Milko Lazarov • Head, Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers

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“We give importance to these film professionals who generally remain in the shadows”

– After three years of work, the big boss of the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers gives us his point of view on the importance of the union’s annual awards and their importance for the local industry

Recognized internationally for its award-winning feature films Alienation [+see also:
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interview: Milko Lazarov
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and Aga [+see also:
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Bulgarian director Milko Lazarov also served as the head of the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers for three years already. After the celebration of the Bulgarian National Film Festival “Vasil Gendov” (May 2-9), on May 15, the union presented its annual awards for the first time in a long time, after a long break, with Krzysztof Zanussi award the main prize for best film in the fiction feature category to Pavel Vesnakovit is German courses [+see also:
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. Besides, Elitza Georgyevait is Our quiet place was deemed worthy of the Best Documentary Feature award, while Svilen Dimitrovit is Seashell in love won the award for best animation. During this time, we spoke with Milko Lazarov about the importance of the awards and what they mean for the local industry.

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Cineuropa: What convinced you to relaunch the Bulgarian Filmmakers’ Union awards?
Milko Lazarov: It was high time to restore these traditional awards, founded in 1975. They suffered from instability throughout the period of post-communist transformation, which was very difficult for Bulgarian cinema. Then they’ve been around for a while for the past decade, and now, with this comeback, I hope they’ll once again play an important role in our domestic cinematic environment, this time for good. As president of the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers, I regard their reintroduction as a personal responsibility. Our union has existed since 1936 and has survived various regimes and political unrest with the primary mission of showcasing and supporting the artistic achievements of cinema. This is our main objective, since we are not a professional organization or a union; we are an artistic union. In this regard, rewards are a priority.

They were celebrated with the national festival “Vasil Gendov” of Bulgarian VSinema, but there is also the Golden Rose Film Festival for fiction films and the Golden Rhyton for documentaries and animation. Isn’t that enough for such a small film industry?
First, Golden Rose takes place in Varna and Golden Rhyton in Plovdiv (with the sole exception of the last edition, which was celebrated in Sofia due to the pandemic); therefore, their programs do not reach the public in Sofia. So we saw the awards as an excuse to invite the public to the capital – which, after all, is Bulgaria’s most populous city – to watch an almost exhaustive list of recent Bulgarian film production, which now totals over of 60 movies. Secondly, the prizes of these festivals highlight artistic achievements in the basic categories only, while the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers gives prizes to all professional corporations, including technical, without exception, following the example awards from academies around the world. We favor film professionals who generally remain in the shadows.

Therefore, the program “Vasil Gendov”me includes Golden Rose’s selection of fiction films, and Golden Rhyton’s selection of documentaries and animation, To correct?
Exactly. Additionally, we have now included titles from the last 18 months. In accordance with the regulations, we consider the last 12 months, but we have made an exception due to the pandemic situation. Many films were edited during the lockdown without being released, resulting in a bountiful harvest of films, while our festival provided a fairly comprehensive picture of the latest Bulgarian productions: 11 feature-length fiction films, 23 feature-length documentaries, nine animated films and more. more than 20 short films. It is a real exuberance from which we may not return anytime soon. Our biggest success was the packed screening rooms, especially in the evening slots. We are also geared towards young audiences and students, and our goal is to also have an educational function. Frankly, I didn’t expect so many viewers, so I was pleasantly surprised.

You have chosen to name the festival after Bulgarian cinema pioneer Vasil Gendov. How important is it for the the Bulgarian film industry today?
Despite the fact that today we cannot fully grasp his filmography, since only excerpts from his pioneering films have survived, his work had a significant impact on the entire history of our industry, which still resonates today. today. In addition to creating films with his wife, Zhana Gendova, he developed and became involved in educational activities, and also traveled the country as a film distributor. In this sense, Gendov marked the beginning of many branches of the Bulgarian film industry; it is therefore logical for me to give its name to the festival and to the prizes of the professional corporations.

How did you decide to invite Krzysztof Zanussi to present the main prize for a fiction movie?
Many Bulgarian cinema professionals have studied in Poland, as a director Ivan Nichev and my film teacher, teacher Vladislav Ikonomov. So there is a big cinematic connection between Bulgaria and Poland in that sense. The Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers shares the views of the Polish professional community, while Zanussi is also deeply connected to the educational aspect of cinema, which is important to us. It’s a real honor to have him as a special guest at the festival.

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