Review | The Trader / Sovdagari

By Daniel Hart
Published: February 9, 2018 (Last updated: January 18, 2024)
The Trader - Sovdagari - Netflix - Sundance - Review

Sundance awarding-winning documentary, The Trader / Sovdagari, follows trade merchant Gele in the small country of Georgia. Director Tamta Gabrichidze provides a small window into the reality of the rural areas in this Netflix short documentary.

The Trader / Sovdagari really is a small window. However, in that opportunity, it provides a cold truth to the social structures set up in other parts of the world. In the rural areas of Georgia, money is void as a currency. Poverty is rife, and one value the people do depend on is potatoes. Yes, the vegetable is a way of negotiation and payment.

The documentary comfortably invades the lives of these people, following Gele in worn villages. The Trader / Sovdagari initially watches the trade merchant pick his potatoes and a mix-match of garments and other items. Shortly after that, he ventures into the rural areas. The first person you come across looks directly in the camera, which I believe was left intentionally in the edit. For these people, this reality is normal, thus proving that currency can be absolutely anything.

The most striking moments in this short documentary are when you see the children. Despite living in burdening poverty they appear full of energy and happy. Their happiness provides the viewer sadness that they live in a world where a trader, who is not so wealthy himself, has to trade food for toys. The upper echelons of this society are someone like Gele, who uses old clothes, toys, and appliances for his potato bank. There are moments of utter sadness; especially when he comes across a very old lady who is trying to negotiate a low-value commodity for a grater: “I’m old, and I am alone. Please.” With zero ambition and lives crushed by poverty, there is no time for sympathy, it seems.

Whilst in the western world, we argue and question the value of capitalism, with the plunging stock markets and the widening gap between the rich and the middle class, it is clear that there are vastly different situations. It is hard not to feel lucky. Food should never be a currency. Netflix’s short documentary The Trader / Sovdagari provides compelling insight in twenty-three minutes. With the short running time, it is worth your time.

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