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Iglika Triffonova • Director

"True stories are the most powerful metaphors of the world we’re living in"


- We talk to Iglika Triffonova, whose courtroom drama The Prosecutor, The Defender, the Father and His Son is joining the competition at Tallinn's Black Nights Film Festival

Iglika Triffonova  • Director
(© Black Nights/Pastakeda)

Shot in three different countries and with the actors and crew sharing eight nationalities among them, Iglika Triffonova’s drama The Prosecutor, The Defender, the Father and His Son [+see also:
film review
interview: Iglika Triffonova
film profile
, on show now at the main competition in Tallinn's Black Nights Film Festival, has to be one of Bulgaria's most international productions. Based on true events and centering on a case at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, the film portrays a kaleidoscopic view of a grim episode in the history of Europe.

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Cineuropa: Your film is inspired by a real case at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia. Where does reality stop and fiction take over?
Iglika Triffonova: The idea came from a true story that attracted the interest of the media in Holland and then Bulgaria in the summer of 1997. I believe true stories are the most powerful metaphors of the world we’re living in.

Before and while writing the screenplay and doing my research, I travelled across Bosnia and Holland, met and consulted with many specialists and ordinary people, read a lot of written testimonies, books, articles, came across many different stories of people. I wanted to create authentic personalities and real situations. Almost all the lead characters stem from real life, but now, in the film, this is completely secondary – my characters are now fictional. 

Did you focus on presenting the case objectively in your screenplay? Was the fact that the dialogues are in three languages other than Bulgarian a way of being more objective?
The distance in time that separates us from the real events has transformed, I believe, from "distance in time" to "distance in perception", making our perspective broader, more detached, but also more humane.

Several languages are spoken in the film – this is both authentic and poetic, as it creates a linguistic image of the globalised world that we’re living in today, whether we like it or not. The difficulty to communicate through an interpreter is, in a way, a theatrical tool. There are moments in which translating becomes impossible or is even refused. There are scenes where the main characters are listening to a language they don’t understand, and are guessing from the emotion they’ve sensed, and they believe they have understood what’s important. There are moments when there aren’t enough words, and moments when harrowing facts are told without a single word being uttered.

A character in your film says "I am a woman with a mission". Can you develop this statement from your point of view as a female director? How difficult is this in present-day Bulgaria?
I haven’t encountered greater difficulties than anyone else just because I am a woman, a female director. What was different and more challenging for me in making this particular film was the fact that I am telling someone else’s story, that I’m a foreigner and I didn’t want this to come across. When Bosnians or Dutch people watch the film, I am hoping they will consider me as one of their own. I hope it becomes like Goran Bregović’s tune “Weddings and Funerals Orchestra”, when the four female vocalists start singing “Aide Jano!”: nobody ever thinks aboutthe fact that one of them is Bosnian, the other Macedonian and the other two Bulgarian. The ecstasy, the depth of the pain and the indescribable beauty of hope become a wholesome one. The song resonates as if sung by four sisters. I hope the film will give out that same impression – just like a song, a late confession of our love for suffering and enduring neighbours and to all the people who painfully seek to discover the reasons behind the hardships and trials we must face. 

The film's multi-national team is the best proof of the increasing openness and popularity of Bulgarian cinema. In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge Bulgarian cinema has to face at the moment?
It was a privilege for me to work with great professionals from so many different places and with a cast of great actors coming from eight different countries! But international productions should only be an occasional event in the national industry. The remedy for Bulgarian cinema, or for any other country, is to produce more and more films, to support different types of films as a continuous process.

You are now in the post-production phase of a low-budget film, Lift for Patients. How was it to switch from The Prosecutor, which was shot in three countries, to a low-budget project?
Like coming home after a long absence.

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