Hristo: The ferocious dream of a normal life
by Stefan Dobroiu
- The social drama directed by Bulgarian filmmakers Grigor Lefterov and Todor Matsanov won the Best First Feature Award at Varna
The awards at the 34th Golden Rose Film Festival (19-25 September, Varna – read the news) were shared by only three films: besides the better-known Godless [+see also:
interview: Ralitza Petrova
film profile] and Glory [+see also:
interview: Petar Valchanov, Kristina G…
film profile], Bulgarian directors Grigor Lefterov and Todor Matsanov’s first feature, Hristo [+see also:
interview: Grigor Lefterov
film profile], not only impressed the audience with a very powerful and raw story, but also introduced some fresh and extremely promising talent.
Produced by Bulgaria’s Lema Film and Italy’s IdeaCinema, Hristo centres on the titular character, a homeless teenager played with impressive dedication by newcomer Dimitar Nikolov, whose total immersion in the part convinced the Golden Rose jury, chaired by director Kamen Kalev, to bestow the Best Actor Award on him.
The first time we see Hristo, he is part of a group of other men. They are supposed to be hired as day labourers, to offload merchandise from trucks, but they want a bigger pay packet. Hristo runs through the shouting men and starts working, breaking the strike. The audience is uncertain of the motive behind this act: is it selfishness or desperation? The screenplay written by Lefterov will soon reveal the truth: a formerly homeless boy, Hristo is willing to do anything in order to keep himself away from the tough, demeaning life on the streets.
Hristo is only one of the many new compelling Bulgarian features exploring the underbelly of local society, the stories and dreams of the underprivileged. Compared with better-known Kamen Kalev’s Face Down [+see also:
film profile] and Ralitza Petrova’s Godless, Hristo amazes with the efficiency of its screenplay, always focusing on the protagonist’s tribulations and constantly placing obstacles in his path. But Hristo foregrounds a totally unpredictable hero, who often stops to shout his rage out into the world. If the protagonists of the aforementioned films swim in the murky waters of morality, Hristo’s dream of a normal life has a compelling purity, which the actor and the directors convey with amazing ferocity and realism.
The winners of the Golden Rose Film Festival are proof that 2016 is the year of social cinema in Bulgaria. The efficiency of Hristo is aided by the minimalist approach of the direction, but also by the use of non-professional actors: people plucked from the streets of Sofia and turned into the raw satellites of Nikolov’s unhinged, stellar performance.
And this excellent first feature doesn’t make do with exploring the poorest parts of Sofia, but ups the ante by showing a striking reality of Bulgarian society: without papers and a birth certificate, Hristo simply doesn’t exist for the local institutions. A victim of fate and irresponsible parenthood, he lives in his own world, outside normal society. This premise sheds new light on the teenager’s obsession with normalcy, which is likely to make viewers all over the globe reconsider their worries and their goals.
Hristo will next be seen in the 1-2 Competition of the Warsaw International Film Festival (7-16 October). The domestic release is tentatively set for the spring of 2017.