Stefan Komandarev (1966), whose film The World is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner is making an extraordinary tour of international film festivals, didn't intend to become a filmmaker.
His first education was in medicine and for four years he worked as a psychiatrist in a children's clinic. Then he studied film and TV directing at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia (graduated in 1998). His first short film Duel appeared in 1996, to be followed by two student shorts: The Balloon (1997) and Casual Cups (1998).
Komandarev's feature debut Dogs' Home (2000), the story of an aging prima donna unwilling to accept her decline, grabbed the debut award of the Varna Golden Rose film festival.
In 2002 the documentary Bread over the Fence, a study of daily life of two Bulgarian Catholic villages surrounded by Orthodox and Muslim believers, earned the Grand Prix at Leipzig festival. Alphabet of Hope (2003) an emotional documentary panorama of Christian and Muslim children living near to the Bulgarian-Greek-Turkish border who must travel for hours to attend school, took the highest Bulgarian Documentary Film Award, the Golden Rython.
The World is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner is Komandarev's second feature but it has an extraordinary eight-year development background. Based on the autobiographical novel of Bulgarian writer and emigrant Ilija Trojanow, the script had 15 drafts involving four scriptwriters (Komandarev, Dusan Milic, Ilija Trojanow, and Yuri Datchev). The story required filming in four countries with dialogue in five languages. This international cast included Serbian Miki Manojlovic (bai Dan) and German Carlo Ljubek (Alex). The story of Alex's restored life with the help of the ancient game of backgammon brought Komandarev new awards: the jury special award in Warsaw, the main jury award in Bergen (Norway) and the audience award in Zurich (Switzerland). In November the Berlin based company M-Appeal, (www.m-appeal.com) became the world sales agent of the film, which has already been sold to Hungary, Slovenia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Portugal and Serbia. For the first time, seven countries applied to Media for distribution support of a Bulgarian film.
Asked about his opinion on the Bulgarian qualifications for undertaking such a huge sentimental melodrama, Komandarev answered, "Why not? Isn't human life a huge melodrama by itself?"
Director: Stephan Komandarev
Screenplay: Stephan Komandarev, Ilija Trojanow, Dusan Milic, Yuri Datchev, based on the novel by Ilija Trojanow
DoP: Emil Hristov
Producers: Stefan Kitanov, Karl Baumgartner, Thanassis Karathanos, Danijel Hocevar, Andras Muhi
Cast: Miki Manojlovic, Carlo Ljubek, Hristo Mutafchiev, Anna Papadopulu, Lyudmila Cheshmedzieva, Nikolay Urumov, Blagovest Mutafchiev, Vassil Vassilev-Zueka, Stefan Valdobrev, Dorka Gryllus
Production:RFF International, Pallas Film, Vertigo/Emotionfilm & Inforg Studio