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Antoaneta Bachurova, Vladimir Lyutskanov • Producers

"Six stories of personal apocalypse"


- The producers Antoaneta Bachurova and Vladimir Lyutskanov – guests at the 11th Festa del cinema bulgaro in Rome – tell us about the anthology film 8 Minutes and 19 Seconds

Antoaneta Bachurova, Vladimir Lyutskanov • Producers
Producers Antoaneta Bachurova and Vladimir Lyutskanov

Presented at Sofia Film Fest last March, the anthology film 8 Minutes and 19 Seconds [+see also:
interview: Antoaneta Bachurova, Vladim…
film profile
– inspired by six of the famous Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov’s stories – touched down in Rome for the 11th Festa del cinema bulgaro, where we met up with the producer Antoaneta Bachurova and the producer-director Vladimir Lyutskanov.

Cineuropa: How did the idea for this anthology film come about?
Antoaneta Bachurova: The idea came about as they often do: one evening at dinner. We were with Theodore Ushev, director of one of the film's segments. He is a Bulgarian animator and has worked in Canada for many years. His animated short film Blind Vaysha, based on a story by Georgi Gospodinov, was nominated for an Oscar last year. While we were at the table, it turned out that both Theodore and Vladimir were reading Gospodinov’s stories, so they thought about creating a series of small films. We then invited other directors to participate (Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov, Lyubomir Mladenov, Nadejda Koseva, etc.), all of whom are leading exponents of new Bulgarian cinema. And so we made this film, in full awareness that it’s not a particularly commercial project, because the anthology film genre is a bit of a niche genre.

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What are some of the difficulties that come with making an anthology film in terms of production?
Vladimir Lyutskanov: We liked to specify that we’re executive producers as the film was financed entirely by Bulgarian national television. It’s the first time that a project like this has been created in Bulgaria. Bringing together six heads and pointing them towards one idea is extremely difficult. The only constraint we placed on ourselves was that every piece should be filmed over three days. But each of the directors had other projects going on, so between shooting and editing it took about three years, which for someone who comes from a theatre background was almost unfathomable.

The six segments are not particularly different from each other in terms of photography. However, there is one segment, shot in black and white, that stands out from the others. Why did you make this decision?
VL: It was the director, Luybomir Mladenov's decision. Before we started filming, we met up several times to work out whether or not it would be necessary to create an entirely uniform film if we were going to submit the whole thing to the same colour correction process. In the end, we didn’t reach a consensus and so we decided that, remaining faithful to the literature and minimalism of Gospodinov, with its low and non-in-your-face tones, it was more important to let everyone use their own style.

At the presentation in Rome, Antoaneta said that the six pieces are united by a feeling of sorrow, but that this film is like a serum, a sort of therapy against depression. In what sense?
AB: We put the segment called "Daughter" at the end of the film because it is the most optimistic. The fact that Gospodinov is the most translated Bulgarian writer in Europe, that so many non-Bulgarian people recognise themselves in The Physics of Sorrow, it’s not that I think that the whole of Europe is on the brink of depression, but rather that everyone can recognise part of themselves in it and that it can help to exorcise that feeling.
VL: I personally doubt that this film can be used as a serum against sorrow, because on closer inspection, all the stories, except the last one, are extremely sad, from the orphan who recognises his father in a tree, and then loses it, to the lonely woman who pays for phone calls: they’re all stories of personal apocalypse. I view them more like a warning sign, showing us that solitude and sorrow are ever more present.

Vladimir, you're an actor and theatre director who produced this film and also directed a segment. What was it like going from the theatre to the cinema?
VL: I directed the "The Late Gift" segment, shot in one sequence.Let's just say that you can tell it was filmed by a theatre director because, compared to the other pieces, which are more silent, this one includes a lot of talking – it's like a one-man show. And also, unlike modern cinema, we did a lot of rehearsals, something that definitely comes from theatrical experience.

Your company, VIP Media Film, has mainly produced documentaries thus far. Are you already working on something else?
AB: We have made more than 300 documentaries on important Bulgarian personalities for Bulgarian national television. Our next project, already funded at the script development level, is dedicated to an extremely interesting historical theme: the first terrorist act in Europe, which took place at the end of the 19th century, shortly after the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule. In order to draw attention to Macedonia’s struggle for liberation, a group of young high school students from Thessaloniki, which was still occupied, blew up the Guadalquivir ship and a bank. It was the first kamikaze act in Europe. We’re also looking to apply for funding from the Bulgarian National Film Centre.

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(Translated from Italian)

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