"I wanted to give young actors a chance to show their abilities"
by Stefan Dobroiu
- We met up with Bulgarian director Ivaylo Hristov, who won the Golden George at the Moscow International Film Festival with Losers
Five years after the release of Footsteps in the Sand, actor/director/screenwriter Ivaylo Hristov directed Losers [+see also:
interview: Ivaylo Hristov
film profile], an endearing coming-of-age story shot in black and white by Bulgaria’s most revered cinematographer, Emil Christov. Cineuropa talked to the director ahead of the film’s domestic release.
Cineuropa: You are an actor, screenwriter, director and also professor of acting at the Bulgarian National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia. How did this vast experience help you to make Losers?
Ivaylo Hristov: Although these professions may seem different, each contributes to the effectiveness of the others. My work as an actor and a professor of acting helps me in my work with the actors. Being a director helps me in my work as a screenwriter, and being a screenwriter helps me in my work as an actor, professor and director. But above all, what I enjoy most is telling stories. No matter whether I’m in the Academy hall, on stage, in front of or behind the camera, telling stories is a great occupation. Imagine what mankind would be if there were no stories!
Losers looks like it was made in order to help introduce young Bulgarian actors to the audience. Did you write the screenplay with this purpose in mind?
I’m not sure how it is in other countries, but in Bulgaria youngsters face extreme difficulties in their creative development. There are very few places where they have the opportunity to realise their creative potential and find professional fulfilment. Theatres are facing financial difficulties, there are far from enough film productions, and the TV channels offer nothing sensible apart from commercials and low-quality soap operas. So my goal was to write a script that would give the young actors a chance to show off their abilities in front of the camera. May this film give them a chance! If not, at least we have a picture to keep as a memory.
There is a line in your film that says, "All Bulgarians are losers," which may sound harsh to foreign audiences. Does the original title, Karatsi, have a different meaning in Bulgarian that is perhaps impossible to translate?
There are always some important, subtle nuances lost in translation, no matter how perfect that translation may be. In Bulgarian, the word karatsi doesn’t have a negative connotation. It implies irony, empathy and even concern for the person we call karak ("loser"). There is also sadness and a wry smile involved there. It is true that one of the characters says that all Bulgarians are losers, but the other one adds that there are losers in other countries as well. This refers to all of the smart, sensitive, talented people who cannot adapt and who are rejected by the system.
What do you think are the advantages of making cinema in Bulgaria as a director? What about the disadvantages?
I’ve never thought about the advantages or the disadvantages. I live in this country and make films under these circumstances. There must be much better conditions in other countries, but I wouldn’t be able to make films there. As people say: "We could do better in another place, but for the time being, we are here!"
Five years went by between the release of Footsteps in the Sand and Losers. Do you think your next film will maybe arrive earlier than 2020? Do you have a new story in mind that you want to turn into a feature?
I hope that our next film will be released soon, but who knows. I am pondering the idea of the "most frightening fear", the one we bear inside of us, the fear that prevents us from communicating with one another and prevents us from being free.