Otar Ioseliani was born in Tbilisi in 1934. After studying mathematics at Moscow State University, he enrolled at the State Filmmaking Institute (VGIK), where he studied directing under the Soviet master Aleksandr Dovzhenko. He graduated in 1965. He emigrated to Paris in the early 1980s, where he has continued to win international acclaim for his films.
Brigands sees Ioseliani turning his earlier snipes at Soviet authority into an outright war. Setting the film in a Georgia-esque country in the Middle Ages, the Soviet era and the present day, the...filmmaker twists Marx's development theory by using similar storylines and characters in each epoch to show how, despite the passing years, nothing much changes. Vano, played by Georgian thesp Amiran Amiranashvili, is king of a small country which, coveted by its neighbours, is always at war. Consequently, King Vano is surrounded by discontented, jealous and treacherous courtiers. Even Queen Eka, played by Nino Ordzhonikidze, betrays him, despite her well-designed chastity belt.
Vano has a surrogate queen in the comely form of his favourite, Lia (Keti Kapanadze), but Lia has never forgiven Vano for abducting her, and seeks vengeance with a chalice of poisoned wine.
Some five centuries later, Vano is a pickpocket in a small country behind the Iron Curtain. Played again by Amiranashvili, he joins the revolutionary cause of the beautiful Eka, played once more by Ordzhonikidze. Victorious, the couple climb through the ranks of the new order, but their success breeds discontent, jealousy and treachery. Acquaintances disappear, hauled off to prison for a few ill-chosen words after getting drunk. Meanwhile, the country is at war with itself: some citizens shoot from the rooftops at anything that moves, others patrol the city and countryside in tanks and armored cars, and the rest loot. Knowing that he cannot even have a drink without endangering himself, Vano decides to leave his country for the bright lights of the big city where he hears life is sweet.
Testifying both to Ioseliani's international reputation and the lamentable state of Georgia's film industry, Brigands is a pan-European production, involving France's Pierre Grise Productions and La Sept Cinema, Russia's Soyuzkinoservice, Switzerland's Carac Film and Italy's Bim Distribuzione. Financiers for the US$3.8 million production include ARTE, Canal+ and the National Centre of Cinema (CNC) in France; Russia's State Committee for Cinema; the Swiss Ministry of Culture and Zurich's Teleclub AG; and Italy's RAI1 and Bim.