Ivan Nichev — The Story Teller

By Christina Stojanova (University of Regina)

© Christina Stojanova, 2006

Ivan Nichev (born 1940) belongs to the precious few Bulgarian directors (mainly gone now or, like Ivanka Grabcheva, working very rarely), who knows how to tell a good story on screen. If commonsense suggests that telling a good story is the bread and butter of filmmaking in general and of any small national cinema in particular—especially a national cinema in prolonged crisis since the collapse of the state sponsored film industry in the early 1990s—then this is not the commonsense currently dominating the Bulgarian national cinema. Judging from the scarce film production that has emerged with great difficulty, both financial and artistic, during this past decade or so, the heart of Bulgarian filmmaking lies not with viewers but either with so-called “festival films,” a euphemism that usually means a film for a chosen few, or with auteur or art films, to use another, more elegant but already outdated term. These terms can be used to characterise films like Petar Popzlatev’s Something in the Air (Neshto vav vazduha, 1993), Krassimir Kroumov’s The Forbidden Fruit (Zabraneniat plod, 1994), Ivan Tcsherkelov’s Rolling Thunder (Tarkalyashti se kamani, 1995) and Glass Marbles (Stakleni topcheta, 1999), Ivan Pavlov’s Fate as a Rat (Sudbata kato pluh, 2001), Georgy Dyulgerov’s The Black Swallow (Chernata lyastoviza, 1997), Hristo Hristov’s Sulamit (1997), Stefan Komandarev’s Dog’s Home (Pansion za kucheta, 2000), and Dimitar Petkov’s The Devil’s Tail (Opashkata na dyavola, 2001). This far from exhaustive list of films represents at least a sample of the kind of stylistics that has dominated the Bulgarian film landscape. Made for a very small niche audience of people who are almost intimately close to the moral, artistic, philosophical, and socio-political concerns of their auteurs, these films have enjoyed little or no success even on the festival circuit they have presumably targeted.

Evidently, the incessant preoccupation with this “cinema of observation” or “cinema of static situations, and of ambiguous emotional and mental states; a descriptive, non-analytical cinema,” one that was born from the unresolved tension, created between the usually brilliant camera work, on one hand, and the feeble psychological motivation of characters and action, on the other, has succeeded in alienating local viewers from any and all artistic experimentation.[1] Coupled with the chaotic (thematically and artistically unfocused) situation in the national fiction film production, this has resulted in an almost chronic ailment for Bulgarian cinema, unredeemed by its sporadic and isolated international successes. After all, even the most intriguing auteur hermeticism requires some universal comprehensibility that would allow pundits to access its intricate codes and reveal them to lay viewers. Even well-crafted and wisely disseminated auteur films that have been highly decorated abroad—like Lyudmil Todorov’s Emilia’s Friends (Priyatelite na Emiliya, 1996), Iglika Trifonova’s Letter To America (Pismo do Amerika, 2001), Kostadin Bonev’s Warming Up Yesterday’s Lunch (Podgryavane na vcherashniya obed, 2002), Zornitsa-Sophia’s Mila From Mars (Mila ot Mars, 2004), and Georgi Dyulgerov’s Lady Zee (2005)—have failed to rescue the Bulgarian art-house cinema at home. Let us hope that the most recent successes of the Bulgarian cinema at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival—Ivan Tscherkelov and Vasil Zhivkov’s Christmas Tree Upside Down (Oburnata elha, 2006) and Milena Andonova’s Monkeys in Winter (Maymuni prez zimata, 2006)—will meet with a luckier fate.

If one earnestly looks for the reasons for the standoff between Bulgarian cinema and its viewers ― specialized as well as “ordinary,” at home and abroad ― it is enough to turn to the collective achievement of the young new Czech cinema, whose unquestionable success with viewers at home prompted its international recognition. Unlike Czeska Televizja (the Czech TV) and its unique support for all Czech films, Bulgarian national television is usually demonstratively disinterested in co-producing films that are made outside its carefully guarded domain. While this haughty attitude can be cited as a major impediment to the success of the national cinema in general, the corporate egoism of Bulgarian TV in the sphere of distribution can be qualified as premeditatedly murderous insofar as the excellent, independently produced Bulgarian documentary cinema is concerned.[2]

Bulgarian fiction films, however, enjoy a relatively good standing on the small screen, which remains their one and only reliable form of dissemination. While the much-touted lack of local viewers could somehow be explained by the collapse of the distribution network in Bulgaria (from roughly 2,000 film theaters in the early 1990s to barely 200 in 2003), the international marginalization of Bulgarian cinema simply parallels the marginalization of the generally despised “film for the viewer.” In other words, if they wished to do so, Bulgarian film directors could get a fairly adequate idea as to how their films fare with viewers-at-large by examining when (which day of the week and at what hour), and if their films are shown on national TV, for the selection criteria of the TV authorities approximates that of the so-called “mass” or “average” viewer.

