“Tangerines” concerns a post-Soviet Union conflict in the 1990s that barely registered with most Americans: the fight between Georgia and Abkhazian separatists.
Caught in the middle of this mess were longtime Estonian immigrants, who quickly fled the bloodshed in Georgia and returned to their ancestral homeland.
One of those immigrants, Ivo, stays behind in Georgia, for reasons that are not revealed until the end. In the meantime, Ivo is helping a fellow Estonian farmer harvest the tangerine crop in their abandoned village.
It’s not long, however, before Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak, excellent) finds himself in the middle of a small yet deadly skirmish between some Georgians and rebels. The noble Ivo saves the life of one Georgian and one Chechen mercenary, and must figure out a way for both of them to convalesce in his home without killing each other.
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The alliances of the characters are a tad confusing at the beginning, but you don’t have to be an expert in geopolitics to appreciate the finer points of director Zaza Urushadze’s intimate film, which was nominated for a best foreign film Oscar.
Though the themes about war and peace will be familiar, this is good, old-fashioned storytelling — with a high-level of craftsmanship.