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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hollywood stars at Georgia-Russia war film premiere in Tbilisi

TBILISI — US stars Andy Garcia and Sharon Stone brought Hollywood glamour to ex-Soviet Tbilisi on Sunday at the premiere of a film about the Georgia-Russia war that portrays the conflict as Kremlin aggression.

"Five Days of August", directed by veteran Renny Harlin and co-produced by a Georgian minister, focuses on a fictional American reporter trying to establish the truth about atrocities committed during the five-day conflict in 2008.

"It's an anti-war movie," said Garcia, who plays the role of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, at a news conference in Tbilisi.
"We see the tragedies that arose so hopefully they won't happen again," said the actor, once Oscar-nominated for his role in "The Godfather: Part III".

Director Harlin, best known for action thrillers like "Die Hard 2" and "Cliffhanger", said the film was about "a small country fighting for independence and freedom".

"It was the most powerful experience of my life and my career," he said of making the film in Georgia.
Hundreds died in the brief war which saw Moscow's forces pour into neighbouring Georgia to repel Tbilisi's attempt to retake the Kremlin-backed rebel region of South Ossetia.

One of the film's producers is a minister in the pro-Western Saakashvili administration, although he rejected suggestions that the film was a biased portrayal of the conflict.

"Of course it is not propaganda," Minister for Diaspora Issues Mirza Davitaia told AFP. "They based this movie on international reports from Human Rights Watch and the European Union," he said. The Georgian authorities allowed Harlin to use their soldiers, tanks and helicopters to shoot scenes of firefights and fleeing refugees, although they have denied directly funding the film.

Harlin told reporters that the project cost $12 million, refuting previous estimates of $20 million, although it remains one of the most expensive films ever shot in the impoverished country. Books portraying the Georgian soldiers who died during the fighting as heroes were distributed at the Tbilisi screening.

Sharon Stone did not appear in the film but attended the premiere and a charity event that followed to raise money for the families of those who suffered during the war. Several hundred people gathered near the cinema where the premiere was held to cheer the US stars, whose appearance was a rare sight in the small Caucasus republic.

"I've very happy that a Hollywood director has filmed what happened in our country, where we have a big enemy," one onlooker, Niko Bagashvili, told AFP. "This is a small country and it's great that famous people like Garcia and Stone have come here," said another, Nana Ivanishvili.

By Matthew Collin (AFP)