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Sofia International Film Festival


For 16th year Sofia International Film Festival will gather together in Sofia films, guests, stars, journalists and cinema fans from 9th until 18th March 2012. Featured in Variety’s Top 50 of cinema festivals, the event presents Bulgaria to the world as the host one of the important film festivals in Europe and takes place annually in March. What started as a thematic music film festival, went through 15 previous editions to become the cinema event of the year, bringing the current world cinema trends to the domestic viewers in Bulgaria and the latest in Bulgarian cinema to the rest of the world.

Since 1997 more than 1,600 feature films and documentaries have been screened within the festival’s framework. More than 1,000 distinguished guests have attended, including established professionals such as Wim Wenders, Volker Schlondorff, Katja Riemann and Karl Baumgartner (Germany), Alan Parker, Peter Greenaway, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Tony Palmer and David Mackenzie (United Kingdom), Nikita Mikhalkov, Andrei Konchalovsky, Karen Shakhnazarov and Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov (Russia), Jiri Menzel, Jan Sverak, Jan Hrebejk and Petr Zelenka (Czech Republic), Emir Kusturica (Yugoslavia), Krzysztof Zanussi (Poland), Otar Iosseliani (Georgia), Jean-Claude Carriere, Agnes Varda, Siegfried and Jacques Dorfmann (France), Assumpta Serna (Spain), Bent Hamer and Unni Straume (Norway), Jafar Panahi and Babak Payami (Iran), Jerry Schatzberg, Michael Wadleigh and Lech Kowalski (USA), Jos Stelling (the Netherlands), Mika Kaurismaki (Finland), Friðrik Þór Friðriksson (Iceland), Lone Scherfig (Denmark), Kornel Mundruczo (Hungary), Goran Markovic, Goran Paskaljević, Radivoje Andric, Dusan Milic, Srđan Karanović and Srđan Dragojević (Serbia) and many others.
The festival is organized by Art Fest under the auspices of the Municipality of Sofia and in partnership with the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, the National Palace of Culture, the National Film Center and the Bulgarian National Television with the support of the MEDIA programme of the European Commission, national and foreign cultural institutes and sponsors.
For its 10th anniversary as an international cinema event in the year 2010 named Year of Bulgarian Cinema, Sofia International Film Festival received as present the recognition from FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations) - it was accredited as competitive festival specialized in first and second films. Since its creation the director of the festival has been Stefan Kitanov.

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Ben Berkowitz: We had been working with some really unique underground artists

Ben Berkowitz

10 years ago Ben Berkowitz made his debut as a film director with a movie called Straightman (Benzfilm, 2001). The story in the film is about the friendship between a straight guy and a gay, but without any Hollywood clichés about falling in love, having sex, ect. ‘Just the story about two friends – one of them likes women, the other likes men – that’s it’, as the director describes it. Berkowitz’s intention in this film was to show the possible relationship between two different worlds, existing together in the came city.
 
In his second film Polish Bar (2010), the movie opening SIFF’s International Competition, the director has a similar purpose, showing the relationship between certain communities, different one form another, or not so different, living in the same city…
 
Yeah, in this film I tried to show the relationship between the different communities in Chicago. As a director I wouldn’t make a movie just about the Polish community, just about the Jewish community, just about the African American community in Chicago – I’m not saying that it couldn’t be a good movie, but it just doesn’t interest me: I’m interested in movies, showing the relationship between the different communities. I like the way that they wrote about it in SIFF’s catalogue that it’s definitely not for everyone. I didn’t make it with the idea that it has to have 5000 screenings and to become a Spiderman or another blockbuster – the only reason for me to make this film was to show this relationship between these communities… Almost every time when we have screenings sometimes a Polish person, sometimes somebody else asks me ‘Why Polish?’… ‘Cause the story is not really very Polish. But that’s a kind of the point – because this bar is the only place, even if it’s not too good, where the different characters with different background find something in common, something to identify with.
 
The movie was shot in the Polish neighborhood in Chicago and even it’s a fiction, some episodes – visually and as a sound – function almost as a documentary…
 
We have talked about that a lot. The neighborhoods, the cities all around the USA, maybe all around the world, are constantly changing. I could give an example even with Sofia, which I haven’t visited from years – so, my friends, living and working here, say that for them the city has changed so much, becoming a big mall. It’s the same, more or less, with the Polish neighborhood in Chicago… I mean, Chicago is the biggest Polish city in the world and if we had to shoot this movie just 10 years ago, the atmosphere would be almost as in Poland. But things are changing – yes, the Polish people are still there, the culture is still there, but the geography is changed, the surroundings are changed – the Polish neighborhood moves, it became mobile, moving little by little to suburbs. My previous film Straightman was shot in a totally different neighborhood in the West side of Chicago – a neighborhood that doesn’t exist anymore, because the artists, the people moved from there – so it’s not only changed, it’s gone. I could not compare this situation to Polish Bar, because Straighman was 10 years ago, and Polish Bar was finished just an year ago, but some of the places that we filmed in Polish Bar are certainly not the same anymore. Polish Bar is definitely not a documentary, it’s a fiction, but if you would like to do a good job, documenting certain neighborhood, you should crate a time capsule.
 
The owner of the Polish Bar in the movie is the one and only Meat Loaf, but the story has another musical significance – somewhere between the Yiddish songs and DJ-ing. So, you have in the soundtrack world known artists like Balkan Beat Box or So Called…
 
The idea was to show that this kid, the main character really like his job as a DJ and this music, although his family is not very happy with it, pushing him to find a serious job… If we speak about the sound, it’s done by a very talented crew – people involved also in different American movies, shot here in Boyana Film. There is not a piece of music in this movie, that you’ve heard in another movie – we even made some of it originally and the other part is from a hip hop label from Chicago, which is very underground, considered by the people, listening to it like avantguarde right now in the moment… But, ok, it was an year or two years ago, so it’s probably already old, because the hip hop music scene is constantly changing – just the same way as the big cities.
 

www.siff.bg, 8 March 2011

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About Sofia International Film Festival


International film festival for feature films, documentaries and shorts (mainly Bulgarian). Main themes: International competition for first and second films, Balkan & Bulgarian cinema, Cinema Europe, World screen, retrospectives.

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