Archive for the 'Bulgaria' Category

The East End Film Festival

The 2009 East End Film Festival launches tomorrow - in the words of the organisers:

The East End Film Festival showcases hot new talent and homegrown films alongside larger independent releases and special events, informing and inspiring a new generation of filmmakers and audiences from across London and beyond, and raising the profile of this vibrant and diverse area - London’s East End.

Traditionally, it’s had a strong Eastern European presence, and 2009 is no different - perusing the programme I note that they’re showing the following:

Friday 24, 8pm: The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner (Светът е голям и спасение дебне отвсякъде, d. Stephan Komandarev, Bulgaria, 2008) - I saw this in Sarajevo and remember enjoying it, though the framing story (a champion backgammon player travels to Germany to collect his teenage grandson from hospital following a car crash that killed his parents) is far less compelling than the flashbacks in which parents and son leave communist Bulgaria for life in an internment camp in Italy. Unsubtitled Bulgarian trailer here.

Saturday 25, 7pm: Iska’s Journey (Iszka utazása, d. Csaba Bollók, Hungary, 2007) and Everybody Dies But Me (Все умрут, а я останусь, d. Valeriya Gai Germanika, Russia, 2008) - I haven’t seen the Russian film, but this double bill is worth it for the stunning if relentlessly grim Hungarian title, which I reviewed here

Saturday 25, 7.30pm: Złoty środek (d. Olaf Lubaszenko, Poland, 2009) - this Polish film is so new (it opened there on 20 March) that it doesn’t even seem to have an English title yet. The director is best known as an actor (most famously the male lead in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s A Short Film About Love/Krótki film o miłości, 1988), but he’s also been directing for the last decade or so. Sadly, I can’t attend this screening, but I suspect my good friend and occasional writing partner Kamila Kuc will be relieved, as she’s hosting the Q&A and I won’t be able to heckle it. Unsubtitled Polish trailer here.

Monday 27, 7pm: I Was Here (Mina olin siin, d. René Vilbre, Estonia, 2008) - a second feature that made a splash at the Karlovy Vary film festival last year. Here’s the (unsubtitled) trailer.

Tueday 28, 6.30pm: Zift (d. Javor Gardev, Bulgaria, 2008) and Rene (d. Helena Třeštíková, Czech Republic, 2008). I haven’t seen the first of these, but I can certainly recommend the second - a documentary study of a charming but incorrigible recidivist from teenage criminal in the dying days of the Communist era to roughly twenty years later, and the film was shot over the same period. Rene spends much of the time in prison, great political upheavals largely passing him by, and although he occasionally turns his mind to something productive (such as writing), his lengthy self-destructive streak keeps catching up with him, starting with his decision to tattoo “fuck of people” [sic] across his throat.

Tuesday 28, 9pm: Elevator (d. George Dorobantu, Romania, 2008) - the mainland British premiere of another Romanian New Wave discovery, a practically zero-budget two-hander that seems to be well thought of.

Wednesday 29, 6.30pm: Homecoming (Heimkehrer, d. Jovan Arsenic, Serbia, 2004) and Revanche (d. Götz Spielmann, Austria, 2008) - haven’t seen either of these, but they both look intriguing, and the double-bill package is equally attractive.

Posted on 22nd April 2009
Under: Festivals, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Romania, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Serbia, Austria | No Comments »

Best Foreign Film Oscar longlist announced

According to the Hollywood Reporter, a record 63 films are on the initial longlist for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. The full list is here, and these are the Central and Eastern European submissions:

Posted on 18th October 2007
Under: Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, Georgia, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia | 1 Comment »

Monkeys in Winter

Monkeys In Winter
Маймуни през зимата
2006, colour, 107 mins

  • Director: Milena Andonova
  • Writers: Milena Andonova, Mariya Stankova
  • Camera: Rali Raltschev, Radoslav Spassov
  • Editing: Petar Popzlatev
  • Design: Georgi Todorov
  • Music: Konstantin Tzekov
  • Producer: Nevena Andonova
  • Production Companies: Proventus Film House, Tatfilm
  • Cast: Bonka Ilieva-Boni (Dona; Diana Dobreva (Lucrecia); Angelina Slavova (Tana); Sava Lolov (Frantzuzina); Valentin Tanev (Lazar); Adriana Andreeva (Lelya Zina); Filip Trifonov (Motorista); Stefan Mavrodiyev (Invalida); Assen Blatechki (Nacho); Ivan Savov (Priyatelya); Toncho Tokmakchiev (Shishkoto); Peter Krastev (Turchina); Tzvetomira Hristova (Drugata)

