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12-1 Bulgarian Cinema - Ethnicity.


This article is from the Bulgaria FAQ, by Dragomir R. Radev radev@tune.cs.columbia.edu with numerous contributions by others.

12-1 Bulgarian Cinema - Ethnicity.

An assiduous explorer of the Bulgarian cultural terrain
should acknowledge, however, that the most important aspect of allegorical
expressionism is its ability to determine not only the past but also the
future of the national film identity. Some critics have made the assumption
that the moral, philosophic and political allegories were just Aesopic
tools for climbing up the totalitarian censorship and, therefore, after its
death they themselves would vanish into thin air; but this assumption is a
projection which is not rooted in the specific cultural realities of the
region. "Indeed, most of Bulgarian cinema only makes sense in juxtaposition
with its vast cultural and national heritage," writes Ronald Holloway. Then
he quotes Vernon Young: "All art is a game played by ethnic rules." The
Bulgarian cinema is no exception. Its allegorical expressionism originates in
the Bulgarian ethno-psychology and folklore, national literature and arts, in
the Eastern Orthodoxy and pagan rites, and in the mythological
Weltansicht, mirrored in a language that employs one and the same word
for "story" and "history".
Some of the negative consequences of the ethnicity, as a significant
characteristic of Bulgarian cinema, were: isolation, nationalism and
provincialism. "The provincial attitudes and values of the overall cultural
atmosphere kept giving renewed support to the convention of schematism
and the mechanism of auto-censorship," wrote Liehm and Liehm two
decades ago. Hopefully, things have since changed for good.
On thematic level this attribute of Bulgarian cinema brought the series
of migration and folkways films from the seventies: A Boy Becomes a Man
(1972), Men without Work (1973), A Tree without Roots (1974), The
Last Summer (1974), Peasant on a Bicycle (1974), Villa Zone (1975),
Strong Water (1975), Matriarchate (1977) and Manly Times (1977). It
gave birth to Georgi Djulgerov's masterpiece Measure for Measure (1981),
but also to a heap of nationalistic historical epics, produced on a
gargantuan scale in the early eighties, which almost suffocated the
Bulgarian cinema, and threw it into its third period of stagnation and
lingering crisis. As a positive effect of the ethnicity of Bulgarian
cinema, one could expect some kind of fascinating artistic uniqueness with
much a broader appeal that eventually would transform the allegorical
expressionism in a trade-mark of excellence. A role model for such a
positive shift may be the Latin American magic realism.


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