the film crew, too, was always at risk of being arrested by the Russian military,” Chagelishvili explains. “That rarely deterred us – though we were always careful with our shooting times – because filming is so important to us.” Indeed, the filmmaker was more concerned about the protagonists, “like when Gocha’s grandmother fell ill and the border of barbed wire made it impossible for a doctor to examine her properly.”

Although the film is already six years old, the situation has, even today, not really changed for the better in the village of Churvaleti. “The illegal border is still in place. And the border patrol is still very strict with people.” Chagelishvili does not have a lot of good news about Makho, Gocha and their families: “The stories of our protagonists are very sad: Mr Data passed away, and his wife is now all alone. Makho got married and the Russians arrested his wife for allegedly entering Russian-controlled territory.” Later, like his wife, Makho was himself arrested, but the Russians released them both after a fortnight. The fate of Gocha, whom the documentary accompanies on his search for a wife, is especially sad. “He passed away from cancer only a year ago.”

We asked the filmmaker whether he thought the political situation would improve: “I doubt anything will change for the better in the near future. In fact, the Russians are likely to get even tougher.”


Malkhaz Vanishvili
David Vanishvili
Valya Vanishvili
Gocha Makishvili


Regie: Toma Chagelishvili
Kamera: Kakhaber Mshvidobadze
Schnitt: Anna Lamazashvili
Ton: Tamta Mandzulashvili
Sound Design: Thomas Wallmann
Produzent: Stefan Kloos, Victoria Kavzharadze, Toma Chagelishvili
Creative Producer: Veronika Janatková, Carsten Böhnke
Produktion: T-Studio, Kloos & Co. Medien
Mit Unterstützung von: Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, Georgian National Film Center, Broadcasting Company Rustavi 2 Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, British Embassy Tbilisi Coucasian House