Against this rather bleak (in the most literal sense of the word) backdrop, Ivan Nichev’s stubbornly consistent taste for sentimental retro-dramas, in which the historical mise-en-scène is buried under a few thick layers of forced and natural historical oblivion, is really touching and deserving of respect. Indeed, amongst the representatives of two generations of filmmakers currently working in Bulgarian cinema—either belonging to the former communist establishment or groomed by it—he is the only director who cherishes a vivid and sympathetic historical memory of Bulgaria of older times (that is, before and around the communist take-over in September 1944). Memories of urban, provincial, petty bourgeois Bulgaria, whose citizens—unlike their grand- and great-grandchildren—had a much more adequate idea of their modest place in the world. They were conscious of the geopolitical status that confined them to the margins of Europe, but lived with the unabashed dignity of being Europeans, and, at the most crucial point of our modern collective history—the Holocaust—they fared better than the “true” Europeans from the more central regions of the continent.

In 1998 Ivan Nichev made After the End of the World (Sled kraja na sveta), a film that literary travelled the globe. It was definitely a film that was made in the right time and in the right place! And although a bit too crowded with events and characters, the film succeeded in keeping the attention of diverse audiences from Plovdiv to Toronto and from Tel Aviv to Sydney. It is a film about a sentimental journey into the past and present of Bulgaria: after more than forty years of absence, a well-known Israeli professor, Albert Cohen-Berto (Stefan Danailov), returns for a scientific conference that is being held in his native city, Plovdiv, in the early 1990s. There he meets the love of his life, the Armenian beauty Araxi (Katerina Didaskalu), and together they revisit their sun-lit childhood, hidden beneath almost five decades of communist rule. Along with the memories of their naïve courtship, first shy kisses and fleeting touches, there emerges an overwhelmingly nostalgic picture of an old Bulgarian town, where people from all religions and ethnicities—gypsies, Bulgarians, Turks, Armenians, and Jews—lived in harmony and respect, and were always ready to help each other. The representatives of the three major religions in Plovdiv—Rabbi Ben David (Georgy Rusev), Hodja Ibrahim (Nikola Rudarov), and Father Isaiah (Georgi Kaloyanchev)—live in almost anecdotal harmony in spite of occasional arguments: they play cards together, gossip together, and together court the local Turkish beauty, Zulfie Hanum (Athena Papas). This romantic picture is dominated by the colorful Abraham the Drunk, Berto’s grandfather (Vassil Mikhailov), who is the most serious contender for Zulfie’s heart—and that of every beautiful woman in town—despite the careful eye of his doting wife (Tatyana Lolova).

The idyll, however, lasts only until the new communist government starts chipping away at it and ends in the irreversible tragedy of displacement and exile. First, the gypsies are uprooted and sent somewhere to the north western parts of the country, then Turkish graves are desecrated in the name of the “bright future of the collective farm,” thus prompting an exodus to neighboring Turkey. After labelling Araxi’s beautiful mother and quiet father as “bourgeois elements”—her for speaking French and playing the piano, him for owning a small factory—the new regime forces them to seek refuge with rich Armenian relatives in France. The pain of this deeply traumatic separation is made palpable through the eyes of young Araxi (Zhana Dakovska), Berto (Zlatil Davidov), and their ethnically mixed peers. When the Jews of Plovdiv also decide to leave and move to the land of their ancestors, Israel, Berto’s grandfather objects vehemently by declaring that one belongs where the graves of those one loves are, and states that he would never leave the land that holds the remains of his only son, fallen in the anti-fascist struggle. His is one of the most moving patriotic outbursts ever heard in Bulgarian cinema, putting into words the mounting frustration with a society ripped asunder. And indeed, he never does leave the land where his loved ones are buried—his accidental death delivers him of the need to do so. And so, young Berto leaves only with his grandmother.

