A year ago in March, photographer Kari Medig was in the Republic of Georgia with a group of ski models for a shoot with the Norwegian apparel brand, Norrona. After a couple days of skiing at Gudauri, one of Georgia’s popular ski resorts, the group headed further west in search of a more authentic experience. They arrived at Ushguli, a small village high up in the Caucasus Mountains, and met Gigi Charqseliani, the 15-year-old who inspired this short film, which is titled The Fence.
POWDER: Describe Ushguli for us. What’s this place like?
Kari Medig: It’s like something straight out of Game of Thrones—fully medieval, really old. It’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s got these crazy big towers and it’s like you’re walking around 200 years ago. There’s cows and chickens running around, monasteries. The people in the region, they moved there because it’s really out of the way. They’re still really suspicious of people coming in. It’s this ancient way of life.
So how did a photo shoot for an apparel company turn into this short film?
We were shooting skiing, and my friends were wearing all these clothes and walking around the village. We were ski touring all day, and when we got back, we went into a guesthouse. When we were inside, I saw this shape speed past the window, and was like, “What the hell?” Nobody in this village skis that fast. But sure enough, it was this kid with rubber boots and old skis just doing that.
Who is Gigi?
He’s 15. He looks a little bit older than that, but he’s a big kid. He’s lived in that village his whole life and he’s going to school. It’s actually funny—I’m friends with him on Facebook now.
Is Gigi the only village skier?
Some other kids were using the same skis. They get passed around. They just adjust the bindings depending on their shoes. They get the fear part of skiing. The adrenaline comes from trying to sneak through that entrance in the fence.
What is this film really about to you?
You know when you’re a kid? That was the funnest time in skiing to me. I still love it so much, but nothing beats that initial excitement of going fast and the freedom of it.