Given a one-off screening in London this month as part of the Bulgarian Film Festival (though it had previously screened at last year’s London Film Festival), Milena Andonova’s Monkeys in Winter is one of the most acclaimed Bulgarian films of recent years, and won the Best Eastern European Film award at the 2006 Karlovy Vary Film Festival. The same year, two not dissimilar films by female directors with south-east European links won major festival awards - Jasmila Žbanić’s Esma’s Secret (Grbavica) and Andrea Staka’s Das Fräulein - which shows an encouraging trend in a part of the world not exactly renowned for its feminist leanings to pay closer attention to voices that have too often been marginalised. This is one of the key themes of Andonova’s film, which offers three short stories (adapted from the work of co-writer Mariya Stankova) about women of different generations - and demonstrates that despite their different cultural, financial and political backgrounds, the problems they face remain fundamental to this day.

In the first, set in 1961, gypsy-born Dona (Bonka Ilieva-Boni, a folk singer in real life) brings up her three children in a crumbling shack whose few accoutrements are repossessed by bailiffs - just about the only thing she has any sentimental attachment to is a bedhead painted with a fantasy scene involving a mermaid (one of the best lines in the film concerns the irresponsibility of the species). Cheerfully ignoring the entreaties of the bureaucrats who try to run her life according to their terms, Dona isn’t even averse to a little light prostitution on the side if it will help make ends meet. But when her boyfriend Nacho (Assen Blatechki) runs out on her, she unwisely accepts the offer of an arranged marriage at the behest of a friendly local party official (who spends this part of the film trying fruitlessly to guide her onto the straight and narrow) - and it becomes very clear very quickly that her new husband (Stefan Mavrodiyev) is a match made in the very bowels of hell.

Twenty years later, Lucrecia (Diana Dobreva) would seem to have every advantage that Dona lacked: a brilliant law student, she’s head-hunted by five prestigious courts. But all of them are in the country, and she wants to stay in her beloved Sofia. Foolishly, she takes advice that becoming pregnant by a Sofia resident will force the authorities to let her stay, changes her mind when it’s too late to turn back (legal abortion terms were just 14 weeks back then) and, worse, falls seriously in love with a French student (Sava Lolov) but decides to conceal her pregnancy from him. Furthermore, she’s troubled by recurring dreams of childhood incidents at a public spa which she attended with her pushy mother, and which may offer some clue to her present psychological difficulties.

Tana (Angelina Slavova) has exactly the opposite problem to Lucrecia - despite being in a blissfully happy marriage, she can’t have the one thing she most wants, as all attempts at getting pregnant have come to nothing. Naturally, she assumes it’s her fault, though a subsequent investigation puts the blame on her middle-aged husband Lazar, a blow to his masculinity that nearly destroys their relationship. Although ostensibly far more materially comfortable than Dona or Lucrecia, Tana is just as helpless when it comes to the more basic of human impulses - especially when her desire for a child means that her eye starts to stray in the direction of other men, despite her otherwise unconditional love for Lazar.

The three lead performances are all first-rate, and Andonova also has a terrific eye for landscape, her protagonists’ fondness for bright reds and oranges making them stand out in the compositions. She also clearly has a sense of humour even in the midst of decidedly bleak subject-matter - I particularly liked the woman at the sex clinic, a caricature of every jobsworth Eastern European rolled into one, made doubly delicious by the fact that she’s still doing exactly the same job twenty years later. My only serious criticism is that all three stories ultimately toppled over into somewhat simplistic melodrama, which was the major problem with Esma’s Secret too (though not the subtler Das Fräulein) - the layered, nuanced build-ups with their multiple parallelings and echoings, and the evocative images of Japanese monkeys in the snow providing an effective overarching metaphor (and also the film’s title) deserved something more substantial as a capstone. But it’s a very promising debut indeed, and I’ll certainly keep an eye out for what Andonova comes up with next.


Posted on 18th September 2007
Under: Reviews, Milena Andonova, Bulgaria | No Comments »

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