• Datum 16-01-2014
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What was the last Bulgarian film you have seen? Do you know any filmmakers from Bulgaria? Don’t worry, most of my foreign friends (even the film professionals among them) cannot answer these questions either, despite the increasingly tangible efforts by the local film industry to promote its work abroad.
The bare truth is that for most of its existence Bulgarian cinema was oriented towards its native audience. Behind the Iron Curtain it focused mostly on local issues and treated them with a domestic touch, neglecting the outside world and developing a boutique sense of humor, reserved for insiders. Although some Bulgarian filmmakers presented their work abroad, they were only sporadiccally successful. It was hard for Bulgarian cinema to cultivate internationally recognized directors or a recognisable national style. But like an undiscovered archaeological site, it hides a mysterious kingdom beneath, waiting to be deciphered. Among the unique magicians from these old times, Rangel Vulchanov and Binka Zhelyazkova are the two most original auteurs, and least spoiled by the system, to deserve a closer look.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Bulgaria opened to the world and the film industry had to be economically and ideologically restarted. Filmmaking would not be nursed by the state anymore, so filmmakers headed to the big festival world to pursue their fortune. And although a Bulgarian Kusturica still has not popped up and a Bulgarian New Wave still has not been launched, Bulgarian films and their authors slowly started to establish themselves as world citizens.
Several distinctive themes within contemporary Bulgarian cinema can be pointed out: reflections on the totalitarian past; the topic of ‘internal emigration’. While in the early 90s the crimes of the communist regime were revealed through explicit violence (Sezonat na kanarchetata by Evgeni Mihailov), in recent years the period became the object of postmodern irony (Zift by Yavor Gardev; The Color of the Chameleon by Emil Hristov) or is being wrapped in modern fairytales (Viktoria by Maya Vitkova). As for the ‘internal emigration’ phenomenon, the feeling of being a foreigner in your own country keeps chasing many people as political and moral corruption have occupied our social life. Lyudmil Todorov opened the debate on screen some 10 years ago with Emigranti, while the more recent Sneakers by Valeri Yordanov and Ivan Vladimirov and July by Kiril Stankov throw more salt in the wound. Although these films still play with inside jokes in the dialogue and are best comprehensible for locals, their cinematic language appears to be universal; social anger and despair are far from local issues in Europe today.
The poorest state of the European Union according to statistics and shaken by protests in reality, Bulgaria is a country in a fragile state. Its cinema, in transition from an orientation at a local to a global audience, might not change the country’s destiny but is a window to a lesser-known part of Europe, still waiting to be discovered.

Mariana Hristova