FNE - Step In - Locarno Country Report: Bulgaria


    After almost two years of a funding crisis, the second half of 2011 marked the restoration of the government's financial support for Bulgarian film.

    Despite the difficulties, the National Film Centre (www.nfc.bg) held two grant sessions between October 2011 and June 2012. Audience interest in new domestic films, including low budget titles made without public support, remained relatively high. TV series increased in number and became the main source of employment for both actors and crew. After shooting the high budgetThe Expendables 2, Sofia-based Nu Boyana studios (www.nuboyana.com) began to attract European film and TV productions from countries like Spain, Italy and Turkey.


    National production demonstrated variety in artistic styles and visual originality. Atanas Hristoskov's "hip-hop" debutNO.1(produced by BNT) turned attention to a more unconventional and radical type of cinema. The 75-minute HD film, showing cruelty and violence in schools, became the first Bulgarian TV feature to be selected in the FIPA (www.fipa.tm.fr) "single drama" competition in 2012. Three Bulgarian producers collaborated on coproductions with public support: Miramar Film (www.miramarfilm.com) for the Russian-BulgarianThere Was Never a Better Brotherby Murad Ibragimbekov; Agitprop(www.agitprop.bg) for the Finish-BulgarianRules of Single Lifeby Tonislav Hristov; and Camera(www.camera.bg) for the Macedonian-French-BulgarianMothersby Milcho Manchevski.

    In 2012 Eurimages supported two Bulgarian projects: Gueorgui Balabanov's 1.2m EUR debutThe File Petrovwith 180,000 EUR and Stefan Komandarev's 1.7m EUR third feature filmThe Judgmentwith 250,000 EUR.The File Petrovis a coproduction between Bulgaria's Camera (www.camera.bg), Germany's Ostlicht Filmproduktion and France's Arsam International with national support from each country.The Judgmentis a coproduction between Bulgaria's Argo Films (www.argofilm.eu) Germany's Neue Mediopilis Filmproduction and Macedonia's Sektor Film with Bulgarian National Television (www.bnt.bg) as national coproducer.

    The first time director and DoP of Javor Gardev'sZift, Emil Christov has completed shooting on the long awaited film adaptation of Vladislav Todorov's novel Zincograph. The producer of the dystopia on "secret policing under communism" Peripeteia(www.peripeteiafilms.com) plans the world premiere of the film at an international film festival by the end of 2012.

    Another debutJuly(ex Three), the story of three women who recall their teenage years at the Black Sea shore by director Kiril Stankov and producer Gala Film (www.galafilm-bg.com), competed shooting in 2011.

    Scheduled to start theatrical distribution on 5 October 2012, Ivo Staikov's debutJigsaw Puzzleis another "young" film with obvious commercial ambitions. Produced by ILS Films, in collaboration with several national coproducers, including Nu Boyana Film (www.nuboyana.com,) the new romantic drama benefits from the participation of fashion models (Stanimira Koleva and Valia Voikova) and popular male actors (Assen Blatechki and Djako Rossic). In March 2012 director Petar Popzlatev completed his 1m EURI Am You or Adrianabased on the unfinished novel "A Novel Without a Title" by Dimitar Dimov and "Adriana" by Dimov's daughter Teodora. Produced by Postscriptum2 the film was presold to Bulgarian National Television.

    After an international festival careerAveby Konstantin Bojanov started its theatrical distribution in Europe. French Le Pacte (www.le-pacte.com) sold the film to Switzerland, UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland and released it theatrically in France. In May of 2012Avewas the biggest winner at the National Film Academy awards, organised by the Union of the Bulgarian Film Makers (www.filmmakersbg.com) and the Bulgarian National Film Centre (www.nfc.bg) and support by Eurobet (www.eurobet.bg).

    Ambitious full-length documentaries attracted international TV broadcasters. Presold to German BR, British Channel 4, Swiss TSR and Finish YLE, Andrey Paunov'sThe Boy Who Was A King, produced by Agitprop (www.agitprop.bg) was sold by Austrian Autlook and Israeli Channel 8. The extraordinary story of ex-King and ex-Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha is expected to be sold to HBO Adria(www.hbo.hr), HBO Serbia, HBO Montenegro and HBO Slovenia(www.hbo.si).

    Jordan Todorov'sDad Made Dirty Movies, coproduced by Bulgarian Agitprop and German Filmtank in association with ZDF and Arte, chronicles the Bulgarian immigrant, Stephen C. Apostoloff, and his career in the area of the so-called sexploitation films during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Austrian Autlook sold the film to Russian 24 DOK, HBO Central Europe, Hungary (www.hbo-europe.com), Mindjazz Pictures, SBS TELEVISION, VRT Canvas and YES DBS Satellite Service.


    After the high budget US productionsConanremake andThe Expendables 2, were shot in 2010 and 2011 at Sofia’s Nu Boyana Studios (www.nuboyana.com), the studios started to attract more big budget film and TV productions from Europe. According to Nu Boyana CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors David Varod, international star Antonio Banderas will take part in two Spanish historical films slated to shoot at the studios.

