Letters to Max
Abkhazia is a small piece of land between Georgia and Russia with a somewhat disputed existence. Though it definitely exists, to most of the world it’s not a country in its own right. Its citizens can’t visit other countries with their passports, it can’t trade with anyone but the few nations that recognise it and, as far as most postal systems are concerned, it isn’t there at all. So, when French artist Eric Baudelaire wrote to Max, former foreign minister of Abkhazia, he fully expected the letter to be sent back. Luckily, it wasn’t.
Pensive and playful, documentary Letters to Max unfolds through Eric’s missives to Max and Max’s verbal responses. Topics range from Abkhazia’s uncertain status, to the war with Georgia that led to their declared independence, to what it really means to be a country. Max’s responses are often imaginative, sometimes amusing, sometimes heartfelt and through them we get a sense not only of Max’s life story but of how deeply he loves his country.
The conversations are all set alongside scenes from everyday life in Abkhazia: children playing, the natural beauty of the countryside and a troop of soldiers performing the national anthem. The visuals are beautiful; we see the hustle and bustle of city life against buildings damaged in the war or by neglect.
Though it may sound rather dull, there’s something undeniably absorbing about the film. Max has a certain charm about him and it does raise some interesting questions about what a country actually is, how they come to be, whether legality is important and what part imagination plays.
But as interesting as Max’s musings can be, the almost two-hour runtime may be a little much. The camera tends to linger a little too long in some places and, though at times it provides a nice few seconds to mediate on the discussion, the effect drags.
Letters to Max is released nationwide on 5th October 2015.
Watch the trailer for Letters to Max here: