ironbark premiere

From left, Merab Ninidze, director Dominic Cook and Rachel Brosnahan show off their tickets to the world premiere screening of their movie "Ironbark" on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, backstage at the Eccles Theatre in Park City.

There was a scene in "Ironbark," the Cuban Missile Crisis period piece which premiered Friday at the Sundance Film Festival, where Russian military intelligence colonel Oleg Penkovsky was describing Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev as being unstable and not the type of person you want handling nuclear weapons codes.

It was a serious scene, but it didn't stop an immediate ripple of laughter from coursing through the Eccles Theatre crowd, with many in attendance drawing a connection to current affairs in the United States.

But the humor was initially lost on Georgian actor Merab Ninidze, who played Penkovsky in the film and was sitting in the audience at the time. 

Ninidze appeared quite nervous onstage before the full audience when fielding a query earlier in the post-screening Q-and-A. But a later question asked him what he thought upon hearing laughter during the serious scene in question.

"My English was bad in that scene," Ninidze said, "that's why I thought the audience was laughing. They (his costars) had to explain to me why the audience was laughing. Then I said, 'Now I now.' "

-- Doug Fox

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