Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili

Sergei Paradjanov and actress Leila Alibegashvili at Paradjanov’s home, Tbilisi, Georgia, ca. 1980. Photo: Alexander Tombulidi.


WHEN I WAS A CHILD, the filmmaker Sergei Paradjanov made me a doll. An assemblage of mismatched parts, it wore a hand-sewn brown velvet dress and crocheted white tights and had an open mouth that was missing a few porcelain teeth. It hung next to my bed and never failed to repulse me, but it fascinated me, too, because my parents called it art, and so it stayed there.

And Paradjanov, or Sergo, as we called him, was just as intriguing himself. An Armenian born and raised in Tbilisi, he studied in Moscow, crossing paths with Tarkovsky before moving to the Ukraine to begin his career. Rising to fame too quickly for Soviet watchdogs, he was arrested on allegations of homosexuality in 1973 and exiled to a Siberian work camp. Many came to his defense, and in early 1978, Sergo returned to Tbilisi, where he began working again. Though there was hardly any funding

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