The portrayal of this long-gone and forgotten Bulgaria is so powerful, both visually and emotionally, that the layer of contemporary time can rarely measure up to it, although both Danailov and Didaskalu do their best to make their belated love affair come through realistically. Georgi Nikolov’s camerawork deserves special mention because of how it contrasts the juxtapositions among the three time planes. Unlike some of his august colleagues, he is rarely prone to visual solo performances for their own sake. Nikolov makes sure that the warm yellow-brownish-white sunny colors dominating the early historical plane gradually melt into the cold metallic hues of blue, dark-blue, and green of the mostly overcast or night-time shots in the scenes of the gypsy, Turkish, and Jewish exoduses and in those featuring Araxi’s exile. Thus, his images strongly corroborate the on-going drama of the characters, who seem to have enjoyed one brief sun-lit moment of bliss and harmony in their childhood. For Araxi, this bliss ends abruptly when her Paris-bound family is brutally taken off the train and interned—her father is sent to a labor camp and her mother to a god forsaken poor village, where she works herself to death for their daily bread. The unison of the color schemes of the exoduses and the internment episodes, on the one hand, and of the contemporary images, on the other, additionally implies that Bulgarians, too, have had their moment of blissful harmony before the new regime strengthened its grip in the late 1940s. As far as the contemporary time-plane is concerned, it seems the nation has simply traded one type of tyranny—the communist—for that of the well-organized, semi-criminal structures of merciless bigots. The arson of the old photographer’s house as a symbol of the irrevocable destruction of national memory, however, comes too late: this national memory was brutally destroyed long time ago, in the 1950s. Maybe the scriptwriter, the versatile Angel Vagenshtain, who based his script on his own biography, has deliberately included this episode by way of personal repentance for not having done more for the preservation of that national memory.

Nichev’s nostalgia, however, is not a new passion that was triggered by the collapse of communism, when it became fashionable to delve into recent history in a feverish search for guilt and blame to account for the sorrowful state of current affairs—a preoccupation that has gradually turned into a favorite public sport since 1989, sadly confirmed by the periodically rekindled interest in opening the secret services files. Nichev’s nostalgia and taste for heightened—or melodramatic—emotional states are characteristic traits of his creative approach and have determined to a large extent his artistic choices. In 1977, Nichev made Stars in Her Hair, Tears in Her Eyes (Zvezdi v kosite, sulzi v ochite), a beautiful and quiet film about a troupe of travelling players, touring Bulgaria in the beginning of the 20th century. It tells the touching story of a provincial school-teacher (the unforgettable Katya Paskaleva), who accidentally gets to replace an ailing actress and plays her role so well that she is invited to join the troupe. In later films—Royal Play (Tzarska piesa, 1982) and The Black Swans (Chernite lebedi, 1984)—Nichev returned to the subject of theatrical life.

From today’s vintage point, Stars in Her Hair seems programmatic of his oeuvre, revealing major layers of meaning and creativity that he would explore over the subsequent 30 years or so. The main theme or layer is art, expressed by his almost voyeuristic interest in the everyday life of small time actors and secondary performers: in Royal Play it is the obsession with playing the role of king as the ultimate recognition for an amateur actor, and in Black Swans it is the sacrifices a young ballerina makes in the hopes of getting to dance at least as one of the white swans in Chaikovskii’s masterpiece, Swan Lake. In revealing the passion sustaining his vulnerable characters—through their humiliations, poverty, betrayals, and rivalries—Nichev also suggests that nothing is what it seems: people are naturally born Proteans. And woe to those—usually the most talented—who are brilliant on stage but tragically inept in the game of trading masks that is called life.

Indeed, several times Nichev has come dangerously close to revealing some of the most closely guarded secrets of the system—its duplicity—while innocently discussing the complicated professional and emotional lives of actors and actresses. His skill lies in his ability elegantly to circumvent in-depth social and psychological analysis by decoding the most complex and dangerous issues in externalized psychic states. This skill in no way blunted the social edge of his films, but made them immune to tampering by the censors, who were generally lacking any and all sentimental education.

Another theme or layer that emerges in Nichev’s films is the autobiographical one, exposing with earnest naiveté memories and fascinations as seen through the eyes of an impressionable and sensitive child. More often than not, this outlook comes through in his style, in the meticulous ways he shapes his period mise-en-scène, and then lets his actors and their passions dominate it. In his most interesting works, however, like Ivan and Alexandra (1989), this innocent outlook is embodied by a concrete child protagonist, the director’s alter ego. The presence of this child provides and justifies the intense emotional temperature of the film, bordering on open sentimentality. And certainly, the third main theme or layer, identifiable in Nichev’s oeuvre is the palpable presence of history, with its stern demands and requirements—history in the role of the sole and uncompromising director of human lives.

