Balkan Films and Independent Cinema

in 8th Sofia International Film Festival

by Marc Lepoivre

The Sofia international festival, which was at its 8th edition, is currently one of the most important festivals in Eastern Europe. It is even an unavoidable event about the development of cinematographic activity and industry in the Balkanic area. On this aspect, there were this year the Sofia meetings: this event intends to lead to new contacts, ideas and opportunities for the creation of new projets. But the Sofia Festival is also a very pleasant and cheerful festival.

About the movies of the international competition, one can say that the program was unequal, but rather interesting. It gave the opportunity to watch some independent films and also to discover some Balkan films which are not so well distributed abroad.

The emphasis of this program was on non commercial films. In a thematic point of view, the films had in common a contemporary aspect and social subjects.

Let’s begin with the Balkan films and at first with the awarded film Summer in the green valley by the Bosnian Srdban Vuletic. That’s a dark social urban film, taking place in Sarajevo. This film is very impressive because of the tenseness of the directing, the classical quality of the script, and the very dark and desperate atmosphere . Indeed, Vuletic depicts a world crumbling under the weight of post-war chaos and the confusion of values. In this world, the only law is money and human relationships are strengh intercourse.

Bulgaria was represented by three films in the program, but the general level was not quite satisfactory. For instance, Journey to Jerusalem, by veteran filmmaker Ivan Nichev is a historical chronicle of a Jewish family during World War II directed in a very old-fasioned style. Crazy day, by a young 28 years old woman, has the defects of a typical student film: too discreet and academic. This story of a relationship between a young woman and her grandfather intends to be tender but is rather arch, and the directing is lacking of invention. The most interesting film was Mila from Mars, by the young female director Zornitsa Sophia. The story of a young girl running away from a dangerous man and getting into a faraway village near the border. In spite of a clumsy aspect, this film is full of ivention and daring, in particular in the editing and the frame. Zornitsa Sophia does not like strict rules and prefers the deconstruction in order to find rhytm and energy.

As for Maria, by Romanian director Peter Calin Netzer, that’s the typical social melodram from the East. The story of a mother of seven childrens, married with an unemployed and alcoholic husband, who beats and abandons her; at last, she has no other solution but prostitution to survive. Based upon a true story, the film gathers all the patterns of melodrama. Instead of moving us, the film is irritating because of the accumulation of accidents. It is eventually clumsy and demonstrative, as in the ages of the social realism style.

Regarding the films of other countries, one could mention Milwaukee Minessota, by Alan Mindel shown in Cannes in the framework of the International Critic’s Week. A typical independent American film, shot in an area (the snowed Wisconsin) that we are not so used to see in American films. Nevertheless, the film has the traditional American qualities: especially the efficiency and solidity of the script, and the humanity of the characters.

Last but not least, Sansa, by the French director and musician Siegfried, was probably the most original film of the programm. Siegfried talks about an essay of cinema rather than a film. The story is very simple: Sansa is a peripatetic iconoclast who walks around the world and scours the crowds of various locals. That’s an absolutely free film, just like its hero: he does everything he wants and goes everywhere he wants. The film is a little bit long, chaotic but it is full of (open-hearted) love, energy and music of course.