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.
FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Lemana Filandra is a writer and editor at "Klifhenger" (www.klifhenger.com), a site dedicated to movie analyses in Bosnian and English. She has been working as a freelance writer, a researcher, and a translator for the last three years. Currently, She is working on a PhD thesis in philosophy, focused on intersectional feminism and political implications of the concept of body. In the past she had different professional engagements at Sarajevo Film Festival, one of the most prominent European festivals. She also worked as a producer of a music video, a script supervisor and an assistant to a movie director.
Levan Tskhovrebadze is a student of film studies in Ilia State University, Georgia. He has written and made other kind of journalistic content for Georgian outlets like Indigo, Cinemania.ge or Demo.ge. Recently he started working for Ilia State University online publication Cinexpress.iliauni.edu.ge where he writes reviews, articles and also translates some of the important articles or interviews about cinema into Georgian. He has covered few festivals as a film critic. He was doing video blogs for Berlin International Film Festival 2019th edition and has made some content at CinéDOC-Tbilisi and Batumi International Art-House Film Festival. Cinexpress is also the Ilia State University’s Film Club where he made public reports before screenings.
Oleksandra Povoroznyk is a film critic and journalist based in Kyiv, Ukraine. She is currently working for Vertigo.com.ua, one of the largest Ukrainian websites devoted to the film industry and entertainment in general. She is also the host of two podcasts about movies and TV.
Denisa Jašová is a PhD student of Audiovisual Studies at Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. As a Film Studies and Archival Science graduate, she specializes on archival research in film and TV history, especially on Czechoslovak amateur film and TV non-fiction programmes from 70s and 80s. She also works as a researcher for TV documentaries, as a librarian in the Central European House of Photography and as a talk show host in student radio talk show called Cinefil. She frequently writes for magazine Film.sk, IFF Cinematik Piešťany and her first paper about the history of Slovak amateur film will be released in October 2019 in Kino-Ikon magazine. She simply loves film archives.
Bogdan Balla is a Romanian experimental film director and freelance film critic based in Bucharest. He studies film directing at the National University of Theatre and Film and writes for FILM MENU. Besides directing and producing his own films, he also works as an independent freelance film critic. He reads bell hooks and is passionate about queer cinema. He has a preference for working with archival footage for his films.
Svetlana Semenchuk is an author of such publications on cinema as “Seanse”, “The Art of Cinema”, “Cinema TV” and other. The author-composer of the books “S. M. Eisenstein: pro et contra: Sergey Eisenstein in national reflection: anthology” and “E. F. Bauer: pro et contra. Eugene Frantsevich Bauer in assessments of contemporaries, colleagues, researchers, film critics. Anthology”. Teacher of the St. Petersburg New Cinema School, and at the St. Petersburg State University of Cinema and Television.
TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Amber Wilkinson is a journalist with more than 20 years experience. She is the co-founder and editorial director of UK-based website Eye For Film. Her byline has appeared in The Times, Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and Filmmaker Magazine among others. She also contributes as a freelance film critic on BBC Radio Scotland. She has run several FIPRESCI young critics' workshops and mentored student critics at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2018 and 2019.
Tommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering film festivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for Berlinale Talents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.