Racism and brotherhood in Eastern Plays
Bulgaria has landed in Cannes’ Directors' Fortnight section, with Kamen Kalev’s debut feature Eastern Plays [+see also:
interview: Kamen Kalev
film profile]. The 33-year-old FEMIS graduate directed numerous shorts that have won awards at prestigious festivals worldwide.
A Bulgarian/Swedish co-production (Waterfront, The Chimney Port and Film i Väst), the film is set in Sofia among neo-Nazis and simmering racism and centres on brothers Georgi (Ovanes Torosian) and Itso (Christo Christov).
After having lost contact with one another years ago, the two meet coincidentally when a gang of neo-Nazis attacks a Turkish family, but on opposite sides. Whereas Georgi has been recently recruited by the violent gang, Itso is wounded when he tries to defend the Turkish girl, with whom he will fall in love.
The director wrote the film around real-life events that happened to his childhood friend Christov, whom he then chose for the lead. The young man died in an accident just days after shooting ended. “I used many elements of Christo’s life in my story,” said Kalev. “Most of the scenes actually took place and were shot in the places where he lived: his apartment, his streets, his workplace. Christo is no longer with us, but his vibrant strength in the film suddenly entered real life”.
The film’s true core lies beyond ethnic discrimination, in the possibility to communicate and relate to others. “This is when two souls truly become close. Here, language, faith and eye colour don’t count. Because when appearance is most important,” says the director, “relationships lose their strength and love disappears.”
Eastern Plays is sold internationally by Memento Films International.
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