KOLKATA: It took Stefan Kitanov and his director, Stephan Komandarev, eight years to develop the script and raise funds to make their first film. At
no point did they despair. The World Is Big And Salvation Lurks Around The Corner — they truly believed in what the film establishes.
“Salvation is everywhere, we need to have hope and optimism in our heart,” Kitanov tells cinelovers at Nandan. And with good reason. The film’s budget — two million Euros — was too big to be raised in Bulgaria. The filmmakers managed it, through coproduction — with Germany, Italy, Hungary and Slovenia. As per the rules of coproduction, the funds from each country had to be used within its boundary, either for shooting there or for cast and crew. Kitanov did both, for the ‘road movie’ that goes from East to West and returns to East “demanded actors of different origin”.
The film is one of the few Bulgarian productions seen today. It starts in 1980 with the political weather of socialist Bulgaria getting clouded. Bai Dan, undisputed king of the dice, tells political jokes in a cafe full of backgammon players. The regime doesn’t take kindly to this, and his children have to emigrate to Germany. Years later, while trying to return, his grandson has an accident and suffers amnesia. Bai Dan goes seeking, brings him out of hospital and revives his memory — through backgammon!
Multiparty democracy in Bulgaria today allows people to speak their mind. “That doesn’t mean they say sensible things. Most people in power make a fool of themselves on TV!” says Kitanov. But one good thing about those Socialist times was that the Bulgarian National Film Center used to fund at least 25 feature films, and 40-45 television films. After 1989, the economy didn’t allow so many productions, and their number fell to barely five a year! Now, despite an increase in its budget, the Center makes only nine films, with a much smaller budget than Kitanov’s. Coproductions are not the only fallout, then. Hollywood enjoys 90% of screen time, Bulgarian films just 1%!
In Brazil and Cuba too, the figures aren’t too different, says Wolney Oliviera, director of Isle of Death. “In Socialist times, Cuba (where the Brazilian director graduated in cinema) made 10-12 films a year. After 1990, Cuban cinema was down to one or two annually. It survived perestroika primarily through coproductions. Now it’s five to seven films a year.”
The protagonist Rudolfo is an alter ego of the debutant director. In Cuba of 1958, the 20-year-old dreams of making it big in Hollywood but ends up in a small village when his father, a persecuted revolutionary, has to flee Havana. There, in a delicious twist, the frustrated youth not only finds his first love but also makes his first film. Unwittingly, the apolitical youth also helps his father’s cause through the film about an uprising against a tyrant!
“All over Latin America, it is difficult to break into films,” says Oliviera. So, like so many others, he continues to make documentaries even after making a feature.
6 months ago