Movie Review: The Oscar-nominated Tangerines is more interesting before the bullets start flying

War makes for strange bedfellows in the Academy Award-nominated Estonian drama Tangerines, which is set in 1992, at the height of the clash between the Georgian government and Russian-backed Abkhaz separatist forces. Spurred by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the armed conflict played out within Georgia’s borders as a full-on civil war—one that was nasty, brutish, and short. In lieu of a lot of social or historical context, writer-director Zaza Urushadze offers up a protagonist whose weathered and weary looks make him a plausible avatar of longstanding local trauma. As the film opens, sexagenarian Estonian woodworker Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) has stubbornly opted to stay in his modest country shack in the disputed territory of Abkhazia, refusing to budge as chaos rages all around him. In case we didn’t know he was connected to the land, he’s given to helping his neighbor pick fruit off of …

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