Segments in this Video

Teaching Piano (02:14)


Botso gives an 18 month old a piano lesson. In the 1930s Joseph Stalin imprisoned or executed millions of Soviet citizens. Wachtang "Botso" Korisheli was 14 when his father was arrested. (Credits)

Morro Bay, California (03:09)

Botso means young steer in Georgian. Kent Nagano credits his old music teacher for his success. Salome Jordania traveled from Georgia to learn from Botso.

Sculptor (03:26)

Susana Beganischivili met Platon Korisheli working in the theater. Botso began piano lessons at the age of four. He learned to perform with emotion because he wanted to attract the attention of one of his neighbors.

Georgian Alphabet (03:35)

Lawrence Sheets and Margarita Akhvlediani describe how the Georgian people embrace the arts. Botso's grandfather died shortly after the communists occupied his Greek Orthodox Church and converted it into a horse stable. Botso was secretly baptized by a former priest at the Rustaveli Theater.

Botso's Family (02:23)

Temmo Korisheli's friend thought Botso was similar to a bishop. Tina Korisheli recalls how she thought her family was normal, and everyone else was strange. Margaret Korishelli and Botso originally bonded over their mutual love of sculpture.

Botso's Students (04:00)

Nagano explains how Botso believes everyone should be a musician. Former and current students discuss their piano teacher's influence. Jordania's father cannot believe how much differently his daughter plays after a lesson.

Korisheli's Acting Career (02:32)

Temur Chkeidze describes how during the time period, no one could criticize the government overtly. Botso met Joseph Stalin at the Rustaveli Theater.

Enemy of the State (02:57)

Botso remembers how his professor comforted him when his father was arrested. The KGB gave Botso and his mother twenty minutes to say goodbye. Korisheli was executed soon after and buried in a mass grave.

Carpe Diem (04:07)

Botso believes every minute of the day should be used productively. Unable to have children, Botso adopted five. The family invites professional musicians to participate in the Korisheli House Concerts— there is no publicity or politics involved.

On the Frontlines (02:52)

The KGB confiscated several rooms of Korisheli's apartment and gave them to families of political prisoners. Botso last saw his mother when he was sent to dig defense ditches for Stalin's army during World War II.

Unsure of Birth Year (03:13)

Botso travels to Georgia to see his hometown for the first time since World War II and shows Margaret, Lia, and Lliana where he grew up. It looks the same. He believes that happiness comes with a simple life.

Returning to Dimi (02:03)

Botso receives his family tree and takes a ride in the country. The group climbs to the top of the hill and Botso explains why his father chose the name Korisheli.

Prison Camps (04:06)

Botso marched to Krakow from the border— it took six months. He grew depressed when the Nazis separated the Jewish population from the gentiles. A Nazi soldier discovered Botso was fluent in both Russian and German and put him to work as a translator.

End of World War II (02:00)

In 1944, the Nazi Soldiers gave Botso papers to help him flee to the American Zone, so he would not be captured by the Russians. When it proved unsafe, he hid in the mountains of Bavaria for a year and a half. Botso describes how music and chess are similar because they require focus.

Media Reports on Botso's Visit (03:34)

Botso listens to Georgian Polyphonic Singing and visits the Rustaveli Theater. Sandro Akhmeteli refused to capitulate to Stalin's wish that the theater produce only pro-communism propaganda. He was arrested, tortured, and displayed in front of the theater as a warning.

Central Plaza of Gori (02:11)

Controversy erupted when Gori decided to erect a statue of Stalin. Botso feels hatred arises when people are afraid to open themselves up. He visits the Lord's Fortress and lights a candle for his grandfather.

Love of Sculpture (04:05)

Botso prefers hand tools over mechanical tools. During his trip to Georgia he visits a sculptor outside of Tbilisi. He remembers how George Papashvily mentored him in sculpting— he was not allowed to pick up a chisel for a year.

Germany Surrendered (05:26)

When the war ended, Botso enrolled in the Munich Conservatory until he traveled to the United States. When he arrived in Los Angeles through a mutual friend he met Janet Gaynor, who offered Botso her beach house to live in. He first became interested in teaching piano, when Rosina Lhevinne taught a master class at Los Angeles Conservatory.

Attending University of California, Santa Barbara (02:16)

A professor asked Botso to teach music to his two children. He took a job as a music teacher for Morro Bay Elementary School and transformed an abandoned kindergarten building into a music conservatory. The shop teacher helped Botso create violins for his students.

Students Remember Favorite Lessons (03:18)

Students remember creating their own paints out of rocks. Camren Gerber recalls how Botso taught him life lessons. Nagano describes the distinguished alumni who have been taught by Botso.

Returning to the Classroom (02:51)

Brynn Belyea asked Botso to mentor his band at Morro Bay High School. Jerry Folsom remembers how Botso asked him to practice with the mouthpiece only for an entire summer before giving him a French horn— he is now the principal French horn for Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Watch as Botso mentors the students.

Language of the World (04:47)

Professionals describe why music instruction is important. At a Georgian dance performance in Los Angeles, one of the dancers slips a letter from Botso's mother into his pocket. They started writing letters but Susana passed away before they could meet— Botso visits her grave.

Botso's Legacy (02:52)

Giorgi Jordania appreciates the example that Botso sets. Botso says that suffering is a part of life and credits music for saving him.

Former Students Plan a Reunion (03:00)

Former students pay for their travel back to Morro Bay to participate in "Botsofest." Some have not picked up instruments in forty years. Botso rehearses with his students.

Concert Night (03:35)

Watch excerpts from a performance. Botso needs love, family, friends, work and music to survive. Botso asks himself every night if he has done enough during the day.

Credits: Botso: The Teacher from Tbilisi (02:29)

Credits: Botso: The Teacher from Tbilisi

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Botso: The Teacher from Tbilisi

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This video chronicles the life of Wachtang "Botso" Korisheli who grew up during Josef Stalin's regime in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. After his father was declared an "Enemy of the State," Botso and his mother were allowed a twenty minute visit to say goodbye— his father imparted all the life lessons he could. Almost eighty years later, he still adheres to those teachings. Learn about his remarkable life: digging front line trenches for the Russian Army, surrendering to the Nazi's, how the Nazi's helped him escape to America, becoming a music teacher, setting up his own conservatory in Morro Bay, his impact on his former students, and returning the country of his birth. Featuring Kent Nagano, Ralph Morrison, and Jerry Folsom.

Length: 84 minutes

Item#: BVL124224

ISBN: 978-1-63521-785-8

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards


Tbilisi International Film Festival

FIPA—Biarritz, France

Arlington International Film Festival

Fallbrook Film Festival

Maine International Film Festival

Carmel Art and Film Festival

Newport Beach Film Festival

San Luis Obispo International Film Festival

Waimea Ocean Film Festival

Mendocino Film Festival

Napa Valley Film Festival

Sao Paulo International Television Festival

FilmFest Hamburg, Germany  



Best Feature Documentary, Arlington International Film Festival

Best in Fest, San Luis Obispo International Film Festival

Audience Choice, Maine International Film Festival

Audience Choice, Waimea Ocean Film Festival

Audience Choice, Fallbrook Film Festival (short cut)

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