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12-1 Bulgarian Cinema - New Releases


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 - New Releases

Last year 26 million levs of state subsidy was contributed by the NCF,
while this year approximately 50 million levs of government money will be
allocated for production. Last year, with only five films released, was the
transitional year for the national film industry. First there were Ivan
Balevski's "Palpitation" (Aritmija) and Georgi Popvassilev's "Bad Boy"
(Losho momche), two debuts and probably the last films produced within the
old structures, followed by the totally independent "Bullet for Paradise",
mentioned above. Then the first premiere nursed by the Center came on
September 21, 1992, and it was "Vampires and Spooks" (Vampiri, talasymi) by
Ivan Andonov -- a veteran director, actor and animator, whose previous
films are famous for their record box-office takings. In his last work, the
director strives once again to respond to the popular demands and the mores
of the day, like he did many times before with his "Dreamers" (Mechtateli,
1986), a period piece about the founders of the Bulgarian Socialist Party
at the turn of the century; "Yesterday" (Vchera, 1987), a nostalgic trip
with an angry young man and his conformist fellows in the heat of the
Beatle-mania; and "Adios Rio" (Adio Rio, 1989), a bitter satire on the new
middle-class and its moral decay in the age of perestroika. Now Ivan
Andonov sends us back to 1945 in a small town where the communists have
already seized the power and start establishing the "new order". That time
of chaos turns into a grotesque carnival of tragedy and slapstick, terror
and folly, desperate souls and ghosts from the past, searching the answer
of one and the same question: "When will the communists be gone?" The film,
which is about a faded actress who tries to survive by all possible means
including a faked photograph of her with... Georgi Dimitrov's dog in order
to pass for a communist activist, explores the moral dilemmas of dignity
and betrayal, the twisted relationship between artist and power.

The next two projects supported financially by the NFC were Peter
Popzlatev's second effort "Something in the Air" (Neshto vyv vyzduha), a
co-production with Arion Production, France, and Radoslav Spassov's "Shrove
Sunday, a Day of Forgiveness" (Sirna nedelja), which opened on February 26,
1993. The theme of the film is explicated in its title -- do we have the
right of absolution after all? And the sin to be forgiven is the same one
as in "Vampires and Spooks" -- the sin of compromise.

The story of Angel, a typical man of circumstances, ragamuffin and
conformist, gambler and coward, dreamer and pragmatist, is set in the 50s,
during the Personality Cult. The protagonist is constantly torn between
good intentions and inevitable betrayals. The film is designed to point out
and explore all the political taboos of the period -- the forcible
nationalization, the youth-brigade movement, the Secret services, the
gulags -- but the critic Karin Yanakieva suggests the film is in danger of
falling victim to its own urge to deliver answers, as these answers verge
on being predictable. In his directorial debut, Radoslav Spassov appears to
be mostly influenced by Georgi Djulgerov -- a master of the Bulgarian
cinema he worked for as a director of photography for more than twenty

The next films to be released this year are Ilian Simeonov's and Hristian
Nochev's "Frontier" (Granica), Rumyana Petkova's "Burn, Burn Little Fire"
(Gori, gori ogynche) and Rangel Vulchanov's "The Alchemist's Dream"
(Mechtata na alhimika). The first two probe in the same painful problems of
the near past -- guilt, compromise, betrayed ideals. "Frontier" depicts
life in a distant frontier post, so close to the barbered-wire fences on
the border, too far away from the freedom of choice; life that is valued
and measured in days on furlough. A film about a lost generation and their
burnt out romantic ideals is the last work of Rumyana Petkova, a prominent
feminist director. "Burn, Burn Little Fire" takes place in a small Muslim
town in the Rhodope Mountains in the 60's. It feels as if the town is sealed
up, so in the carbon dioxide of hatred and prejudice men can hardly breathe
and little flames of hope are almost choked out.

On the other hand, Rangel Vulchanov, the Bulgarian Federico Fellini, in
another French production delivers a new tale in his trade-mark style of
political allegories and magical trips, which gave the name to the whole
first period of the Bulgarian cinema -- the cinema of poetics. "The
Alchemist's Dream" is the small world of Monsieur Michael who tries with his
hairdresser's magic to help the dwellers of that Balkan Macondo entangled
in provincial intrigues of love and envy. Almost a quarter of century after
Vulchanov made his "Aesop" (1970) and despite the fact that now the
Aesopic language is not the only possible syntax to declare one's vision,
the film easily falls in this same metaphorical and didactic trend, a trend
which the director maintains in the last ten years with "Last Wishes"
(Posledni zhelanija, 1983), "Where Are You Going?" (Zakyde pytuvate, 1986),
"Where Do We Go" (A sega nakyde?, 1988) and "Love is a Willful Bird"
(Nemirnata ptica ljubov, 1990).

Four full-length documentaries were also released this year: Henri
Koulev's "Sea in the Middle of the Earth" (More v sredata na Zemjata),
which was initially produced as TV series about the Mediterranean, "The
Doomed" (Obrechenite), "Citadel" (Citadelata) and "Tales of Assassins"
(Razkazi za ubijci).

Currently in Production. And there are several other feature films
currently in production: Dimiter Petkov's "Jehovah Ire (God Shall Decide)"
(Jehova-ire) is a period piece about the construction of the first railroad
in Bulgaria, but also about the eternal myth of the tyrant, the sin and
God's retribution set in an unknown small town. Krassimir Kroumov's "The
Forbidden Fruit" (Zabranenijat plod) is also rooted deeply in a
mythological plot of betrayal, revenge and patricide, while Kiran Kolarov's
"The Golden Chain" (Zlatnata veriga) spins a contemporary love story with
an unusual protagonist -- a sergeant from the Red berets. Ivan Nichev's
"Love Dreams" (Ljubovni synishta) is a rite of passage film based on
several Stefan Zweig's novelettes, and Georgi Djulgerov's "Magdalena"
(Magdalena) attempts to speak openly about the problems of the Gypsies'
minority in Bulgaria. Two other projects are set in the eighteenth century:
Docho Bodjakov's epic period saga "Vendetta" (Otmyshtenieto) and Nikolai
Volev's remake of the most successful Bulgarian film ever "The Goat Horn"
(Kozijat rog). And finally, Nidal Algafari's "La Donna e Mobile" about two
disabled girls is a melodrama with half-humorous, half-serious ambitions
for an Oscar in the spring of 1994.

Place on the Map.
The Bulgarian producers and directors' almost desperate and often
tragicomic urge for international recognition deserves some respect rather
than taunt. This urge is not provoked by an inferiority complex or
provincial megalomania; it comes with the scary knowledge that finding a
place on the map of the world cinema is not only a question of prestige but
of survival. The economic situation in the country and the logic of the
free market mechanisms condemn to extinction films and directors who could
not gain international producers, critics, distributors and moviegoers'
interest. Paradoxically, on the other hand, such eventual international
attention would induce the home audiences to attend these new Bulgarian
films, boosting them on a rather skeptical and cynical national market.


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