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12-1 Bulgarian Cinema - NFC


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 - NFC

In such circumstances, the question about the mere existence of the subject
of this paper is absolutely legitimate. What then was the moderate optimism
of the critic quoting Mark Twain based on? If one could answer in only
three letters, the answer would be NFC. The National Film Center was
founded on June 6, 1991, but it gathered momentum in the first half of 1992
when the National Commissions started their work. "Cinema was the first
part of Bulgarian culture to adjust to the new market economy, so obviously
we confronted some big problems," says Dimiter Dereliev, the managing
director of the Center. "From a state monopoly we had to create a private
business, and to support both production and distribution. Before the
political changes there were no independent producers, so we had to
initiate a whole profession -- people who were willing to take personal
initiatives, as well as responsibilities. At the same time we wanted to
establish a subsidy system where the NFC, unlike the Organization of
Bulgarian Cinematography, should not make the decisions about where to
place production money." On the highly politicized landscape of the
Bulgarian society, it was predictable that the question of power would be
crucial to the structures and modus operandi of the new Film Center. In a
way, the architects of the new legislation, which made the Center possible,
mimicked the metastructures of the state power and its separation --
legislative body, executive authority and judiciary control. The panic fear
of eventual recurrence of any totalitarian forms of monopoly or centralized
control put the emphasis on the separation of powers in the Center
itself. "The most important thing that had and have to be done is
separating the powers and imposing the free market principles," says Georgi
Cholakov from the NFC. The power differentiation has been achieved by
founding the National Commissions for feature movies, documentaries and
animated films. They play the role of legislative bodies of the national
film production, determining which of the film projects will receive state
subsidy, and the amount. Each commission for allocation of state subsidy
includes nine members who are elected by the Union of the Bulgarian
Filmmakers, the Ministry of Culture, the Producers' Association, the
Distributors' Association and the Ministry of the Finances.
The National Film Center itself plays the role of an executive body: it
contracts with the producers of the projects, chosen by the commissions,
and secures every particular funding. Usually, the Center provides half of
the budget of the approved production, which might sound like a generous
percentage, but bear in mind that even a national hit can not cover more
than 10% of its production and distribution costs. This is also the main
reason why the founders of the Center based their concept on the French
model of partial state subsidy rather than on the principles of total free
market regulations. No national film industry in Europe could survive even
a year without some financial state support. And this is even more true for
such a small country as Bulgaria.
Finally, the Minister of Culture, who controls the activities of the NFC
and the commissions, plays the role of a supervising body in the system of
film funding, producing and distributing. In such a way, the separation of
power is secured, at least on paper, and the threatening phantom of a near
totalitarian past has been exorcised out of the Bulgarian film industry. At
least the enthusiasts who stand behind the NFC believe this is so. However,
the more important questions remain: Does the new system really work?
What are its achievements until now? What are its new projects? Are there
any alternatives to it?


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