PHOTO BY BOTSO: THE TEACHER FROM TBILISI
BOTSO: THE TEACHER FROM TBILISI
Where is it playing?: Fremont on Thursday, March 6 at 4 p.m.
What's it rated?: Not rated
What's it worth?: $10.00
Botso: The Teacher From Tbilisi had its worldwide premiere during the 16th Maine International Film Festival (MIFF) and was overwhelmingly voted the winner of the Audience Choice for Best Film.
“Botso’s story is an amazing example of human resilience, how someone can turn something horrific into something positive,” said Tom Walters, the co-producer and director of the full-length documentary.
For anyone who loves to learn about how someone overcame tremendous obstacles life put in his path, Botso’s story is sure to inspire. For anyone who believes in the power of teaching music and art, Botso’s story will touch your soul.
“I was able to see dad in prison; he was in a small cell, and he was holding my mom’s hand,” recalled Wachtang “Botso” Korisheli, 91, in the film. That day took place in 1936, just before Stalin had his father, celebrated Georgian actor Platon Korisheli, executed as an enemy of the people. “That’s where he told me everything he wanted to tell me for the rest of my life. He said to me, ‘When you go to bed each night, ask yourself: ‘Have I done enough today?’”
Botso was 14.
That last meeting helped Botso endure years of suffering at the hands of both the Soviet Army and Nazis during World War II and also gave him the determination to maintain an infectious passion for humanity, the arts, and life.
“Botso makes you appreciate life on a whole other level,” Walters said.
The documentary visibly moved the MIFF audience. In the post-film question period, comments about the life of the musician, sculptor, and beloved teacher ranged from “He’s a sage and inspiration to us all” to “If we all could live by his five principles, the world would be better off.”
Those tenets Botso said he needed to survive were these: love, family, friends, work, and the arts.
His mother, a concert pianist, also encouraged Botso’s talents.
After his father was killed, Botso was forced to dig ditches for the Russians. He escaped only to become a German prisoner of war, where he said music gave him back meaning in his life. When Botso gathered prisoners together to sing a song in the prison camp, a guard discovered that his prisoner spoke German and Russian. Botso was sent to Germany as a translator, which helped to spare his life. Just before the war ended, Botso was sent to what was soon to become an Americanized zone of Salzburg, West Germany.
He never forgot how music saved him during the war years in prison. When he immigrated to California, he found that instilling love and passion for music in students was to become his mission. He soon became a music teacher, as well as a celebrated sculptor and conductor.
In the Georgian language, “Botso” (pronounced BOAT-zo) means “little steer.” The nickname was given to the musical sage in his boyhood schoolyard.
“Most Georgians are tall, but I was stocky and a little chubby, so I used to attack them with my head first,” Botso said. “The name stuck to me.”
Botso has a natural talent of storytelling and punctuates hard issues with just enough humor to balance out his telling of the tragic situations he had to face.
Since this was filmed partly in Georgia, viewers witness the strong cultural connections that are a part of Botso’s soul and have obviously contributed to his unique way of teaching.
“Botso brought a European sensibility to a little fishermen town [Morro Bay],” explained writer and co-producer Hilary Grant. Morro Bay’s population was less than 4,000 when Botso first began to teach.
Walters and Grant, in collaboration with the San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony and Aspect Studios, began to chronicle Botso’s life only after Botso agreed to do the documentary with the condition that all the profits would go toward music scholarships for children.
—Ramona du Houx; Maine Insights (used by permission)