As recently as this June, we saw the removal of statues by activists in cities of Europe and North America. Leopold II came down in Antwerp, the slaver Robert Milligan went into the Thames in Leeds, confederate Robert E. Lee fell in New Orleans. The toppling of the statues were acts of restorative justice by protestors, expressions of societies grappling with history. In a civil society, monuments to despots are out of place.
What happens with such monuments when a country is not able to confront its past? Almost thirty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, and more than 70 after his death, monuments to Stalin populate the Georgian landscape. They appear in various shapes, whole and broken, preserved and decaying, mostly still, but sometimes even moving. Only stray dogs seem to be affected by their presence. At the Stalin museum, a group of sixth-graders is shown his death mask by a tour guide that tells them of his virtues. In Tbilisi, a drunken Stalin impersonator for hire waits for tourists by a fragment of the Berlin wall. An anonymous field nearby is rumoured to be a mass grave for hundreds of victims of Stalinist persecutions in the 1930s. At night, a statue of Stalin emerges from a homemade monument, makes a speech, and disappears again.
Ozymandias, aims to break the taboo of looking at the past. To do so, it looks at the present, and at the symbol of the violence that we so freely tolerate. The film travels through various landscapes that frame these monuments, taking time with each of them, allowing the viewer to observe and to come to their own conclusions. To look is to take a position.
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