Georgia mourns iconic screenwriter and puppeteer Rezo Gabriadze

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Georgians mourned the death of famous screenwriter, puppeteer and painter Rezo Gabriadze on Monday, whose internationally renowned productions have deeply marked the cultural landscape of the Caucasus nation.

He died Sunday at the age of 84, his family told First Channel of Georgia public television.

A rare example of intellectual and artistic freedom in the tightly controlled Soviet empire, Gabriadze’s creative work spanned film, theater, painting, and literature.

Georgian President Salomé Zurabishvili paid tribute to Gabriadze on Monday, writing on Facebook that “Georgian culture has suffered immense loss”.

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili expressed his condolences to Gabriadze’s family, calling him “a great artist whose immense talent has produced many masterpieces”.

“Warmth, kindness and love have been at the heart of Rezo Gabriadze’s creative work,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

Gabriadze’s friend, writer and linguist Levan Berdzenishvili, greeted AFP on Monday as “a bright and versatile talent who combined humor and incomparable melancholy”.

Gabriadze wrote 35 screenplays over his decades-long career, including iconic Soviet-era comedy films as well as a cult sci-fi film. Kin-dza-dza and Mimino, the story of a provincial helicopter pilot’s attempt to fly airliners in Moscow.

Gabriadze gained worldwide recognition and international fame by touring with many plays he staged at the Tbilisi Puppet Theater, which he founded in the Georgian capital in 1981 and directed until ‘when he died.

His theatrical productions included the The fall of our spring, based on his post-war childhood memories in his hometown of Kutaisi.

The New York Times describes another production, The Battle of Stalingrad, like a “timeless elegy with the delicacy of a lace whose effect is beautiful, poignant and persistent”.

Gabriadze received Georgia’s Preeminent Decoration in Arts and Literature, the Rustaveli Prize, and the French Order of Arts and Letters.

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