Shot in the range of warm yellow-brown to hard blue (made fashionable by the so-called “retro” visual style of the 1970s and mastered by cameraman Georgi Nikolov for After the End of the World and Journey to Jerusalem), Ivan and Alexandra reveals the most horrible legacy of the communist system: its merciless corruption of children. The year is 1952, only a year before Stalin’s death and one of the darkest in Bulgaria’s modern history. The country’s borders are sealed and the punishment for trespassing is death. Firmly in the grip of communist fanaticism, denunciations are the name of the population’s survival game, and hundreds of thousands of people are sent to concentration labor camps just on minor suspicion of disloyalty to the regime. The principal character in the film is significantly—like the director—called Ivan (Kliment Corbadzhiev) and is 12 years old (the same age as the director was at that time). Like all kids of this age, Ivan is a member of the children’s communist organization, a pioneer wearing a red neckerchief. The film takes place mostly in winter and mostly indoors, which adds to its feel of doom and desperation. Ivan is a good boy, a good student and, as is only too appropriate for good pioneers, passionately recites poems devoted to “our great party leaders.”

He is also constantly on watch for clues that could lead to exposing a terrorist plot or imperialist sabotage of the great communist project. After all, this is the only way he can impress his teachers and peers is to become the hero of a newspaper article entitled “Pioneer Helps Reveal a Dirty Imperialist Plot!” He also imagines this to be the way to win the heart of his class-mate Alexandra (Monika Budjonova). Unfortunately, since nothing suspicious has come his way, in order to fulfill his dream Ivan invents a rather naïve story about hidden guns and bombs. The story happens to implicate Alexandra’s father, a military man, who is first questioned and, since nothing is revealed, hastily sentenced and sent to a labor camp—just in case. From this point on, Ivan quickly matures, realizing the horrible workings of the system, his growing feelings of tenderness towards Alexandra and guilt towards her father, a former anti-fascist fighter and hero, so easily declared to be an “enemy of the people.” Having understood the depth of his betrayal, Ivan remains the only friend who openly supports Alexandra when she is ostracized.

Made in 1988—a time that was crucial for Bulgaria, just prior to the fall of the communist regime—the film was met with rather mixed feelings by the powers-that-be. On the one hand, releasing the film provided the authorities with an opportunity to distance themselves from Stalinist hard-liners and their macabre methods of social and psychological terror. Releasing the film also meant an excellent PR for the regime, presenting it as “democratized,” and influenced by the Gorbachev-inspired “perestroika” (restructuring) and “glasnost” (openness). But, on the other hand, the authorities feared the film could trigger very powerful, pent-up emotions that could lead to an unpredictable shake-up of the system. One way or another, the film was released in February 1989, but not before it was nominated for the Golden Bear, the main price at the prestigious Berlin international film festival. This nomination propelled Ivan Nichev to be recognized as one of the foremost Bulgarian directors. His powerful dissident stance in Ivan and Alexandra allowed for a new reading—this time “against the grain”—of his earlier films, which had usually been dismissed as vehicles of official ideology.

In his debut shorts, A Human Heart (Sartze choveshko, 1972) and especially in Memory (Spomen, 1974), Nichev was more of a visitor than a host, doing his best to declare his originality without offending anyone. In spite of the fact that his scriptwriters, Pavel Vzehinov and Svoboda Buchvarova respectively, were leading communist intellectuals, he obviously had their support in shaping his characters to be as far as possible removed from the stereotypically wooden representation of anti-fascist fighters as larger-than-life colossi, as maintained by official communist mythology. As a result, both films feature romanticized, even melodramatized, existential drifters who happen to become anti-fascists simply because they cannot live with the assault on human freedom, with the mounting violence and deceit that is deeply inherent in any dictatorship. The blurred historicism of the mise-en-scène and of his characters’ behavior further emphasized the transparent allegorical references to the state of affairs in Bulgaria circa 1970s.

Nichev succeeded in getting away with representing some very bitter truths not only thanks to the support of his usually influential scriptwriters, but also because of his artistic resilience, acquired in one of the best film schools in communist Eastern Europe—the Lodz film academy in Poland, from which he graduated in 1967. In addition, the first, formative period of his fiction filmmaking (before 1972 he worked in a Polish theater and directed short documentaries in both Poland and Bulgaria) coincided with the period of relative relaxation of controls over Bulgarian cultural life brought about by Lyudmila Zhivkova (the daughter of Bulgarian dictator Todor Zhivkov), who was the leading figure in the Ministry of Culture from 1972 through her mysterious death in 1981.

