A Little Short Goes a Long Qay

in 49th Krakow Film Festival

by Saskia Legein

“Why don’t we just stop and lie down? This is exactly why our children think we are stupid!”

The audience in Kijów, the main cinema in Cracow, laughs aloud at the wry humour of the old woman, helping and evenly old couple pack a donkey with an impossibly heavy load.

The scene from the 34-minutes documentary Goleshovo, about a small Bulgarian village near the Greek border, seems to say it all: why don’t we just quit and give in? But frankly, there’s no way out for the mere 59 venerable inhabitants left in Goleshovo. Their children departed a long time ago, to big cities and better futures. Some of them hardly ever visit their parents anymore.

The elderly hang in. They’re tough. They still work the field, they pack their donkeys,  they prepare for the Sunday mass, and they argue lively on the township benches. But they are also fragile, and their silent hope for a young generation to return and breath  new life into Goleshovo slowly evaporates as the days go by and neighbors pass away.

Young filmmaker Ilian Metev (1981, Sofia, Bulgaria) shows a vast amount of love and compassion when he points his camera to the daily fusses of the aged residents of Goleshovo. Innumerous films have been made of old people and their everyday  struggles with life in its final phase. So admittedly, it might not be the most original of ideas, but Metev managed to take one of the golden rules in filmmaking to a successful end for his graduation film of the National Film and Television School in London: film what you know.

Not only in terms of competence and upcoming film talent was Metev’s Golehovo noteworthy, it was the only film in the international shorts competition at Cracow that had the power to take the audience through the whole emotional palet.

Funny, heartwarming, heartbreaking.

All over Europe villages on the countryside are dying, but nowhere faster than in Bulgaria. This momentous change is hardly being noticed on the continent. It is striking that Metev got the idea from an article by the American correspondent from the New York Times. Metev roamed his native country to find a suitable village to visualize the story. It might be his affection for elderly people – Metev was raised by his grandmother while his parents studied abroad – that produced a not so much innovative but intimate documentary. Mixed with a talent for rhythm it resulted in a captivating glance at the effects of urbanization and globalisation on the peasantry and countryside.

Metev’s next project focuses on a surgeon in Sofia. To make ends meet in one of the  poorest countries in the European Union, the physician repairs cars in his scarce spare time. It will be interesting to see what more comes from Metev’s urban, globalized generation, well educated in international film language, that will zoom in on local lifestyles, to allow the world precious insights on their complex societies and roots.

Edited by Yael Shuv