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Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 11:40 UK

Movie star plays Georgian leader


By Tom Esslemont
BBC News, Tbilisi

Composite image of Andy Garcia (left) and Mikheil Saakashvili
Andy Garcia, left, begins filming in Tbilisi this week

Cuban-American actor Andy Garcia is in Georgia to play the part of President Mikheil Saakashvili in a film about last year's conflict with Russia.

Georgia and Russia still disagree strongly about the reality of what happened when they went to war in 2008.

Directed by Renny Harlin, who made Die Hard 2, shooting of the film gets under way this week.

But there is speculation it could turn out to be a vehicle for Georgia to repeat its version of events.

The city of Tbilisi has been turned into a film set.

Floodlights beam down on parliament as American and Georgian cast and crew members swarm outside the presidential palace.

This multimillion-dollar film, the biggest-budget movie ever to be made on Georgian soil, tells the story of a journalist and a cameraman caught up in the unfolding drama of the war last August.

The Georgian government has actively supported the film-makers by allowing them access to public buildings.

'Objective'

But it denies that it is helping to fund the project.

One of the producers, Papuna Davitaia, a pro-government member of parliament, says the government has no role in sponsoring the film.

"The Georgian government helps only with permits for shooting. The money doesn't come from the Georgian government," he says.

And Mr Davitaia rejects allegations of bias: "It is not a propaganda movie. We try to be balanced and objective."

The film comes just over a year after the conflict. In the meantime, Russia and Georgia have competed to put their own spin on what happened.

Russian forces poured into Georgia in August 2008 to repel an attempt by Georgian troops to retake the disputed region of South Ossetia.

But neither side has ever been able to accept the other's version of events.

In addition to the Hollywood movie, Russian media has reported that the Serbian director, Emir Kusturica, is planning to shoot a screenplay to tell the South Ossetian point of view.



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