Virtual Meetings at the 18th Sofia IFF

in 18th Sofia International Film Festival

by Maja Dimitrova

Rookie’s luck is what one can say about what happened to the Georgian film Blind Dates and his director Levan Koguashvili at the 18th Sofia IFF. The film received most of the awards. Every jury at the festival noted the film, and the FIPRESCI jury was the first to present Blind Dates (Shemtkhveviti paemnebi) with its award. Thereafter followed the prizes for “Best Director”, awarded by the competition jury, and “Best Film”. Every one of the competitors could try the luck of the rookie, because according to the regulations, the competition was for the first or second film. Most of the selected movies were very competitive. The main award could have equally gone to the Indian film Liar’s Dice directed by debut filmmaker Geethu Mohandas. This film is about chance encounters in a mix of road movie and melodrama, but far from the Bollywood style, so the film has considerable festival potential; therefore this film was awarded a Special Jury Prize. A virtual prize winning potential was also demonstrated by the Bulgarian films Rat Poison (Otrova za myshki), directed by Konstantin Burov and The Last Black Sea Pirates (Poslednite Chernomorski pirati), directed by Svetoslav Stoyanov. The latter was awarded the Audience Award and received a FIPRESCI award at another European festival. At the closing ceremony it was emotionally noted that all the jury decisions had been reached unanimously; these emotions reflected the enchanting emotional substance of the film Blind Dates. In the delicate Georgian tradition, the spectators’ empathy was aroused by the exposure of banal, everyday stories that evoke emotions beyond time and space. The message of the human need for communication without boundaries flows throughout the film, bearing all the specifics of the Georgian environment and reaching every place where people can make decisions about their own destiny. The film’s atmosphere is contemplative to philosophical-meditative with a feeling for the cinematographic detail — and that is a gift of nature. Koguashvili’s style reflects the cinematic trends of the past fifty years. He is spiritually very close to Fellini in the spectacular show of the environment, and even closer to Antonioni in the psychological dissection of relationships as they are falling apart. The way Koguashvili prompts the audience’s emotional reactions makes his film a crowd pleaser. Not just sentiments, but sensitivity and sensibility are transferred from the screen to the spectators. Blind Dates is one of the films that proves the need for shared emotions in the projection room, in tune with cinema’s best traditions. The Sofia IFF gathers larger audiences every year and expands to several other Bulgarian cities outside Sofia, becoming a nationwide event. This syncs with the bid of making Sofia European Capital of Culture in 2019.

Edited by Birgit Beumers