Everything Is Possible In A Short Time

in 19th Sofia International Film Festival

by Maricke Nieuwdorp

This year, the festival programmed the 12 pre-selected titles before every screening of the titles in the main international competition. The length of these shorts vary from a couple of minutes up to almost half an hour. Twelve documentaries, animations and short fiction films that gave a nice and interesting taste of contemporary Bulgarian filmmaking.

A couple of titles stood out for various reasons. Still resonating in the minds of several festival guests are the six animated poems that were shown under the title MARK and VERSE, a collective Bulgarian film project that tried (and succeeded!) to create a bridge between poetry and animation. Six animators and filmmakers created their own visual interpretation of contemporary Bulgarian poetry. The idea behind this joined project, initiated by the Compote Collective (one of the leading independent animation production companies in Bulgaria) is that animation, just as poetry, has no limits in what one would like to portray: everything is possible. Metaphors, flying, non-existent creatures, figures that morph into other objects; the creative possibilities are endless. The film gives every creative use its own form. From daring computer animation in several styles to visually impressive rotoscope-animation.

One other film, with the interesting title The Day of the Bleeding Gums (by director Dimitar Dimitrov and animator Dilyan Elenkov) might as well have been in the poetry/animation-title above, for its inspiring text and animated visuals by mobile phone. It was simple, yet very effective. Well done!

The documentaries told several small and/or universal stories. I would especially like to point out the films that handled Bulgarian issues or portraits of locals. For instance Plamen (Andre Andreev) a disturbing, sad yet enlightening portrait of Plamen Goranov, a 37-year old construction worker and artist that set himself on fire in 2013 as a political protest, thus setting a disturbing trend of self-immolations in Bulgaria, one of EU’s poorest countries.

In this same country, hundreds of children each year leave the orphanages where they grew up. In a country where possibilities are slim to begin with, what are the chances for these children, who often lack education and have no social network to help them get to work? In Jesus (Boya Harizanova), we follow one of these kids. After his 18th birthday, he leaves the institution to try and make it in the real world. A touching little portrait that shows the almost universal struggle for kids like these in all poor countries.

Beautiful, slightly melancholic, is Ginka, the obviously love-filled portrait of a 74-year old hat maker that hangs onto life in her own particular way. We follow her repetitive daily rituals that mark her love for life – even though she’s hardly seen by the rest of society. Until filmmaker Antonia Milcheva steps in…

Two of the fiction shorts already promise a great carrier in visual storytelling. In Enemies, directed by Hristo Simeonov, a somewhat sad but hopeful drama about two neighbours, a dead dog and a road trip, shows La condition humaine, in a simple yet effective way. Sometimes you don’t need a lot of explaining to understand the situation and the atmosphere between two people.

In Getting Fat in a Healthy Way director Kevork Aslanyan shows us a world in which gravity is weak and skinny people are in danger of spontaneously flying into the sky. In the apartment skinny Constantine shares with his heavy father, he tries to eat himself into oblivion. But nothing seems to work. Getting Fat in a Healthy Way is a very nice and comical story with exactly the right tone of voice and exceptional production design. A film like this one shows the value of shorts we sometimes seem to forget. Because not every story needs a feature length to be told in the very best way. And even though the short filmmaker is usually bound to a financial restrain and certain amount of time and length, one is, at the same time, even more free to choose the genre, form or personal atmosphere to present it. The possibilities, shown yet again in this short film programme, are endless.

On the Award Ceremony in the National Palace of Culture on the 14th of March, the following films received the following prizes: The Jameson Award for Best Bulgarian Short Film went to Ginka by director Antonia Milcheva. The Jameson Special Mention went to director Hristo Simeonov and his film Enemies.

Edited by Tara Judah