A Big Cultural European Event

in 7th Sofia International Film Festival

by Iskra Dimitrova

It may be a surprise but the 7th Sofia International Film Fest turned into a big cultural European event held according all high international standards and rules. Moreover, held with love namely for the art of cinema both from the side of its organizers and from the young Bulgarian audience. All this proved that even the unbelievable can be done when you have an artistic management of good quality like the one shown by the Sofia Film Fest director Stefan Kitanov and his team no matter how difficult the situation in a country could be regarding lack of money for cultural or social problems.

As a Bulgarian film critic, I had a look how this festival developed during the years without any compromise and how quickly it succeeded in throwing away the “crutch” of Hollywood mainstream films and to turn to art cinema of quality from Europe and the rest of the world. Therefore, in 2002 the Sofia Film Fest became a member of the European Coordination of Film Festivals of the European Union and already is supported by the European MEDIA Programme.

Sofia Film Fest 2003 will reach beyond the confines of Sofia for the first time as Sofia Film Fest “At the Coast” in the Bulgarian sea town Bourgas.

Sofia Film Fest 2003 had a competition programme for the first time, which included first or second films by young directors of world cinema such as: Manijen Hekmat (Iran), David Makchenzie (United Kingdom), Cristian Mungui (Rumania), Peter Callahan (USA), Hanna A. W. Slak (Slovenia), Emanuele Crialese (Italy), Ivailo Hristov (Bulgaria), Almut Getto (Germany), Kornel Mundruszo (Hungary), Dino Mastafic (Bosnia), Alexei Muradov (Russia), Carlos Reygadas (Mexico), Teddy Moskov (Bulgaria).

The members of the international jury were Ani Valchanova (Bulgaria), Dalibor Matanic (Croatia), Petr Zelenka (Czech Republic), Radivoje Andrich (Bosnia), Tom Palmen (Sweden). They also were authorized to select the best Bulgarian short film for the prestigious JAMESON award given in Bulgaria for the first time.

For the first time since the 1980’s there was a FIPRESCI jury – Blanka Elekes Szentagotai – Screen International (Hungary), Nikolaj Nikitin – Schnitt magazine, Berlinale (Germany), Iskra Dimitrova – Film magazine (Bulgaria).

The ambitious festival programme included more than 120 films – 89 features, 15 documentaries and 3- shorts; 99 shown especially for the festival. The selection of the titles showed knowledge of the most important international festivals as well as of the modern trends in the world cinema.

The festival programme had the following sections:

– Main programme – the competition and the special screenings of Aki Kaurismaki’s “The Man Without a Past”, Peter Cattaneo’s “Lucky Break”, Pedro Almodovar’s “Talk to Her”, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne’s “The Son”, David Cronenberg’s “Spider”;

– European screen;
– Scandinavian Cinema;
– Bulgarian Features;
– Balkan Films Showcase;
– French co-productions;
– World Screen;
– Japanese Cinema;
– Takeshi Kitano;
– Otar Iosseliani;
– Documentary Programme;
– Digital Cinema & Special Events (screenings and Roundtable);
– Avant-premieres.

It is worth noting the high quality and design of the festival catalogue.

Sofia Film Fest 2003 was attended by more than 60 foreign guests – filmmakers, critics, producers, festival directors.

After the very successful 7th edition of the festival we can expect that Sofia International Film Fest will continue to develop as one of the respectable European film forums and will attract more and more attention from the international media covering the cultural events in Europe.