To Live On The Ortodox Balkans

in 8th Sofia International Film Festival

by Petia Alexandrova

The 8th Sofia International Film Festival included over 150 films in 9 different sections: Main program, Galas and Advance-premiers, European Screen, Green Screen Irish Film Season, Bulgarian Features and Bulgarian Shorts, Balkan Films Showcase, retrospectives of Rangel Vulchanov and Wong Kar-wai. It’s already been a tradition to put an accent on Bulgarian and Balkan films – with the new prize called “No Man’s Land” for a Balkan film and numerous supporting awards for Bulgarian features and shorts.

This year was more successful for Bulgarian cinema than previous years: 7 films were selected for the festival! Two of them were debuts: “Crazy Day” and “Mila from Mars” (the latter was included in the competition). The former was an optimistic classical film about the amazing generation gap. The second presented an extreme sport not practiced so far in Bulgaria – called “shooting a low-budget independent feature film”. The film was the graduation work for the crew and the average age of the film-makers was 26 and a half. Other films that were screened were both by famous directors as Georgi Djulgerov (“You’re so pretty, my dear”, the documentary confessions of four imprisoned prostitutes) and Ivan Nichev (“Journey to Jerusalem”, the story of two Jewish German children, leaving Bulgaria during Second World War), and TV projects. The Bulgarian cinema comes out with the typical topic of the last decade: crime, corruption, drugs, gangsters etc. It still exists as part of our life but with certain variations and nuances. The new tendency is to more global and eternal problems like love, death, betrayal, pity.

In contrast to that, Balkan cinema, and especially the ex-Yugoslavian republics’ films treat topics of the day – the war, the price of survival, the lack of choice, cruelty. But maybe the most universal and important subject for both sections including even European Cinema is migration. Slovenian “Cheese and Jam” by Branko Djuric (also a comic actor in other films of the panorama) treats the driving of refugees across the border. “Spare Parts” by Damjan Kozole is about the same topic but the style is different – it’s a documentary, more cynic, without scruples and competition. The people in it are treated like cattle. Everybody dreams to be somewhere far away, especially in the FIPRESCI winner “Summer in the Golden Valley”. It’s meant to show another person with different past and positive future. Because the normal past for many of the characters in ex-Yugoslavia was awful and full of doubts and sins. “The Cordon” by Goran Markovic discovers the moral darkness in which the couples live. But what really saved Serbian cinema was the humor of the trenches. “The professional” by Dusan Kovacevic (also famous theatre director and writer, screenwriter of “Underground”) is a black comedy about an ex-agent of the Serbian Security Service and his victim – a university professor and bohemian intellectual. It is possible to see history in that way – brave, hard, unforgiven – seeking redemption.