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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.


Danis Tanovic – the family man who can’t forget the war

During the meeting with the audience after the screening of his film Baggage
in the Cinema House, Danis Tanovic said that he’s actually quite a
joyful person and loves to laugh. But in our conversation he was quite
serious and said that certain things make him quite pessimistic. Going
back through his films, it is easy to spot the humor in all of them, but
it usually serves to lighten up a very dark situation, and to help you
through it. Perhaps, the more seriously you look towards the world, the
darker you see it. And those who are most serious and go deepest, need
humor the most, because how else can you escape the reality and the dark
nuances of it!

After living in Brussels and France for 5 years,
Tanovic goes back to post war Sarajevo and builds a new life with his
family, consisting of 5 children, 3 dogs and a wife, or as he puts with a
loving smile, “I live in a circus.” The war in his country, which he
documented on reel following the Bosnian army, has left him quite shaken
and even if agrees with a viewer that he might have used his films as
personal therapy, he adds with a smile that if this is indeed a therapy,
“it’s quite an expensive one”. Tanovic’ films lightened up a bit with Circus Columbia
(distributed in Bulgaria by Art Fest), where, in spite of the impending
war and the tension among the ethnicities living until then peacefully
in Yugoslavia, the sun is shining and there is a heavy, almost dizzy
load of hopes for new start in life, love rekindled after years of
doubts and waiting and another one blooming in the young hearts that it

Everything, however, is going back to black in Baggage
– a short film which hits you like a grenade in the end of its only 27
minutes. But then, what to expect form a director who says he makes
movies only when he’s pissed off! 4 feature films and two shorts (one of
them part of 11'09“01 – September 11) in the past 11 years, makes you think he must have had quite a happy life.

We see Boris Ler, the main actor in Baggage, quite grown up since Circus Columbia,
where he was a delightful mixture of a boy on his way to becoming a
man, and a man, not quite shaken off his awkward boyishness. The film
moves effortlessly onwards with a succession of close ups, which show
the emotions of its not so many characters. The camera is still at times
and shaky when the characters are shaken by a situation. Music brings
you to a dream like state but also points out contrasts – the main
character sitting among the ruins of his parents’ house when the
memories of the peaceful past bring back a child song. The war may very
well be over for 15 years now, but it still takes its victims. Is
healing and going back to ‘normal’ life possible? It will take longer
than one’s patience is ready to accept. And there will always be dark
dregs in one’s wounded soul. On a positive note, it is always dark
before dawn.

You will receive the Sofia Award for special contribution in world cinema. How do you feel about it?

It is too early for this! I just saw No Man’s Land
in the cinema and it felt just like I made it yesterday, but 11 years
have passed. Time is flying by and even if we want, we can’t stop it. I
am happy about the award, happy that they’re showing all of my films.
Every director’s desire is that his films are seen by more people.

Your producer and International Jury member Marc Bachet, said that the “Oscar” for No Man’s Land helped the film achieve bigger international recognition. Is there a dark side as well to the awards?

the festivals somehow have a dark side. I am not sure how to put it, so
that it doesn’t sound wrong. When I come to a certain festival I am in
competition with other people. And I don’t even know how to compete.
Very often I compete with people who used to be my idols, so I find it
very difficult to compete or judge. How do you compare and judge a
beautiful animation against a psychological drama or sci-fi movie? It
depends on the taste of the jury. I was lucky to get all those prizes
when I was very young but when you get a prize, it doesn’t mean that
your film is better than the others, or if you don’t get it, it doesn’t
mean that others are better than yours. On the other hand, awards help
because they bring more people to the cinema and nowadays fewer people
come to the cinema, which is becoming a big problem, because everybody
downloads. Independent filmmakers are much more affected in a negative
way than major studios. My last film premiered in Italy and before it
was shown anywhere else, it was on the internet in HD. On one hand
you’re happy that a lot of people watch it, on the other – you don’t get
as much money as you could.

I found a connection between your last film Baggage and Circus Columbia – at the end of Circus Columbia
the son of the main character went to live abroad, and left his parents
in Sarajevo just before the beginning of war. At the beginning of Baggage a son is coming back to Sarajevo to bury the remains of his parents who died during the war.

else also told me this, that there could be a continuity. I am a writer
of my films and when I write, I write about things that touch me. There
could be a connection among all my films. I try each time to use the
form that corresponds to content. Somehow Circus Columbia is
very old fashioned, almost like Italian Neorealism. The scenery looks
like Provance and there is some kind of light atmosphere, light humor,
while Baggage is like No Man’s Land. Very dark and based on a true story happening in my country. But no, there’s no connection.

had the feeling because of the music and the way that it was filmed
that it is like a dream. A story that is really happening and looking
like a dream at the same time.

A nightmare! It is unfortunately a reality in my country. And things are not changing for the better.

Don’t you think that films like yours could help your people overcoming the traumas from the past war?

always this question whether art can change life. I always hope it can,
but I would be arrogant to assume that my films do that. I am doing
what I can, but I am not very optimistic about the situation in my
country. It is the same situation like here and everywhere else. We’re
rushing to a wall. I think we’re all expecting something. Nobody’s

I am.

Good! Lucky you! Share it with us.

am optimistic because I think that things are changing for the better,
though very slowly. It is very difficult to overcome a period like 45
years of communism.

But think about the countries that
didn’t have communism at all! They are experiencing crisis as well. I
don’t think we are going through economical crisis, but a crisis due to
lack of ethics and moral. It’s like the fall of the Roman empire.
Everything is allowed, there are no limits. The values which I used to
believe in and in which I still believe very much, somehow get
distorted, somehow there’s no right and wrong, there’s no black and
white. There are no real heroes these days. When I was a kid, my heroes
were rock musicians, or Che Gevara, dream figures. In Sarajevo these
days kids are looking up to gangsters with big cars and having three
girls on the back seat. I have a huge respect for my professors and I
don’t see this in new generation. Maybe I am just getting old or I am
experiencing a middle age crisis.

I noticed that you have
5 children and 5 films so far as well. Which one is more difficult – to
raise a child or to produce a film?

There’s no
comparison! To raise a child is more important! Family is my passion,
movies are my passion. But family is much more important. I made a lot
of choices in my career which prevented me from engaging in a certain
project because I put family first. I am very old fashioned. Raising
kids is difficult but great. When you look at those little people grow
and becoming personalities, nothing compares to it.

Read the whole interview on SIFF's website.


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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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