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Worth A Look82.61%
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Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Power Trip
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Brian McKay

"Lights out, Lights out in Georgia"
4 stars

Described as a “darkly comedic documentary” (pun intended?), POWER TRIP is the account of an American-owned company that purchased part of the Georgian power grid after the breakup of the Soviet Union. While it’s not really all that comedic (though there are some funny moments), it is a rather intriguing documentary that should leave you more than happy to pay your power bill in a timely manner.

The western company AES specializes in providing power to several second and third world nations. Following the collapse of the USSR, they step in to take over the power production for the city of Tblisi and the surrounding region, and quickly find that the piece of beef jerky they thought they’d bit off was actually a thick strip of old shoe leather (in other words, more than they can chew). Not only are 90 percent of the residents stealing power from the grid through illegal hookups, but the local corporations and military bases aren’t paying a dime for it either. When the company tries to institute a collections program to begin charging for the power, they receive a severe backlash from both angry mobs of civilians and truckloads of armed and pissed off soldiers who have had their power shut off.

The fundamental problems AES is forced to deal with are the mindset of its new customers and the realities of the economy. The people of Georgia have been used to not paying for electricity for generations, since basic utilities were always provided by the state under Communist rule. Not only that, but when the average monthly power bill ends up being a quarter or a third of the monthly household income in a devastated economy, keeping the lights on becomes a pricey proposition. So, people continue to steal, often using shoddy wiring and amateur techniques that are highly dangerous, leaving several locations in jeopardy of electrical fires and resulting in a few cases of death by electrocution. Attempts to remove the illegal wiring and provide customers with metered power merely leads to smashed meter boxes and more pissed off customers. To make matters worse, AES discovers that much of the power they are producing is circumvented by corrupt officials at the main Georgian grid, never reaching the customers for which it was intended.

Power Trip documents the long uphill battle by AES to keep the lights on, keep customers happy, and keep the number of collections rising steadily. Despite all the angry and recalcitrant customers, corruption, and even the threat of political assassination, AES trudges ahead, making a remarkable turnaround in a few short years from 10 percent collections to 70 percent. To the people of Georgia, electricity has become more than a convenience or even a necessity (especially during the cold Georgian winters) – it has become the embodiment of hope to a beleaguered nation. Likewise, Power Trip becomes a statement about just how crucial the flow of electricity has become in modern society. Think of all the things you couldn’t do without it. You couldn’t watch TV or play X-box or even have a decent light to read by. Most of you probably wouldn’t be able to work, or to read this review while wasting time surfing the web on your computer at work.

The horror.

There is some wry humor to be found in POWER TRIP. Like the British engineer giving inspectors a tour of a Georgian ghetto’s illegal power hookups while tossing out comments such as “The place is a bit of a shithole, isn’t it? . . . but I guess I shouldn’t judge”, or dozens of angry Georgians with a flair for the dramatic screaming at AES employees over past-due bills. However, it is mostly a pretty straightforward documentary - one that, while not earth shaking, is certainly . . . illuminating?

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originally posted: 05/06/03 12:44:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2003 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/13/04 Trygve Inda Having lived through a Tbilisi winter, this was a wonderful film. 5 stars
10/10/03 Patrick McBride Evokes the look and feel of present day Georgia in a very powerful way 5 stars
7/22/03 Chaucey McLachlan Funny and "enlightening". 4 stars
5/28/03 Lela Datunashvili its good and realistic film 5 stars
5/12/03 MT Lights on, Lights on in Georgia 5 stars
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  10-Dec-2003 (NR)



Directed by
  Paul Devlin

Written by
  Paul Devlin


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