The messenger logo

Full Speed Westward premiers at TIFF

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, December 11
Where does Georgia go? Is Georgia a part of Europe left all alone in Asia? Or is it still more Asian, striving for European values? Is it enough to enter Georgia or should the country become European-like?

These are questions German Director Stefan Tolz asked during his journey to various parts of Georgia while driving in his vintage blue Volga 21.

Tolz’s documentary road movie Full Speed Westward premiered within the frames of the 14th Tbilisi International Film Festival (TIFF) on December 5 after its success in several European capitals.

Calling it a “non-political film about politics,” Tolz said this film is about people, and shows how the country tries to find its path.

Tolz has become familiar with Georgia over the past 20 years. Studying at the Georgian Institute of Theatre in the 1990s, he witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He started shooting Full Speed Westward the day the former Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili joined politics in November 7, 2011.

“This film is interesting now, but it will become more interesting in ten or twelve years,” Tolz said.

His Volga 21 standing in front of Amirani cinema looks brand new. It was a very popular car in Soviet times, but was not available to the masses.

All the important events developed during these last two years have been reflected in the documentary.

Tolz tells the story of Georgia since the Rose Revolution in 2003 when Mikheil Saakashvili became the president after long rallies against the former government. The director said it was then when Georgia started following a new direction to the West in a “country full of confrontations.”

Talking of Georgia as a country close to him, Tolz said that even though communism is “out of fashion” in Georgia nowadays, his Volga still rides well, but he personally feels a bit lost in Georgia, which has changed at a rapid speed.

In his brief introduction to Georgia’s modern history, Tolz uses interviews with six main characters of his documentary: Former President Mikheil Saakashvili, former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani, the Archibishop Kalistrate Metropolitan of Kutaisi, Auto mechanic Dato Imnaishvili, and historian Lasha Bakradze. They all have their own perception about the future and share their own philosophy.

Why did Ivanishvili join politics, what stakes did he have, did Saakashvili carry out wise reforms, was Georgia ready to take such a fast pace? How do political leaders estimate the steps they and their opponents make? What do ordinary people think about the country’s future and what is the position of the Orthodox Church? These and other questions always accompany Georgia. However, everyone may find their own answers.

Dato Imnaishvili, who is the auto mechanic that gives life to Tolz’s Volga, is satisfied with the film. “I do not play, I am real,” he told The Messenger, still wondering when the governments will start thinking of the people.

Georgian film director Lana Ghoghoberidze said it is always interesting to look at your country from the eyes of a foreigner who considers himself a part of Georgia.

Ambassador of Germany to Georgia, H.E. Ortwin Hennig and Mrs Maya-Liana Frank-Hennig also shared their impressions.

Frank-Hennig found the film interesting, humorous, and full of love for Georgia and Georgians. “We hope to be in Europe together,” Frank-Hennig told us, adding that the film has left everything open to think about. “I think the film does not tell you what to think, it that makes you think [on your own],” she said.

“I think it is more than just a documentary… Basically, as far as I have understood, this film is a declaration of love for Georgia, its people, and its customs,” Ambassador Hennig said, adding that the author of the film not only knows Georgia but loves this country.

Hopefully more and more people will have an opportunity to see this interesting film. For more information about this cross-media project, you can visit and share your opinion on Quo vadis, Georgia?

“I will not leave them alone in Asia,” Tolz says referring to Georgians. However, he added with regret that due to the proposed changes to the visa-related legislation, he may not have the opportunity to stay in Georgia for a long time.

“But you will remain in my mind,” he concluded.