“Many viewers are not aware how engaging and powerful documentaries can be”
Industry Report: Documentary
Ralitsa Golemanova • Producer, Smarty Pants Shooter
The Emerging Producer from Bulgaria discusses the power of documentaries, from the first one she saw to the ones she's producing now
An interview with Ralitsa Golemanova, producer for Bulgarian company Smarty Pants Shooter and selected for the 2023 Emerging Producers programme. Read her EP profile here.
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you see documentary cinema as an instrument of social and political change?
Ralitsa Golemanova: I remember the first time I saw a powerful documentary. In university, we had a screening of Georgi and the Butterflies by Andrey Paounov (IDFA 2004 Silver Wolf). It was a completely new experience to watch real footage of real people that is as engaging as a fictional story and yet it reveals deep social and political layers. More than a decade later, when I was producing No Place for You in Our Town [+see also:
film profile] (2022), the belief that documentary cinema can change people’s attitudes and foster social change was a main driving force in my work. The film tells the story of tough football hooligans from an ex-industrial city in Bulgaria, and it was not easy to make. But talking to viewers after its festival premieres, I felt the hard work was worth it. Many shared how the film allowed them to go beyond their prejudices towards people who seem far away from their lives. I like to think of documentaries, and particularly of creative documentaries, as eye-opening visual stories that have the power to escape the easy trap of preaching a single point of view on life. Our human experiences are multifaceted and are rarely black and white. I truly enjoy films that allow me to get in touch with this colorful reality. And naturally, I strive to produce documentaries that do exactly that.
Where do you find audiences for your films?
You know the feeling: you go to a film event and you get a recommendation for a cool new documentary. But you can’t find it anywhere… With my film No Place for You in Our Town, I really wanted to go beyond limitations. It’s a co-production with HBO Max, so it’s online in around 20 countries; and it was in the top 30 list of the most watched films and series in Bulgaria — ranking among blockbusters like Elvis, and the like. At the same time, it had a rich festival life and cinema distribution in Bulgaria. It’s also now starting its path in educational screenings with discussions — soon there will be one at Columbia University in New York. I think we should invest in growing cinema audiences for documentaries, especially in countries like Bulgaria. Many viewers are simply not aware how engaging and powerful documentaries can be. Once they get a taste of that, it wouldn’t be difficult to invite them into the dark and cozy cinema halls.
What films have you seen recently and would recommend watching?
The first film that comes to mind is The Banshees of Inisherin [+see also:
film profile]. Martin McDonagh has done it again. I only recently watched the documentary Ostrov [+see also:
film profile] — and I really appreciated its gaze into the far-out places in Russia. I often revisit the films of Roberto Minervini and Gianfranco Rosi. I’ve seen quite a few interesting Bulgarian films lately. The documentary Our Quiet Place by Elitza Gueorguieva (France/Bulgaria) is touching. I also just saw the fiction debut by documentary filmmaker — Svetoslav Draganov’s Humble [+see also:
film profile]. Funnily enough, it tells the story of a documentary filmmaker whose life is falling into pieces while he’s trying to make his next big film. It’s quite a real story for all of us in the documentary industry.
What projects do you have underway (including fiction films and other projects)?
My main focus is the next documentary by my partner, director Nikolay Stefanov. It’s called Making Friends with the Idea of a Father (2024), and we’re just entering production with funding from the Bulgarian National Film Center. It’s a long-awaited revisiting of the troublesome post-totalitarian 1990s in Eastern Europe and their painful legacy today, told through a very personal story — that of the unsolved murder of the director’s father. I have two more documentary projects in early development and I’m also exploring a few projects by young Bulgarian authors — both documentary and fiction. Then there’s the observational archive documentary Moscow Nights by Irish/Romanian director Irina Maldea which I’m co-producing, supported by Screen Ireland, ZDF/ARTE, and YLE. She is taking a truly interesting approach to revisiting the history of the Cold War, including examining the role of the first ladies and their soft power in world-changing politics. And to make things even more interesting, I recently curated a multimedia exhibition in Sofia, with poetry and a video installation by yours truly.
EMERGING PRODUCERS is a leading promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.
Deadline for applications to the EMERGING PRODUCERS 2024 edition is 31 March 2023.
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