Like everyone else in the film industry, Ivan Nichev was taken unawares by the hasty dismantling of the Bulgarian film-producing structures in the early 1990s, though not before launching the production of his Bai Ganio films—Bai Ganio (1990) and Bai Ganio on His Way to Europe (Bai Ganio trugva is Evropa, 1991)—based on Aleko Konstantinov’s eponymous literary classic and starring the great Bulgarian comedian Georgi Kaloyanchev. Judging from his previous oeuvre, the Bai Ganio films made Nichev famous with viewers at home for all the wrong reasons. The collapse of communism left Bulgarians reeling between one failed great project (the building of communism) and a rather dubious new one (the long and winding road to Europe). It is not difficult to explain the rekindled interest in Aleko Konstantinov’s notorious (anti-)hero Bai Ganio in such critical times. During the unstable transitional period of the early to mid-1990s, the Bulgarian intelligentsia in general and Nichev in particular, saw the resurrection of the most formidable national archetype, that of Bai Ganio, as inevitable. Born in the no-man’s land between two epochs (prior to and immediately after the independence from the Ottomans in 1878), the archetype of the callous village bumpkin, pompous in his arrogance and proud of his ignorance vis-à-vis the refined and educated (central) Europeans, like any powerful archetype has come to serve a dual role, both positive and negative. Bai Ganio, an unscrupulous survivor, has served for more than a century as an educational tool in national self-criticism, and to be called “Bai Ganio” has inevitably been an insult. Whether Nichev’s biting satire has indeed succeeded in emasculating the archetype, thus warding off the dangers of its imminent novel apparitions (as the director has claimed in interviews) remains open to interpretation.

In my view, the newly found popularity of Bai Ganio has been nurtured mostly by the negative energies of the archetype. After the fall of communism, Bai Ganio was seen in an unexpected light: as the last stand for national self-affirmation by a people deeply frustrated by the series of disastrous designs to drag it into modernity. In other words, in the early 1990s, Bai Ganio triumphed as a symbol of notorious Bulgarian suspicion and cynical defiance of anything that smacked of an outside attempt “to teach us how to live.” Last but not least, in the jungle world of “initial accumulation of capital” (as Marx would have it), the ruthless class of nascent nouveaux riches saw Bai Ganio as their champion and, therefore, considered him a symbol of success. One way or another, the Bai Ganio films proved once again Nichev’s flexibility and inimitable creative intuition to make the right film at the right time, a quality that has undoubtedly helped him to become one of the first (and still one of the very few) Bulgarian directors who have pulled off well-funded co-production projects—with Germany and Greece (After the End of the World), with Germany (Journey to Jerusalem), and his latest project, the thriller Children of War (2005) is a US production.

Journey to Jerusalem (Putuvane do Yerusalim, 2003), Ivan Nichev latest film to be released, follows in the footsteps of After the End of the World. It goes back to the early 1940s and tells the story of two German Jewish children fleeing persecution at home. On their way to Palestine after the accidental death of their grandfather on the train to Istanbul, they find themselves alone at the Sofia station and at the mercy of three travelling vaudeville actors. Although the time-line and the story itself are quite different, the style of the film and its pathos are rather similar to those of After the End of the World, and this similarity has in a way predestined the Journey’s rather modest success when compared to its predecessor. As they say, you cannot bathe twice in the same river: although the film appeared only five years later, the situation in Bulgaria had changed radically for the worse. The social crisis had deepened along with the deterioration of the political and economic situation; the collapse of yet another grand social design—that of the market economy and its latest myth of the good king (dobrija tzar) who could save his land miraculously—had further poisoned public space. This led to growing ethnic tensions, restrained with difficulty by the upcoming ascendance of Bulgaria to the European Union.

