A B O U T  T H E  F I L M


One story of scholars and artists at risk around the globe, At the Top of My Voice is a verité documentary that provides an intimate portrait of the human faces behind the struggle for freedom of expression and human rights everywhere.


Set against the backdrop of the 2007 crackdown on democracy in the Republic of Georgia, the film follows activists Irakli Kakabadze and Anna Dolidze as they return to their native country to shine a light on the violence and corruption of President Saakashvili's regime and take part in monitoring his controversial reelection.



S T O R Y


In December 2006, Irakli Kakabadze and Anna Dolidze fled to the US from their native Georgia after continuous persecution by the government of Mikheil Saakashvili. Irakli is a novelist, poet, journalist, and a highly renowned political activist who played a key role in the 2003 Rose Revolution that propelled Mikheil Saakashvili to the presidency. Anna was the former chair of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, using her role as a human rights lawyer to shine a light on the Georgian government’s faltering commitment to the rule of law. In 2006, the couple’s outspoken criticism of the government resulted in repeated attacks and arrests. They sought refuge in New York, hoping to continue their activism from abroad.


In the fall of 2007, Anna received a research fellowship at NYU. The couple settled in to the challenges of adjusting to life in the US while caring for their newborn son, Andro. Their new life was shaken by news of mass protests in Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi. After five days of peaceful protests – just the type Saakashvili had helped lead in 2003 - Saakashvili ruthlessly and violently dispersed the protests and took control of the media, shutting down TV stations and restricting the public’s access to information. The next day, in order to affirm his democratic bona fides to the Western powers in the wake of his crackdown, Saakashvili declared new elections to be held in January.


Anna and Irakli were faced with a difficult choice: stand by helplessly as the democratic freedoms they fought so hard to establish were violently suppressed, or put their new life in danger by returning to Georgia to help their countrymen. Unable to watch from afar, and at great personal risk, Anna and Irakli chose the latter. With mere weeks before the election, they returned to Georgia with seven-month-old Andro in tow.


The events that follow highlight the stakes for those fighting for democracy throughout the world. Irakli engages in a wide spectrum of political activism aimed at focusing media attention on the violence and corruption of the Saakashvili regime - from posting opposition stickers on the walls of the city to staging demonstrations in front of government buildings - with almost no resources and greatly hindered by the government-controlled media.  Anna assumes the role of election monitor, advocating for the right of Georgians to have a transparent political system that respects the rule of law. As the election draws near, Irakli and Anna must decide how much they will risk for the cause of human rights and democracy.


I M P A C T


Through the actions of Anna and Irakli we examine a central struggle of the contemporary era: namely, the political transition from socialism to deliberative democracy. Their experiences shed light on the challenges both for societies that are seeking to implement democratic principles and for individuals who are fighting to secure the rights that democracy affords.


When we first met Anna and Irakli, they were using the US to secure a political voice in their home country, as it was undergoing an important transition from Soviet rule to independence—a process that still is very much incomplete. The two Georgians fled to the U.S. with the assistance of various advocacy organizations. In the mid-20th century, the couple would have been fairly recognizable: theirs was the classic migration of those who were suppressed and pursued for their political involvement. The US has long been a home for individuals who sought permanent refuge with little chance of returning to their homeland. However, Anna and Irakli have used American institutions to re-chart their political involvement in Georgia, and in this sense they do not conform to the classic portrait that has characterized the western world for the past century.


Indeed, they represent the new form of political engagement in the era of globalization, where technology and the rapid exchange of ideas have blurred borders and erased boundaries. Though they were both exiled from Georgia, they nevertheless have been able to assume an important political voice in that country, whether through lobbying, blogging, or the highly fraught occasional return to Georgia to participate in street and electoral-based politics. That they can remain involved in their home country through these various forms highlights the shift in the nature of citizenship and political engagement in the 21st century.







film © 2008 Vivian G. Prins Foundation. All rights reserved

website and artwork © 2008 Genco Film Company, Ltd. and Parvati Productions, Inc. All rights reserved