In May 2022, members of the Catholic Universities Partnership met at Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani University in Tbilisi, Georgia for a conference titled “Resilience and Recovery: Challenges for Universities.” One highlight of the conference was a screening of Faces of Rural Life and Resilience, a new short film by two Notre Dame faculty members Ian Kuijt, professor of anthropology and faculty fellow of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and William Donaruma, professor of the practice in filmmaking and creative director for the Office of Digital Learning.
Kuijt and Donaruma are the co-principle investigators of a Nanovic Institute research cluster exploring the abandonment of European smallholder farming and rural sustainability. For this project, the collaborators spent eight days in rural Georgia, including along the Georgia-Russia border to the north and west of the country. They filmed people and places, and then assembled and edited the materials to capture some of the complexities, humanity, and rural resilience in the Republic of Georgia and, by extension, Ukraine.
This film research project is part of a broader comparative project, Uncertain Harvest, which looks at disappearing and vulnerable rural life-ways in Europe through extensive interviews with people in multiple countries. The research cluster has been in existence since 2021 and will be expanded over the next two years to include rural areas around Lviv, Ukraine and four other locations: Kizilkaya (Turkey), Bova (Italy), Lublin (Poland), and Zagreb (Croatia).
Discussing Faces of Rural Life and Resilience, Kuijt says “this was a challenging film to put together, both from the physical standpoint of filming in remote locations over eight days, but also selecting from hours of film interviews and putting together a short film under a very tight deadline. In the end, we tried to capture some of the humanity, resilience, and hope of rural villagers by focusing on the words and the faces of the people we interviewed. The detailed personal interviews, conducted in Georgian, Armenian, and Russian, provide the foundation for the expanded Uncertain Harvest film project.”
A link to the version of Faces of Rural Life and Resilience that was screened at the CUP Tbilisi conference is below, as well for a pilot version of Uncertain Harvest.
Faces of Rural Life and Resilience
By Ian Kuijt and William Donaruma, 2022 (11:00 min)
Centered on small-scale rural village life of the Republic of Georgia, this film explores the disappearing village life-ways in Georgia and Ukraine in the human conflict and abandonment of traditional villages.
Uncertain Harvest: Reflections on Changing European Farm Life
By Ian Kuijt and William Donaruma, 2021 (8:30 min)
This pilot project was filmed in Sweden, Turkey, the United States, and the United Kingdom. This version only includes oral history and interview footage from the UK and the U.S. in order to streamline this presentation.