Inside the Distance
A famous director once said that making a film about a real person is a crime, because you can never do justice to life. So what did Elias Grootaers, who prefaces his keenly observed portrait of an Armenian boxing coach in Belgium with this quote, do? Made a film about a real person.
Giorgi Shakhsuvarian makes a fist: our heart is no bigger than that, he says. Yet his heart can fill the distance between Georgia and Belgium. Shakhsuvarian is an Armenian immigrant who grew up in Georgia. He has been living in Belgium for thirteen years, coaching boxers. A man with an intellectual background, he teaches his pupils not only about boxing, but also about life. The film's title refers not only to the distance between countries. In boxing, distance refers to the length of a bout – a fight during which you have to survive, just like outside the ring.
With the opening quote from filmmaker Otar Iosseliani, who says that making a film about real people is a crime, Elias Grootaers seems to be challenging the viewer. Do we get to know Shakhsuvarian, disproving Iosseliani's statement? In a sense, this is just a man. But a man who is equally at home talking about offensive strategies in the ring as he is making fascinating observations outside of it.