Radiogram: A story about power, discrimination and music
by Stefan Dobroiu
- Rouzie Hassanova’s drama received the Best First Feature Award at the 2017 Golden Rose Film Festival
If one thing can be said about the 35th Golden Rose Film Festival, it is that an impressive percentage of the 16 new Bulgarian films in competition drew inspiration from the past. Rouzie Hassanova’s Radiogram [+see also:
film profile] is no exception: set at the beginning of the 1970s in the Rhodope Mountains, the drama explores the tribulations of the local Muslim community oppressed by the communist regime.
The screenplay, written by Hassanova, has two interesting central points. One is the power of music, as we follow little Ahmet (a promising Aleksander Ivanov) listening to glorious, forbidden rock’n’roll on an old radio. The other is the instinctive reaction against abuse and oppression: the local communist representative, Zahariev (Aleksandar Aleksiev), seems willing to do anything in order to comply with a decision by the party asking all Muslims in the region to change their names to Christian ones. At the crossroads of these two directions are Ali (Alexander Hadjiangelov) and Yasmin (Yana Titova), Ahmet’s parents and the protagonists of the story. When the radio is broken, Ali’s journey to a town over the mountains to buy a new one becomes a symbolic, freeing endeavour intended to stress the importance of saying no to oppression.
Beautifully shot by Kiril Prodanov and inspired by real events in the history of the director’s family, Radiogram efficiently explores an unfamiliar (at least to foreign audiences) part of Bulgarian history. The quiet, serene life at the foot of the Rhodope Mountains, where growing tobacco is an important way of making a living, is shown in colourful, endearing images, in high, suggestive contrast with Zahariev’s steely stares and violent methods.
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