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The digitization of the Bulgarian film heritage relies on funds from the Recovery Plan

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One of the largest film projects implemented in Bulgaria is undoubtedly the Khan Asparuh trilogy. The team, actors and extras involved in filming the production in 1980 numbered over 100,000 people. The historical epic, directed by Academician Lyudmil Staykov, traces the struggles led by the founder of the Bulgarian kingdom Khan Asparuh for its establishment of the geographical and political map of the world 1340 years ago. The ambition to breathe new life into the film, whose original duration is 6 hours, turns engineer Dobromir Chochov into its saviour from the relentless traces of time.

"This film had left a deep emotional imprint on me. It has not been shown enough, but it is one of the largest films in the history of cinema in general ", Eng. Chochov explains to BNR. This was followed by a sound and picture restoration of the Khan Asparuh trilogy, new editing connections and a new dramatic line, again the work of Acad. Lyudmil Staykov.


This new abbreviated restored version of the film Khan Asparuh under the title "The Khan and the Empire" is fundamentally important because, on the one hand, it is a purely creative care to preserve some classic films, I would say masterpieces of Bulgarian cinema, which over the years are destroyed," the film critic Prof. Bozhidar Manov explains.

Bulgaria’s film heritage is stored in the archives of the Bulgarian National Film Archive, which has the task to protect it from the ravages of time. The work on the digitalization of the fund, which began in 2005, does not stop, but requires a lot of time, human resources and specific know-how, says its director Antonia Kovacheva.

"We receive copies of absolutely all Bulgarian films produced in Bulgaria. Also we have copies from the films that are co-productions with Bulgarian participation. This means that we store about 10,000 Bulgarian and 5,000 foreign films, as 30% of the Bulgarian titles have already been digitized."


According to her, in Bulgaria a question often asked is why the digitization of the film heritage is necessary, but not how it is preserved:

"I will share a finding made by the film community - with each transition of cinema from one technology to another, a large part of the films produced via the old technology get lost. Too often, the new software doesn't read the old software, so it's important to store movies in formats that can be read by ever-changing high-tech systems."

All this, together with the necessary expert knowledge of the sound, picture and features of each film tape, makes digitization a real science. Mastering it is a challenge that attracts enthusiasts. However, a lot of resources are needed for their training:

"For 7-8 years we have been struggling to get funding for the acquisition of the technological chain for quality digitization and restoration of films. I am very hopeful because we have a detailed digitization strategy from 2013, made with foreign consultants. Fortunately, we managed to become part of the Recovery and Sustainability Plan. It provides for BGN 66 million for digitization of the cultural heritage. Funds will be received by the Bulgarian National Film Archive, the Bulgarian National Television, the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency and the Bulgarian National Radio, as well as all museums and galleries that are state cultural institutes in the field of the movable cultural heritage."

Restoring the film's heritage is a mission that engages the minds and dedication of those who devoted themselves to this task long period of time. As Antonia Kovacheva has estimated, the digitization of all Bulgarian films can be completed within a period of 8 years given a two-shift work schedule of at least 11 people.

English version Rositsa Petkova

Photos: archive and BGNES

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