Petar Popzlatev's Az, Grafinyata(The Countess)was chosen to take part in theBerlinale program named after Helke Misselwitz's East German 1988 documentary After Winter Comes Spring.
The section, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and organized by the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Deutsche Kinematek, is planned to start with Berlinale screenings and continue in other towns across Germany.
Telling the true story of eighteen-year old Sybilla (Sissi, the Countess) and her hippy rebellion against totalitarianism through drugs, the 1989 film turned into a strong defense of individual freedom. Set in 1968 it described an unexpected insider's picture of communist Bulgaria, which was often judged as being too passive.
"We did not have open protests at that time, but that does not mean that people did not resist in an inner way," Popzlatev says. "That is why I think that the film corresponds to the main idea of the commemorating program, composed of films that felt in advance the fall of the Wall".
Superbly performed by dramatic actress Svetlana Yancheva and beautifully shot in black and white by Emil Hristov the film was cautiously watched over by the communist Ministry of Interior. Following an interruption due to a prohibition on filming within the territory of the state clinics for drug addicts, filming on the production continued in an abandoned warehouse in the suburbs of Sofia.
The movie was a produced by the state-owned Boyana Studios and was internationally distributed by the former export company Bulgaria Film. It had some international sales in countries including France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the U.S. It was awarded Best Film in Torino and Best Debut in Anger, while the Tróia festival decorated The Countess with Best Director and Best Cinematography prizes.