If you are planning a visit to Sofia, Bulgaria, now is an excellent time. The 23rd Sofia International Film Festival is just around the corner and will run from March 7-17th, with additional screenings until the 28th across the country. The festival was named among Variety’s ‘Top 50’ and is one of the premier events in the European festival circuit. This year’s theme is “Make Cinema, Not War” and MustSeeCinema will bring you closer to the action. Here are some of the highlights of what to expect:
Walking on Water
The festival will open with Walking on Water by director Andrey Pauonov, an intimate documentary about the art and creative process of environmental artist Christo Javacheff. The name references the first project that Christo finished after the death of his beloved wife and artistic partner Jeanne-Claude – The Floating Piers (2016) at the Lake Como in Italy. It is one of 11 documentaries about the renowned husband-and-wife team that will screen at SIFF this year.
Special guests will include Dimiter Marinov, who will present this year’s Academy Awards Best Picture winner Green Book (dir. Peter Farrelly), in which he played the supporting role of Igor.
Oscar-winning Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida) will present his newest film, Cold War, to a Bulgarian audience.
Another prominent Polish director, Krzysztof Zanussi, will receive an honorary prize at the festival’s opening.
A retrospective of the films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Winter Sleep (2014), Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011), Three Monkeys (2008)) is one of the staples of the festival. His newest film, The Wild Pear Tree will be screened at the closing ceremony on March 17th.
Besides the above, some of the most interesting titles due to be screened as part of the program this year include:
Shoplifters (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda), this year’s Palme D’Or winner at Cannes;
Border (dir. Ali Abbasi), the Un Certain Regard prize winner at Cannes;
The House That Jack Built (dir. Lars von Trier), the newest film from the Danish master;
7 films by Krzysztof Zanussi;
Wings of Desire (1987) dir. Wim Wenders;
Absolute Beginners (1986, dir. Julien Temple), starring David Bowie;
Roma (dir. Alfonso Cuaron), which won three of it’s 10 Oscar nominations this year;
If Beale Street Could Talk (dir. Barry Jenkins), Oscar-nominated;
Capernaum (dir. Nadine Labaki), another Oscar-nominated film from Lebanon, and
Tango in the Tunnel (dirs. Niki Stanchev, Stoyan Anov) – a fully independent micro-budget feature, among many others…
Sofia Film Fest is an event that specializes in highlighting upcoming directors. All 11 of the selected films that will be in competition for the Grand Prix are either first or second features for their directors.
Lachezar Avramov’s debut A Picture with Yuki (Bulgaria/Japan) is based on a short story about the relationship of Georgi and Yuki, Bulgarian and Japanese immigrants who met in Canada and are trying desperately to have a child.
Dragomir Sholev’s The Pig (Bulgaria) tells the story of a bullied 13-year-old boy and is a completely independent feature.
Bartosz Grudziecki’s Wall (“Wycieczka“, Poland/Germany) is set in modern-day Poland, and tells the story of a girl from a small village who accompanies a wealthy couple in search of ancient ruins
Ali Jaberansari’s Tehran: City of Love (Iran/UK/Netherlands) is based on Persian tales and tells the story of three people searching for love.
Daishi Matsunaga’s Hanalei Bay (Japan) is based on Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same name, about a single mother who visits Hawaii annually for ten years, after tragically losing her son in a surfing accident.
Steve Krikris’ The Waiter (Greece) follows a pedantic and old-fashioned loner, whose life is disrupted by unforeseen circumstances.
Xin Zhu’s Vanishing Days is an award-winning micro-budget project about a young girl in rural China, seeking inspiration for writing her homework.
Sefa Öztürk’s Trust (Turkey) is a relationship drama about trust and a test of a couple’s feelings towards each other.
Marius Olteanu’s Monsters (Romania) also details a relationship – that of a long-time couple, who over the course of 24 hours decide that letting each other go may be the biggest proof of their love.
Ömür Atay’s Brothers (Turkey/Germany/Bulgaria) is a film about guilt and punishment, told through the story of a young man returning back to his family after spending years in a detention center.
Eva Ionesco’s Golden Youth (France/Belgium) stars the great Isabelle Huppert. The story follows two couples meet in Paris and not before long, start to share a mutual hedonistic lifestyle, enticed by love and the thrill of living.
Nora Fingscheidt’s System Crasher (Germany) is the last film to be added to the competition, detailing the treatment of a young girl experiencing psychotic episodes.
The Documentary selection includes 12 films, two of which are Bulgarian – The Magic Life of V (Finland/Denmark/Bulgaria, 2019) by Tonislav Christov with cinematography by Alexander Stanishev, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and competed in Berlinale 2019, and Palace for the People (Bulgaria/Germany/Romania, 2018) by creative tandem Boris Misirkov and Georgy Bogdanov.
The other prominent titles from the selection are The Silence of Others (Spain/USA/Canada/France) by Robert Bahar and Almudena Carracedo, What Walaa Wants (Canada/Denmark) by Canadian director Christi Garland, The First Motion of the Immovable (France/Italy) by Sebastiano d’Ayala Valva, The Green Lie (“Die Grüne Lüge”, Austria) by Werner Boote, Hamada (Sweden/Germany/Norway) by Eloy Dominguez Seren, América (USA) by Eric Stoll and Chase Whiteside, Thirty Souls (Spain) by Diana Toucedo, Out (France) by Dennis Parrot, Diagnosis (Poland, 2018) by Eva Podgorska and the Oscar-nominated Of Fathers and Sons (Germany/Syria/Libya/Qatar) by Talal Derki.
From the Balkans
Additional titles will compete for the Domain Boyar Balkan Competition award. These include Nikos Labôt’s Her Job (Greece), Bujar Alimani’s The Delegation (Albania/France/Greece/Kosovo), Tolga Karaçelik’s Butterflies (Turkey), Ognjen Glavonic’s The Load (Serbia/France/Croatia/Iran/Quatar), Paul Negoescu’s The Story of a Summer Lover (Romania/Bulgaria), Vladimir Blazevski’s Year of the Monkey (Macedonia/Serbia/Slovenia/Kosovo), Tonia Mishiali’s Pause (Cyprus/Greece), Hüseyin Karabey’s Insiders (Turkey), Martin Turk’s Good Day’s Work (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Ioana Uricaru’s Lemonade (Romania/Canada/Germany/Sweden).
As always, an eclectic selection of short films by young Bulgarian filmmakers will compete for the Jameson prize, with each one screened before the start of the In Competition movies.
The full program of the 23rd Sofia Film Festival may be found here:
See you there!