The year 2016 was relatively stable until 14 November, when suddenly, after the defeat of his party’s nominee in the presidential elections, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov resigned. The event was followed by long administrative procedures that failed to lead to a stable government. Eventually, it became clear that the newly elected president, General Rumen Radev, should appoint a caretaker government in 2017.
On the other hand, 2016 was successful for some young Bulgarian film directors, whose presence at different international film festivals became more visible. Raliza Petrova’s debut feature Godless, a coproduction between Bulgaria’s Klas Film and Denmark’s Snow Globe, won the Golden Leopard at the 69th Locarno IFF and also the Golden Rose Award at the 34th National Golden Rose Film Festival.
Peter Valchanov’s and Kristina Grozeva’s second feature Glory (Abraxas Film) also competed at Locarno and became the most popular Bulgarian feature film on the international scene. Svetla Tsotsorkova’s Thirst (Front Film) was nominated for the European Discovery- Prix FIPRESCI while Lyubo Yonchev’s short film Shooting Star was nominated for the European Short Film award at the European Film Academy awards.
Throughout the year the Bulgarian National Film Center led a restrictive policy. The 23rd edition of the Golden Rhyton documentary and animated films National FF was cancelled, but not the whole festival.
Although numerous attempts have been made and various working groups have taken on the task of proposing a working scheme for future implementation of a tax incentive scheme, the process once again was not completed in 2016. Taking into account the country’s latest political crisis, it seems unlikely that a decision will be made in the near future.
Seventeen feature films were produced in 2016, of which fourteen were supported by the Bulgarian National Film Center. Nine of them were fully nationally financed, four were coproduced with other countries and four were privately financed. Bulgaria participated as a minor coproducer in six coproductions. The Bulgarian National Television did not coproduce any feature films.
Several domestic feature films were shot in 2016. After months of location scouting in Sofia, Stephan Komandarev wrapped his low budget urban drama Directions, coproduced by Bulgaria’s Argo Film, Germany’s Aktis Film Production and Macedonia’s Sektor Film.
Mostly known for his successful TV series, Victor Bojinov also shot his debut feature, the historical drama Heights, based on Milen Ruskov’s eponymous epic bestseller (coproduced by Bulgaria’s Bulfilm and Macedonia’s Dream Factory.
Writer/director Kiran Kolarov completed the shooting of his twelfth feature film Melodrama (Kolar) in Sofia and its surroundings.
Low budget debut features dedicated to younger audiences also wrapped shooting in 2016: Maria Veselinova’s Smart Christmas (Vetrogon-BG) and Stanislav Todorov – Rogi’s Bubblegum (DynamicArts).
By the end of 2016 the Bulgarian National Center stated that the country’s main non-feature-film national festival Golden Rhyton was going to be cancelled due to an “undesired, but inevitable decision, namely lack of financing”.
The number of documentaries and animated films produced in 2016 was approximately the same as in 2015 (over forty documentaries and ten animated films).
A few new domestic documentaries were broadcast by the Bulgarian National Television (BNT), including Stephan Komandarev’s From the Grateful Descendants (Argo Film), which particularly moved the audience.
After his successful long documentary Salto Mortale (Projector), Borislav Kolev continued dealing with heavy topics in his The Eye of the Minotaur (Projector), while Stanislav Donchev commemorated in Dream of Happiness (Korund Х) the 100th anniversary of the death of Bulgaria’s finest love poet Dimcho Debelyanov. The film premiered at the Sofia-based House of Cinema.
According to Nu Boyana Film Studios and the local press, three big budget foreign films were partially shot in Bulgaria in 2016: Fernando Léon de Aranoa’s Escobar, coproduced by Spain's Escobar Films and Bulgaria's Beyond To YOU Productions, and starring Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz, Paul Solet’s thriller Unchained (Millennium Films) starring Adrien Brody, John Malkovich and Antonio Banderas, and Ariel Vromen’s Criminal (Millennium Films) starring Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Ryan Reynolds and Tommy Lee Jones. According to Nu Boyana’s CEO Yariv Lerner „not only was Criminal serviced by Nu Boyana, but the whole postproduction was finalised there.”
Nu Boyana was also involved as the national coproducer in Zornitsa Sophia’s historical epic film Voevoda (MQ Pictures, Bulgaria and Focus Media, Croatia).
Bojan Vuletic’s dark comedy Requiem for Mrs J, coproduced by Serbia’s See Film Pro, Bulgaria’s Geopoly Film and Macedonia’s Skopje Film Studio, and starring Mirjana Karanovic, Danica Nedelkovic and Mira Banjac, also completed its Bulgarian shooting in Sofia and at the Black Sea in 2016.
The first Lithuanian/Bulgarian coproduction Miracle, a tragi-comic drama written and directed by Egle Vertelyte, was shot in the Sofia-based Doli media studio. The film coproduced by Lithuania’s InScript and Bulgaria’s Geopoly stars Egle Mikulionyte, Andrius Bialobzeskis, Vyto Ruginis and Daniel Olbrychski.
According to the NFC, a total of 154 films were released in 2016: 99 from the US, 31 European films, 17 domestic films and seven from other countries. The number of the holdovers and the re-releases was 103.
The box office market share of American films was 94.20 % and the admissions share was 93.05%. European films had 2.8 % box office share and 3.14 % admissions share. The domestic box office share was 2.59 % and the admissions' share was 3.32%.
In 2016 Forum Film Bulgaria and Alexandra Group remained the country’s leading distributors with 40 and 39 films released, respectively. Their market shares were nearly equal, 41.3 % for Forum Film and 39,96 % for Alexandra.
Domestic distributor Bulgaria Film Vision continued its activity distributing valuable European films such as Werner Herzog’s The Queen of the Desert, Peter Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato, Dalibor Matanić’s The High Sun, and Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang.
