With its rampant corruption, political assassinations and regular street riots, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia is, in the words of one journalist, “a basket case.” During the country’s old Soviet days, electric power was cheap — or even free. But when AES Corp., a massive “global power company,” purchases the privatized electricity distribution company in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, everything changes. Power Trip is the story of the tragicomic clash of cultures that results when an American energy conglomerate takes over a formerly state-run electricity company in a country whose residents are at best ambivalent and at worst furious about its presence there.
When Power Trip begins in 1999, nearly 90 percent of AES’s customers are refusing to pay their electricity bills. Many are being billed for utilities for the first time in their lives — under Communism, the state provided everyone with electricity. Now, AES’s $24-a-month utility bill is about half of the average Georgian’s monthly income. Unable to afford payments, the citizens of Tbilisi install flimsy wires across their buildings, stealing electricity from their neighbors.
Power Trip introduces Datto, the Georgian commercial billing manager who is not above temporarily disconnecting an airport just as a plane is landing in order to compel it to pay its debt; Akaki, who hosts a Georgian investigative journalism show called 60 Minutes and has dodged multiple death threats; and his colleague Giorgi, a news anchor, who was murdered in his apartment after viewing an incriminating videotape.
As it explores the implications of a Western-fueled pursuit of globalization and privatization, Power Trip’s surprisingly humorous, non-fiction narrative provides insight into today’s headlines while also offering an affectionate and entertaining glimpse into a country struggling to rebuild itself from the rubble of Soviet collapse.
- Paul DevlinProducer/Director