Best known internationally for his allegorical, politically charged film Repentance (1987), Georgian filmmaker and screenwriter Tenghiz Abuladze specialized in carefully crafted films that focused on relationships between people, without moral judgment or sociopolitical analysis.
Abuladze was born in Kutaisi, Georgia, back when the country was a state of the Soviet Union. In the 1940s, he studied at the Shota Rustaveli Theatrical Institute and after graduation decided to study film at the Moscow Film Institute with his close friend Revaz Chkheidze. The two studied under Sergei Yutkevich and Mikhail Romm. Abuladze and Chkheidze graduated in 1952. Their diploma film was a biography of Georgian composer Dimitry Arakishvili. As with his subsequent solo work, Abuladze's first professional feature, made in collaboration with Chkheidze, centered on Georgian life. A simple tale of a group of children who adopt a charcoal merchant's lost jackass and then go to court when he wants it back, Magdan's Donkey earned a special prize for short films at the Cannes Film Festival in 1966. Abuladze's first solo effort, Chuzhiye Deti/Someone Else's Children (1958) was a nearly silent affair that provided an insightful, but almost melodramatic look at a Georgian family.
From a technical view, Abuladze was a meticulous craftsman, who laid out his storylines in such great detail that he knew to the subtlest twitch and the finest detail exactly what he wanted from his actors and his production crew. He first gained international prominence in 1978 with highly acclaimed, multi-award-winning The Wishing Tree and in 1980 earned the designation of National Artist of the Soviet Union. By far his most important film was his last, Repentance (1986). Using an almost surrealistic mixture of fantasy, drama, and satire, it strongly criticizes Stalin's atrocities in Georgia, but more importantly, it is a powerful indictment against totalitarianism in general. It was originally made for Georgian television, but then changed into a feature. Though it was completed in 1984, the Soviet government considered the subject matter too critical and banned it for two years. Repentance was nominated for a "Best Foreign Film" Oscar in 1987. In 1988, Abuladze received the Lenin Prize. Between 1990 and 1991, he served as a member of Soviet Parliament.