On the other hand, the number of Bulgarian films released by established distribution companies decreased. In 2016 A+Films distributed five domestic films, followed by Art Fest with two domestic films.
Repeating their experience from 2015, several small production companies preferred to release their films by themselves. That was the case with directors/producers Petar Valchanov and Kristina Grozeva who after their debut feature The Lesson, distributed their second award-winning film Glory through their own production company Abraxas Film.
Writer/director/producer Ivaylo Penchev also released his comedy Holiday Makers through his company Urban Media, while Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova released their long documentary The Beast Is Still Alive through their company Activist 38.
EXHIBITION AND BOX OFFICE
In 2016, the number of officially registered screens was 225. Practically all screens in the country are digitalised.
The total box office was 24.5m EUR and the total admissions were 5,431 028 in 2016.
Seventeen Bulgarian films were released, nearly the same number as in 2015, when there were sixteen.
In 2016 domestic films' admissions were 176,395 compared to 89,621 in 2015.
Domestic box office increased from 174,635 EUR / 341,557 BGN in 2015 to 611,949 EUR /1,196,868 BGN in 2016.
This great result was due mainly to Michaela Komitova’s debut feature 11th A Grade (Korund X), which ranked first with 97,867 admissions and 367,529 EUR gross. Ivailo Hristov’s Losers (Pro Film), distributed by A+Films, came second with 25,530 admissions and 87,211 EUR gross and Ivaylo Penchev’s Holiday Makers (Urban Media) with 18,374 admissions and 59,544 EUR gross.
BS Films released Dimitar Kozev-Shosho’s Monkey (Spotlight) with 14,372 admissions and 51,662 EUR gross, followed by Svetla Tsotsorkova’s Thirst (Front Film) distributed by Art Fest, with 6,479 admissions and 10,178 EUR gross and Peter Valchanov’s and Kristina Grozeva’s Glory (Abraxas Film) with 1,972 admissions and 4,764 EUR gross.
A+Films also released Atanas Kiryakov’s Barter (coproduced by the BNT and Ars Digital), with 1,430 admissions and 3,835 EUR gross, and also Antoniy Donchev’s debut feature The Woman of My Life (coproduced by Bulgaria’s Ars Digital, Macedonia’s KT Film & Media, Romania’s Peter Film Production, Hawena Films and the Kurdistan Regional Government, Irak), with 991 admissions and 2,823 EUR gross.
GRANTS AND NEW LEGISLATION
In 2016, the Bulgarian National Film Center provided the main funding for film production. The Bulgarian National Television contributed with pre-sales to the budget of some national films, already supported by the NFC.
In 2016, the National Palace of Culture, which registered in 2015 at the NFC as a film production company, fulfilled its promise and supported some Bulgarian films, mostly documentaries. The Palace offered for free both Hall 1 and the Lumière hall for the premieres of some films.
In accordance with the Film Industry Act adopted in 2003, Bulgaria’s main institution’s annual support is calculated based on the total average budget of seven feature films, 14 long documentaries and 160 minutes of animated films.
In 2016 the NFC’s total support for the film industry, including production, distribution and exhibition, was 6,749,053 EUR.
Under the existing Bulgarian two-tier system, a project can receive the approval of the NFC expert selection committee, but the NFC funding becomes usable only when the producer of the film has 100% of the budget in place.
Based on this rule, in 2016 the Financing Committee of the NFC approved financial support for twelve feature films, three debut features, five short films and four short film debuts. Eleven projects also received development support.
Nineteen films were approved in the documentary section. Three projects were selected for development support. In the animated films section six films were approved for support.
The Film Industry Act also requires that up to 20% from the NFC’s annual budget must be allotted for Bulgarian minority coproductions. In 2016 three feature and two documentary coproductions were approved for financial support in the amount of 402,898 EUR.
Another 235,148 EUR was allotted for domestic distribution of Bulgarian and European films in 2016, and 191,019 EUR was approved for the support of local film festivals and international promotion of Bulgarian cinema.
Bulgarian National Television (BNT) is still the only TV channel obliged by the law to support independent producers with 10% of its total budget. In 2016 the annual amount was the same as in 2015, around 2.9 m EUR.
After five successful seasons, in 2016 the public broadcaster decided to put an end to its most successful series Under Cover directed by Victor Bojinov, Martin Makariev, Zoran Petrovski, Dimitar Gochev and Dimitar Mitovski.
In order to fulfil its obligations to the Bulgarian film industry, the BNT decided to participate as national coproducer of four feature films already supported by the NFC. BNT also acquired broadcasting rights of three low budget films.
Private TV channel bTV (in coproduction with Dream Team Productionn) backed the 11th season of its most popular series Sofia Residents in Excess directed by Alexander Kossev, Stanislav Todorov Rogi, Todor Chapkunov and Victor Bojinov. Thus, the total number of episodes broadcast since 23 March 2011 increased to 131.
Another popular TV series Stolen Life was backed by the private TV channel Nova TV. Based on real medical practice cases, the 81 episodes were directed by Zornitsa Sofia, Peter Valchanov, Pavel Vesnakov, Stanislav Donchev and Nikolai Kostov, all belonging to Bulgaria’s younger film generation.
On 6 November 2016 the online PIK TV started broadcasting. The 24 hours programme containing news, political, entertainment shows, films and TV series, is mostly designed for tablets and smartphones.
BULGARIAN NATIONAL TELEVISIONGeneral Director: Viara Ankova29, San Stefano Str.1504 Sofia, Bulgaria Phone: + 359 2 814 22 14 Phone.: + 359 2 944 49 99 (switchboard)www.bnt.bg
Report by Pavlina Jeleva (2017)Source Bulgarian National Film Centre