What would you do to win a prize? Where should you stop if you wanted to keep your dignity? Does the end always justify the means? A Machiavellian dilemma for a Georgian film made by Rusudan Chkonia
, a director taking her first steps. Coproduced in France and in Luxemburg and greatly received during Venice Days, Keep Smiling
is a condensation of female, dark humour.
Ten women are selected to take part in a beauty pageant for young mothers in Georgia. The appetising prize is a flat and $25,000. Most of them are struggling financially and the prize would solve some of their problems. A fierce challenge thus starts inside this mishmash of women, who will stop at almost nothing to come out on top. There is the model mother drowning in debt, the beautiful and connected one who wants to make it on her own, the war victim who has been asked to sensationalise her drama, the failed violinist looking for a second chance, the unfaithful mother obsessed by time passing by and the girl oppressed by an ambitious mother.
The show's tacky rehearsals alternate with scenes from the everyday lives of the competitors: dances, fashion shows and recitals on one side; children to be breast fed, banks calling in and fights with husbands on the other. "It was clear from the beginning that the tone needed to be one of tragicomedy," the director commented. "The only way to deal with such a topic is to step back and avoid a moralistic approach."
"Years ago, I was filming a documentary on street children and I bumped into a mother of seven who told me about one such competition she took part in," continued Rusudan Chkonia. "I thought it was a humiliating experience, but also a very entertaining one to tell."
Baby keep smiling/You know the sun is shining is the recurring theme throughout most of the film. It accompanies the ten protagonists as they exhibit themselves. A bit like saying the show must go on, at whatever cost. A number one rule for the event, which thank goodness, not all of the participants are willing to respect.