Alumna Déa Kulumbegashvili '18 Wins FIPRESCI Prize at 45th Annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)

BY Cody Beltis , September 21, 2020

Still from Beginning, written & directed by Déa Kulumbegashvili '18, produced by Ilan Amouyal '17

At this years’ 45th Annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the Toronto International Film Festival International Critics’ Prize, currently known as the FIPRESCI Prize, was awarded to alumna Déa Kulumbegashvili '18, for her debut feature film, Beginning. In 1992, FIPRESCI launched an award at TIFF to honor the best film by a first-time director, as selected by an appointed jury of eight international film critics. The jury this year consisted of Jon Asp from Sweden, Jihane Bougrine from Morocco and Adriana Fernández from Mexico. 


The jury released the following statement about Beginning: “The prize goes to a brave and fresh quiet storm of a film that depicts the condition of being a woman in Georgia, masterfully portrayed in a universal manner by Ia Sukhitashvili. The film’s precise dialogue is perfectly balanced by an ominous silence that creates a full sensory experience. This is an emotionally compelling debut feature by a filmmaker whose voice feels established and one to watch.”


Beginning, written & directed by Kulumbegashvili and produced by Ilan Amouyal '17, is a harrowing, sensorial debut feature that centers on a Jehovah’s Witness missionary seeking justice in a remote Georgian village. “Impeccably shot on 35mm by Kulumbegashvili’s collaborator Arseni Khachaturan; edited by Matthieu Taponier, who is known for editing László Nemes’s Son of Saul; and with original music by experimental electronic composer Nicolás Jaar, who scored Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan (2015) and Pablo Larraín’s Ema (2019), Beginning is an unsettling plummet down a rabbit hole,” the Toronto International Film Festival writes. “Sukhitashvili, barefaced and forthright, is brilliant as Yana. Not for the faint of heart, Kulumbegashvili’s latest pierces logic and challenges us to not only see, but also feel the inexplicable horrors that can be endured by the vulnerable when at the mercy of the almighty.” 


The FIPRESCI Prize rewards films that the organization deems as enterprising filmmaking. Currently, two FIPRESCI awards are presented annually for films in TIFF’s Discovery and Special Presentations streams, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced festival programming, only a single FIPRESCI Prize was named this year. 


Previous winners of the FIPRESCI Prizes awarded by the International Federation of Film Critics have included Quentin Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs, Gus Van Sant for My Own Private Idaho, Jane Campion for An Angel at My Table, Paul Thomas Anderson for Boogie Nights, Todd Solondz for Happiness, and Steve McQueen for Hunger. The award is given out during a variety of film festivals, including the Vienna International Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Cannes Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival and the Warsaw International Film Festival.


Kulumbegashvili was born and raised in Georgia, and studied film directing at Columbia University School of the Arts and media studies at The New School in New York. Her debut short film, Invisible Spaces, was nominated for The Palme D'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2014. It was also the first film from independent Georgia to be part of the official competition at the Cannes International Film Festival.


In additiona to Beginning, the following films by alumni also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last week:  House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae), written & directed by Bora Kim '11, and The Truffle Hunters, co-directed & produced by Gregory Kershaw '11.