unnamed 26 FNE Animated Open2020

Svetla Tsotsorkova's Sister is a moving chronicle of an industrious family working together to accept their controversial history. It presents a visual and thematic interconnection of its vivid characters and the unsympathetic environment of rural Bulgaria. The lives of the family members are difficult as they are the talk of the town. Their intimate confrontations are the thematic focal points that provoke their day-to-day activities. This slice-of-life piece will make you cry tears of compassion as well as reassess your own relationships.

Monika Naydenova delivers a powerful performance as Rayna, a character who often invents lies to stir up her everyday life. She spends time working in the family ceramic shop and having imaginative conversations with the customers. Her child-like, sexually inexperienced persona contrasts with her adventurous sister Kamelia (Elena Zamyarkova), an issue that informs the sisters' conflict over mutual love interest Miro, the town's Casanova. Zamyarkova's portrait of a diligent but spontaneous young woman brings a sense of structure to the household. Internationally acclaimed Svetlana Yancheva plays the role of the mother, a piercing woman whose lively romantic history overwhelms her daughters and makes Rayna obsess over their relationship. While she constantly looks back to the past to fuel her angst, it is notable that Tsotsorkova flirts with the character's opposing traits as well - Rayna carries an air of fragility that camouflages her strong emotional resilience. Similarly, Miro's surprisingly platonic perception of Rayna is a counterpoint to his macho demeanour. This reaffirms the idea that one's appearance is usually deceiving.

Visually, Tsotsorkova favors a pervading yellow in her compositions, starting with Rayna's blond hair and dominating presence. The director's studious treatment of Rayna's introspection is manifested in the choice of setting, with unending golden fields of wheat often filling the frame. The emphasis on self-reliance also shines through in the frequent close-ups of Rayna’s face, accompanied by the girl’s perceptive voice-over.

The idea of letting go is the central thematic concept. Rayna's painstakingly eventful coming-of-age process is underlined by scenes built around movement, like with cars passing by the family shop day and night. Characters are often positioned as either drivers or passengers, hinting at their advancing in individual directions. The clay figurines themselves, made from scratch by this family business, indicate that life is nothing but a succession of steps linked together. It is up to the characters to embrace their differing opinions and accept the past.

Tsotsorkova’s mesmerizing Sister is a detailed account of independent women finding their place within a misogynistic social environment. It is a visually compelling work that delves into one's perception of self. The director's anatomical approach to the characters' past and present is an exemplary appreciation for mental diversity.

You'll probably think twice before making assumptions about a stray cat's identity the next time you see one. Vesela Kazakova and Mina Mileva's vibrant depiction of a no-nonsense Bulgarian immigrant in Cat In The Wall shows that there is always more to the pursuit of food and shelter, for both humans and felines, wretched and poor, each with their dreams and their fears.

Irina (Irina Atanasova) is a regular taxpayer who owns an apartment in East Peckham, in London, which she shares with her preschool son Jojo (Orlin Asenov) and brother Vladimir (Angel Genov). The siblings are university-educated headstrong individuals who support each other through thick and thin. They struggle with making ends meet by working low wage jobs. Irina and Vladimir's daily quarreling is placated by the arrival of an adorable ginger-haired stray cat into their jumpy home atmosphere. Vladimir and Jojo claim the cat immediately and confirm their authority by naming him Zlatko ("a golden one"). As soon as the new owners learn that Zlatko is in fact someone else's treasure, Irina's go-getter attitude starts crumbling.

The movie's brick setting influences the characters politically and literally. Fights over the ownership of the cat happen on the floors of the building that is constantly under maintenance. The camera closely follows Irina's gradual adjustment to the building in scenes where she visits its corners in order to set up a friendly neighbor meeting. Her red coat makes her stand out from the crowd, reminding the neighbors of her intrusive presence as a down-to-earth woman who does not fear change but embraces it. The directors' bright treatment of Irina's attempts at being a likeable neighbor is powered by scenes in which Vladimir and Rianna (Chinwe Nwokolo) repeatedly look through their apartment windows. The camera is positioned within Vladimir's apartment and allows the audience to be present in his moments of introspection. Meanwhile, the directors enhance Rianna's rival status by remaining outside her apartment. Playing with different perspectives creates a complex ladder of power relations, perpetually lacking an element of real dominance.

In linking Irina and the cat, who share equal screen time and are often portrayed in matching close-ups, Kazakova and Mileva's bring their fates together as two creatures disappearing into their living space, with Irina forced to drag the cat out of a wall. The broken connection and ineffective communication between Irina’s family and the neighbors, on the other hand, is neatly summed up by Vladimir being forced to install antennas for work. A lively but dark sketch about social alienation, exemplified by a trick-or-treat expedition that sees the family dress up as, respectively, a witch, a prisoner and a ghostbuster. These are the identities left for the characters to slip into as non-British political subjects, in what amounts to a vivid, matter-of-fact excerpt from the life of immigrants. It is a quirky but irresistibly entertaining exploration of truth as a multifaceted concept, with serious political consequences.

You'll definitely want to give your grandparents a call after seeing Liviu Sandulescu's Carturan (2019). It is a tender portrait of a middle-aged man setting his house in order before the moment of his imminent death. Carturan (Teodor Corban) learns about his stomach cancer and tries his best to arrange a new home for his young grandson Cristi (Vlad Popescu) after he's gone. Over the course of a month, Carturan is carefully wrapping up his life routines rather than feeling inspired to seek new experiences. Securing a new home for Cristi would seal Carturan's legacy as a caring grandfather.

Carturan and Cristi bond with each other in their picturesque village while playing chess and going fishing. They spend time living in a bubble that is not touched by the news of Carturan's cancer. By contrast, the older man talks freely about the disease to a priest Priest (Adrian Titieni) whose help he attempts to enlist and to bureaucrats as he visits several institutions in the nearby city. In a bus scene, Carturan overhears a passenger prescribing his friend a two-month plan of dieting and exercising. This is painfully intersected with Carturan's awareness of his cancer.

Sandulescu also gives a portrait of time as a strikingly subjective experience. Carturan is running out of time, while Cristi is just about to go through his newest encounter with grief.
Carturan comes across a number of rejections while trying to set up a home for Cristi. This is a presentation of the contemporary Romanian bureaucratic system concerning foster children. The wide city shots accentuate Carturan's burdened state by surrounding him with strangers, who supposedly have worries of their own. The off-screen dialogue taking place during Carturan's close-ups intensifies his feeling of hopelessness. Yet, Carturan's face is mostly shown during scenes that show his home environment as a place of comfort. 

The ticking bomb of Carturan's death is set to bring chaos to Cristi's life. The teenager's unforeseen future is emphasized by him being mostly shot from a distance in scenes before hearing about Carturan's cancer.

Sandulescu's Carturan presents a pragmatic perspective. The director favors naturalistic photography as a statement that promotes a sensible approach to death. There is no way to escape, you have to bite the bullet and face it.  This naturalistic piece of cinema questions but does not ridicule religious rites related to death. Instead, it minimizes their impact on Cristi and the legacy that he is going to carry.