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Bulgarian cinema - what happened after November 10, 1989?

БНР Новини
Photo fuse: Silvia Petrova

The democratic changes in Bulgaria started on November 10, 1989. Deep transformations in many spheres occurred in Bulgaria after this date. Cinema is one of the fields which went under serious changes. What happened there after that date? Here is what Bulgarian cinema critic Bozhidar Manov told Radio Bulgaria:

Снимка“In the past, cinema was owned by the state. Nearly 25 films were produced for the cinema halls on an annual basis. Another 25 films were made for the Bulgarian National Television. All films were subsidized entirely by the state and the country was the only producer and had a full monopoly over the industry. Later, after 1992, when the state monopoly model was destroyed, many independent film-production companies emerged and started to make Bulgarian movies: films, documentaries, cartoons, etc. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian National Television continued to make films under the old method. The new private TV channels also joined the process of film production.”

On the other hand, according to Professor Manov’s words, a reckless privatization of cinema halls kicked off, which restricted the access of the Bulgarian audience to Bulgarian films, especially in small towns and villages. Moreover, the movies recorded on film rolls started to vanish and were gradually substituted by the digital film-making technologies. Bearing in mind the swiftly changing time we all live in, Bulgarian authors failed to grasp the accents of the changes that had already occurred. It resulted in a sharp decline of the film production business and we even had years when we could not shoot even a single film, the renowned Bulgarian film critic says. When the Bulgarian cinema opened itself to the outside world, the local film making industry started slowly to recover from the deep crisis. Some Bulgarian movies such as The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner, Eastern Plays, Zift and some Bulgarian documentaries won many international film awards.

“The Bulgarian cinema is in a deep crisis which has been lasting for over 25 years with some periods of temporary success. Financing of course is never enough, but spending more and more money on film production is not the only way out of the critical situation. We need to implement a different organization strategy of the financial and the production process. We have been speaking for a long time that we need to change the principles, the criteria, the methods of financing and pay higher attention to the distribution of Bulgarian cinema with given market preferences provided by the state” , Bozhidar Manov further explained.

On the other hand, generations have also changed. Over half of all films presented at the recent Golden Rose Festival of Bulgarian Feature Films held in Varna (15 full-length and 19 short movies) were created by young Bulgarian directors. This is quite a promising fact, but unfortunately these people also face serious difficulties with regard to the financing of their projects, as well as during the filming of the movies. How did Bulgaria’s cinematographers benefit from the opportunity to communicate with the outside world?

“The benefits from this communication are evident. It helps us compare the Bulgarian cinema with the European and the international productions: to see where we are heading to, how Bulgarian cinema develops in terms of ideas and technology, what the audience is interested in, etc. The positive signals about the benefit of this communication are undisputed. The debut film named The Lesson created by young directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov has returned recently from San Sebastian (one of the most significant world festivals) with a very important award - it won the New Directors’ Award. It was selected as the best film among all 12 debut films in 2014. This is a very important sign and we all have to admire this fact.”

Does Bulgarian cinema lack audience on both the large screen and the TV screen? If we speak of film series we can say the audience expects them with a great deal of interest. Of course, these films are of a different quality, which is quite normal. With regard to the large screen films, our productions can not compete with the big American blockbusters for instance, because they lose the battle in terms of production capacity, commercial quality, etc.

“Our films are placed in very unfair conditions, as their distribution is carried out in a highly competitive environment in our shopping malls. On one hand, distribution causes losses to our films. On the other hand, these productions are affected by the audience, as most of the Bulgarians prefer to watch glossy and dynamic American action movies. Unfortunately, art cinema which is mainly Bulgarian production is pushed somewhere in the corner and has little chances to communicate with the broad audience. These are the sad facts confirmed by the monthly and the annual statistics”, Professor Manov went on to say.

Unfortunately, the complicated economic situation in this country never helps in such delicate moments. On the contrary, it hinders the development of the whole business process in this field.

“In 2015 the Bulgarian cinema is to mark its 100th anniversary - one century since the launching of the first Bulgarian movie entitled The Bulgarian is Gallant in 1915. The question is are we going to face a really dramatic picture in this anniversary year which would send a distress signal about the perspectives of this industry in the next few years. So, if appeals make any sense at all, my message to the state is to provide assistance to Bulgarian cinema. I also urge our audience to pay the necessary attention and respect to this industry. Finally, I would call on the Bulgarian film makers to mobilize their potential, so we do not discredit ourselves on the eve of this 100th jubilee”, Professor Bozhidar Manov appealed.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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