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12-1 Bulgarian Cinema - Historical Context: First Generation:


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 - Historical Context: First Generation:

Borislav Sharaliev (1922); Zako Heskia (1922); Vulo Radev (1923);
Binka Zhelyazkova (1923); Hristo Ganev (1924); Nikola Korabov
Hristo Hristov (1926); Hristo Piskov (1927); Rangel Vulchanov (1928)

Red years.

The second period (1971-1983) can be called the "Red
years" of Bulgarian cinema, a term which is emotionally charged and yet
symbolic enough to be perceived just as a signifier outside of its
contextual definition. Holloway himself uses the term "the Pissarev years",
referring to Pavel Pissarev, who was general director of the Organization
of Bulgarian Cinematography in the 70's -- a typical bias, for this
otherwise accurate author, towards the overestimating of the role of
higher socialist aparatchiks, such as Pavel Pissarev and Lyudmila Zhivkova,
in the artistic developments of Bulgarian cinema. Strangely, it resembles
the approach of royal or party historians who interpreted national history
as the personal history of the monarchs or party leaders whom they were
serving. Unfortunately, this inclination has been literally replicated by
other scholars who did not have opportunity or personal interest for
research on their own. This period of maturity has two high points. The
first one is 1972 when Metodi Andonov completed "The Goat Horn" (Kozijat
rog). The film, made in the style of ancient tragedy, explores the problem
of gender identity and has brought one third of the whole Bulgarian
population into the theaters. Set in the eighteenth century, it is a story
of a girl who, after her mother's rape and death, is raised as a boy by her
father and becomes a haiduk -- an avenger and defender of the villagers in
the mountain. However, the genuine breakthrough of Bulgarian cinema on the
world film stage occurred in 1977-79: Binka Zhelyazkova's "The Swimming
Pool" (Basejnyt) won a Gold Medal at the Moscow Film Festival in 1977,
Georgi Djulgerov's "Advantage" (Avantazh), about a con man and pickpocket
during the age of the Personality Cult, won the Silver Bear for direction
at the Berlin Film Festival in 1978, and Rangel Vulchanov's masterpiece
"The Uknown Soldier's Patent Leather Shoes" (Lachenite obuvki na neznajnija
voin), "a lyrical poem in an autobiographical vein on a fading peasant
culture and the irretrievable past", opened the London Film Festival in
1979 and then won a Grand Prix at New Delhi.
The last recognition of Bulgarian cinema was at the Venice festival in
1983 with Vesselin Branev's "Hotel Central" (Hotel central), about an
innocent young girl from the provinces, who is mistakenly arrested, during
a period of political paranoia after the coup d'etat in 1934, and brought
to a hotel to serve as a chambermaid -- to be used and abused as the town
prostitute for all in power. She manages, however, to survive morally and
unmask the corruption of those about her.
After that the Bulgarian cinema had been buried under the dinosaurs'
corpses of several epic mega-spectacles, produced to mark the thirteen-
hundredth anniversary of Bulgaria as a state. One of them, Lyudmil
Staikov's three-part epic extravaganza "Khan Asparukh" (Han Asparuh) -- a
shortened English version "681 A.D.--The Glory of Khan" (1984) was
released by Warner Brothers -- was memorable only because it was the
most expensive film in the national film history with its cast of
thousands, its elaborate costumes and massive scenes, and because it
somehow managed to gather eleven million viewers (!!) in a country with a
total population of nine million. Ironically, this world record in per
capita attendance put an end to the second period of Bulgarian cinema and
threw it into a decade of lingering crisis.
With the same reservations stated above, here is a list of the second
generation of film directors:


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