While it was somehow alright in 1998 to discuss traditional Bulgarian tolerance and the unfortunate reasons for various tragic, but minor historical exoduses of the 1940s with nostalgic sentiment, in 2003 the en masse exodus of Bulgarians had begun to resemble an epic national drama. Almost one and a half million Bulgarians have left the country since 1989 and the trend is growing. It seems that gradually two Bulgarias are taking shape—Bulgarians who have remained “at home” and those who live abroad. Whether their relationship is going to be friendly or hostile as a result of budding social and emotional frictions remains to be seen. Bulgarian filmmakers have tried to muse on—if not to analyse—this trend in a few precious films: Eldora Traykova’s excellent documentary Green Card (Zelena Karta, 2002) and a couple of fiction films come to mind, including Letter to America and Lyudmil Todorov’s Emigrants (Emigranti, 2002). Generally, however, the national cinema has tended to shy away from this rather painful and disturbing subject. In a word, Journey to Jerusalem emerged in an atmosphere far from favorable for discussions of the historical tolerance of the Bulgarian nation; indeed, suffering is the biggest enemy of virtue.

Ivan Nichev’s creative intuition, however, helped him out once again—this time by the open capitalisation on his carefully accumulated artistic experience and his Midas touch as a story-teller. The familiar retro- style of Journey to Jerusalem, the careful design of costumes and location, and the openly declared melodramatic retro-genre put viewers at ease from the very start concerning the fate of the two Jewish kids. In other words, it became clear early on that they would be saved by good and noble people who would inevitably come their way. The story was also based on true facts and was historically corroborated by one of the noblest acts in modern European history—the salvation of Bulgaria’s 50,000 strong Jewish community from the Holocaust. But this predictability did not hurt the suspense of the story, for Nichev succeeded in drawing attention not to what would happen, but how it would happen, which really allowed viewers to savor his mastery.

First, he chose three admirable young actors with excellent chemistry for the principal roles of the vaudeville performers: the gorgeous Elena Petrova for the role of the Armenian (again!) beauty Zara, a singer, side-kick, and lover of Dimmy, the vain magician (played by the muscled intellectual Alexander Morfov). For the role of Samuil (“only my name is Jewish, I am not!”), he picked one of his favorite character actors, Vasil Vasilev-Zueka (the barber in After the End of the World). Then he made absolutely sure that the three of them really enjoyed what they were doing before the camera. Second, Nichev selected two picture-perfect children for the roles of the Jewish kids Elzi (Simona Staykova) and her brother David (Georgi Georgiev). And, third, as any master of good melodrama, he very carefully picked the villains—Germans and their Bulgarian lackeys. He went to great lengths to challenge the worn out stereotype of the Nazi villain and, to jump ahead, even allowed the influential German (Berndt Mihahael Lade) personally to supervise the final stretch of the children’s escape on board a ship bound for Palestine… but not before he had Zara pay a very dear price. Zara comes through as the real champion of the children from the very beginning of the film, when she rescues them from the dangers of Sofia streets and takes them under her protection, to the very end, when she saves their lives by sacrificing her honor. Finally, Nichev threw in some excellent actors—like Tatyana Lolova, Georgi Rusev, and Nikolai Urumov—in secondary roles, as well as some vaudeville acts, chansons, and flirtations, thus ensuring a vibrant middle part of the film, when the fate of the children hung in the melodramatic balance of good and evil.

Journey to Jerusalem is just another melodramatic story about all too human passions, told with dignity and gusto. And Nichev has made sure once again that his actors and crew take pleasure in what they are doing. And it shows! The viewer feels respected, taken care of, loved and spoiled… This creates a good feeling in a world that is way “off its hinges,” especially against the backdrop of vulgar reality shows, stupid television games, imported and home grown sex and violence, all beaming from the small screen. Journey to Jerusalem is also a breath of fresh air compared to the bulk of local fiction film production, which claim in an incessantly misanthropic unison that nothing makes sense, will never make sense, and has actually never made sense… Thank you, Ivan Nichev, for your stubborn perseverance in championing the rights of Bulgarian viewers to timely, humanizing, and well-crafted films that also happen to be home made! Keep up the good work!


1] These terms are discussed in my forthcoming publications in Cine-bulles and Canadian Journal of Film Studies.

2] A most telling example of this attitude is the fate of the excellent documentary films produced independently since 1989 by leading Bulgarian filmmakers Eldora Traykova—especially Dancing Bears (Tanzuvashti Mechki, 2005) and Silence (Tishina, 2006)—and Yuli Stoyanov. The fact that even the prestigious bi-annual Filmmakers’ Union Award, received in 2006 by Stoyanov for his latest films, Bulgaria: Documents on File (Bulgaria: baza Danni) and Valery Petrov: The Odds of A Life-Time (Valery Petrov: vuzmozhnostta da se zhivee), has failed so far to secure broadcast time on national television for these outstanding works, speaks for itself.

© Christina Stojanova, 2006

Updated: 22 Nov 06