GAIFF Pro Critics Campus: Ever Since I Knew Myself

English Daily #2
by Hayk Sargsyan

Maka Gogaladze’s Ever Since I Knew Myself feels like a therapy session between mother and daughter, something deeply private we’re invited to witness as privileged eavesdroppers. It starts with Maka asking her mother, “Why did you force me to play piano for 7 years?”. Through philosophical inquiries into happiness and self-determination, the film suggests that an obsession with discipline and perfectionism destroys individuality and perpetuates repression. Or does it?

Directed, edited, written, and shot by Gogaladze, Ever Since’s somber and cold cinematography reflects the post-Soviet reality of Georgia, capturing the filmmaker’s birthplace while steering clear of clichés. The scenes are often long, granting the viewer enough time to absorb the emotional weight of each shot. The use of static, meticulously composed frames magnifies the lack of freedom experienced by the characters. We witness children’s bodies “contorted” by ballet instructors, and “minds molded” by patriotic poetry recitations; conformity over creativity. A scene where children are felting a heart-shaped ornament for their mothers is juxtaposed against the rigidity of their daily routines; it’s a bitter commentary on conditional, exacting love.

But in one of these debates, Gogaladze's mother strikes back: her daughter’s ability to criticize is rooted in the very upbringing she questions. Instead of solely empathizing with the narrator, we start questioning her as well as the scenes we watched previously. Were the kids’ minds being molded, or is that how every education system works? The same children reciting poems and participating in arts — we wonder about their satisfaction and challenge the narrator’s own claims. Are they truly repressed or thriving within these structures? Ever Since I Knew Myself does not conclusively answer, which encourages viewers to grapple with the impact of their upbringing long after the credits roll.