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Bulgarian Cinema

Bulgarian Cinema

As many other European countries, the film industry in this little Balkan nation begins at the beginnings of the 20th century.  Few years after the historic Lumiere brothers’ projection, the first itinerant cinemas began to become popular in Bulgaria, and by 1908 the first cinema theatre opened its doors to public.

Vassil Gendov

Vassil Gendov

In that initial period, amateur film directors and producers -supported by the intellectuals of the country- started to shine. Like in other countries, the stories taken to the silver screen were mainly based in the popular literature of those years, and performed by actors which their unique acting experience was in theatres. That era, which lasted until the mid-30s witnessed the rise of Bulgarian cinema pioneers such as: Vassil Gendov, Boris Grejov, Alexander Vazov, Petar Stoychev and Vassil Bakardjiev.

Things remained practically the same until the end of World War II, when the country was left under the communism influence from Russia. The companies were nationalized to serve to the purposes of spreading the new Estate ideologies. The film industry, in spite of being restricted and censored, enjoyed a substantial economic boost that allowed its members to study and professionalize in a short time.

During the Soviet era, between 1945 and 1990, most of the stores in the Bulgarian cinema were the social dramas of displacement from the countryside to the cities, existentialism and romance. That period also witnessed a remarkable movement of animated cinema.

When the Berlin wall and the Soviet authority fell apart, private production companies establishing was allowed but the reduction of the budget designated to support the film industry plunged dramatically.

It wasn’t until 1991 when important changes were seen. New companies like Boyanna (movies), Vreme (documentaries) and Sofia (animation) started to produce independent films to keep the industry alive.  Although the difficult times, the first independent films came to light in 1992 with projects like Sergei Komitski’s Bullets in Paradise (Kurshum za raya) and Ralitsa Dimitrova´s The College (Kolezhat).

In the decade of the 90s, directors such as Ilian Simeonov, Hristian Notchev (The Frontier, 1994) and the veteran Georgi Dyulgerov  (Chernata Lyastovitsa, 1997) had the criticism to the failed communism regime as main the argument in their movies. Those films were harshly criticized by the critics because of its lack of talent.

However, better productions came 10 years later with filmmakers such as Iván Pavlov with Starting from Scratch (Vsichko ot nula, 1996), Stanimir Trifonov with Battle of Wolves (Hayka za valtsi, 2000), Iglika Triffonova with Letter to America (Pismo do America, 2000), and last but not least, Iván Nichev –the most prolific Bulgarian director since the 70s- with After the End of the World (Sled kraya na sveta, 1998).

     

Letter to America

Letter to America

Mila from Mars

Mila from Mars

By the same time, plenty of Bulgarian productions started to win recognition and award in film festivals. Among them are the Special Jury Award in the Sarajevo Film Festival 2004 to Zornitza Sophia for Mila from Mars and a year later the young actress Vessela Kazakova was awarded the Best Actress Prize in Moscow for Stolen Eyes in 2004. The movie also won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival of 2006.

Recently, the economic conditions have jeopardized the country’s film productions. After the world’s financial crashing in 2010, the government announced cuts in the budget designated to support cinema, and has just been able to sponsor 7 long films per year.

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