    The Bulgarian Minister of Culture Vejdi Rashidov announced that the 78 part Turkish TV serialRiderswill be shot in Bulgaria this summer. It will be coproduced by Turkish Galata Film(www.galatafilm.com) and Nu Boyana Film and will be broadcast by Star TV in Turkey (www.startv.com.tr). The minister also announced the signing of a coproduction agreement between Bulgaria and Turkey. However, despite intensive lobbying in favour of a tax shelter law by Varod, no plans for implementation have been announced.


    In 2011/2012 there was an attempt to introduce new audiovisual legislation concerning prime time advertising and product placement on Bulgarian National Television (BNT) and Bulgarian National Radio (www.bnr.bg). It would have allowed BNT to broadcast advertising spots for 12 minutes between 7 and 10 pm instead of only 5 minutes. BNT and BNR would also benefit from product placement. But after a protest by the Association of Bulgarian Broadcasters (www.abbro-bg.org) representing the commercial media, the proposals were stalled and are now waiting to be reintroduced for a second reading and final vote in the Parliament.

    In addition to the BNT 2011 budget of nearly 31m EUR, Bulgaria's Council of Ministers (www.government.bg) voted a subsidy of 485,727 EUR for the public broadcaster.


    The 2011 autumn grant session allotted 1,350,000 EUR for feature film projects; 250,000 EUR for documentaries and 150,000 EUR for animation. Only two feature projects were selected for production support: Stefan Komandarev's illegal border crossings dramaThe Judgmentand Konstadin Bonev's metaphor on lost harmony in lifeThe Sinking of Sozopol.

    The 2012 spring session took place amid great expectations and tense competition. The public support for feature films was initially announced as 900,000 EUR, but after protests by several film organizations, the Ministry of Culture agreed to raise it to 1.8m EUR. But the process erupted in to controversy after the rankings of projects were contested by several young directors and producers. They announced the foundation of a new association "Bulgarian Cinema of the 21st Century." It addressed a statement to the Minister of Culture that proposed tying funding to box office results. Opposing filmmakers objected that public support should be tied to cultural values.

    After considerable debate, the projects approved for production support were: Georgy Diulgerov'sBuffer Zone(Front Film,www.frontfilm.eu); three debuts: Todor Mazanov'sMacarena(Blend Film) Galin Stoev'sThe Infinite Garden(Agitprop,www.agitprop.bg) and Zahari Paounov'sHombre(Vision Advisers).

    Controversy continues as the Film Law states that annual public support for film must be about twice the 2011 amount of 5m EUR and the 2012 amount of 6.5m EUR, but the Minister of Culture Vejdi Rashidov insists the financial crisis prevents the state budget from allocating more.


    According to the NFC statistics for 2011 admissions stood at 4,661,629 and a box office at 36,497,110 BGN (1 BGN=0.511 EUR). The average ticket price was 7.87 BGN. All results have been on the rise over the last 12 months. As of July 2012, admissions were 2,771,016, the box office was 23,325,236 BGN and the average ticket price was 8.41 BGN. Between 1 July 2011 and 17 June 2012, the total number of admissions was 3,945,940, the box office was 31,788,759 BGN and the average ticket price was 8.05 BGN (source Geopoly Film,www.geopoly-film.com).

    During the same period several national hits achieved good distribution results, led by Vladislav Karamfilov'sOperation Shmenti Capelli(www.shmentikapeli.com) a privately financed satire on people with "huge economic and political power." The film had 183,599 admissions and 1,219.228 BGN box office. It was followed by two entertaining debuts by young filmmakers without public support: Niki Iliev's romantic comedyThe Foreignerwith star Christopher Lambert had 54,746 admissions and 375,885 BGN box office and Stanislav Donchev's detective spoofRapid Reactions Corpshad 43,034 admissions and 304,749 BGN box office. Valery Yordanov's and Ivan Vladimirov'sSneakershad 42,643 admissions and 270,260 BGN box office and Kamen Kalev'sThe Islandhad 17,008 admissions and 109,247 BGN box office. At the end of 2011 Bulgaria had 43 theatres with 150 screens.


    On 3 October 2011 public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television (www.bnt.bg) reopened its second channel Efir 2. Renamed BNT2, it provides local programmes through four regional TV centers: Ruse, Varna, Plovdiv and Blagoevgrad. The public broadcaster now operates three channels: BNT1 (founded in 1959), BNT2 (founded in 1975) and BNT Sat (founded in 1999).

    On 9 September 2011 the TV news and business-oriented channel Bulgaria On Air (www.bgonair.bg) started broadcasting a 24 hour programme focused on small and medium-sized businesses. With terrestrial coverage for 13 Bulgarian towns Bulgaria On Air is available in Europe by satellite.

    Unlike the struggling film industry, the production of TV series continued to increase. BNT’s international sales led to a third season of the detective seriesUnder Cover. According to Sevda Shishmanova, BNT programme director, the series was sold to China, Latin America, Germany, France, UK and Turkey. Private station bTV(www.btv.bg) cancelled its cult serialGlass Home, but increased advertising forMetropolitans MoreandSeven Hours Difference. Another private channel, tv7 (www.tv7.bg), began producing series in 2012. Two medium size series are regularly broadcast: dramaThe Mitrani Law Officeand the lighterBreakfast Show. According to director Javor Gardev,

    "TV series have a positive effect on the audience. In order to see their favourite actors, people go more often to cinema and theatre."


    Reporting byPavlina Jeleva.

    Report produced by Film New Europe for Step In Locarno 2012