At the Top of My Voice

ITHACA CITY OF ASYLUM

Defending the Freedom to Write

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Holly Bailey, 607-532-4924 hbwrite@zoom-dsl.com

Travis Winter, 607-272-2112 TravisWCSS@RACKERCENTERS.ORG

Filmmaker to present movie on local Georgian peace activist couple who put their lives at risk, April 5 at Fall Creek Pictures

“Peace is a dangerous idea to some people,” says Irakli Kakabadze, a writer, poet and playwright from the Republic of Georgia who fled his native country in late 2006 with his pregnant wife when his life was threatened because of his writing, antiwar and human rights activism.

The couple is now living in Ithaca, where Kakabadze is a writer in residence with Ithaca City of Asylum, a local nonprofit that aids writers who have been persecuted for speaking out.

Their activism and brave actions are the subject of a film, “At the Top of My Voice,” by Larry Kamerman and A.V. Sudhir that will have its regional premier at Ithaca’s Fall Creek Pictures April 5 at 1 p.m. as part of the 2009 Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF). Kamerman has worked with such film luminaries as Martin Scorsese and Steven Soderbergh.

Kakabadze and his wife, Anna Dolidze, will answer questions following the screening, which Kamerman hopes to attend. Kakabadze is currently a visiting fellow in the Peace Studies Program at Cornell University, and Dolidze is a visiting scholar at Cornell Law School and human rights monitor for Human Rights Watch in such post-Soviet countries as Uzbekistan.

“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. Set against the backdrop of the recent crackdowns on democracy in the Republic of Georgia, the film shows clips of Kakabadze broadcasting news programs criticizing the reigning Georgian government of President Mikheil Saakashvili for corruption, human rights violations and militarism. It features Kakabadze taking part in nonviolent street protests against the Saakashvili regime and being treated in a hospital for a concussion he sustained following a beating by thugs believed to be hired by the government to intimidate it critics. And it shows the pair risking their lives in returning to Georgia from the United States with their young son, Andro, so that Dolidze can monitor the much-criticized voting process that ended in Saakashvili’s reelection in January 2008.

Kakabadze, whose writing is often deeply political and sharply satirical, has published five books and more than 50 short stories in Georgian, Russian and English publications.  [OPTIONAL He took part in the Rose Revolution that introduced democratic reforms to Georgia in 2003, and he was among the many supporters who broke with Saakashvili after his regime grew increasingly repressive. In December 2006 Kakabadze fled the Georgia Republic with Dolidze after receiving anonymous death threats following his newspaper editorial calling for the government to apologize for persecuting the people of western Georgia during the 1992-94 conflict in that region.]

“There’s still a Soviet-Stalinist thinking in all these places,” says Kakabadze of Georgia, other former Soviet Union regions and Russia. “What we’re not hearing but need to hear is the voice of nonviolence.”

Ithaca City of Asylum (ICOA) is affiliated with the Center for Transformative Action at Cornell. The group’s efforts are essential as long as “there are places in this world where, if you honestly put pen to paper, someone will put a gun to your head,” comments novelist and Cornell professor of creative writing Lamar Herrin, an ICOA board member.

Supported entirely by private and community donations and grants, Ithaca City of Asylum works in partnership with Cornell, Ithaca, Wells, and Hobart and William Smith colleges and is part of a national network of cities of refuge. For more information, see:<ithacacityofasylum.wordpress.com>.

“At the Top of My Voice” was funded by the Vivian G. Prins Foundation. For more information about the film, see <www.atthetopofmyvoice.com>.

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