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Review: Vasil


- In her debut film, Avelina Prat explores the subtle relationship between two strangers as she analyses feelings deeper than mere empathy

Review: Vasil
Karra Elejalde and Ivan Barnev in Vasil

Sharing when you have more than you need is not the same as giving from your own pocket to another. In developed societies where we have an abundance, the sharing of goods is not really a sacrifice, but rather a procedure that seals our status as conscious citizens without necessarily requiring an emotional investment. Being empathetic is already almost a given and as such is implemented in terms of fulfilling some obligation. In other words, and more specific to Vasil [+see also:
interview: Avelina Prat
film profile
's plot, you can host a homeless person in your home for a while, but this does not mean that you will be interested in this person. Could it be that being sympathetic to the individual destiny of the other is an impossible mission?

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This and other questions that arise from the in-depth examination of human interaction in Avelina Prat's first feature film. The film had its world premiere at the Warsaw Film Festival, has just participated in the Seminci and the Mostra de Valencia and will be released in Spanish cinemas on 4 November by Filmax.

Prat begins the story without much preface and introduces the viewer precisely where the real story that the script is based on began; a story that the director herself heard from her father and bought to the screen. In the opening scene Alfredo (Karra Elejalde) talks to his daughter (Alexandra Jiménez) on the phone about the Bulgarian immigrant Vasil (Ivan Barnev) who is temporarily living on the sofa in his living room until he gets his papers, finds a job and somewhere to live. This favour was asked by his friend Maureen (Sue Flack), a posh Irishwoman who has been in Spain for many years, because Vasil is not just anyone; he is the best bridge player in his club, where everyone wants him on their team and tolerates (for the moment) his low social status simply because of his talent. Even though he spends his days in social clubs asking for help with no success, Vasil is not the typical desperate foreigner either and would not sacrifice his bridge game for any course for the unemployed. His bohemian attitude to life irritates Alfredo even though he loves playing chess with him, but it also intrigues his daughter and leads her to do research on him and his country, unlike her father, who is not so curious about his "tenant".

On the one hand, Prat gives a critique of Spanish society, exposing its closed mentality and limited view of the world, especially among the bourgeois class. On the other hand, the subject of human dialogue is universal, and an obvious conclusion is that cultural and personal worlds remain unknown, even those close to each other. For example, a European country not so far away but unexplored, and a father and daughter of the same blood but estranged. Contrary to what the film appears to be about on the surface, Vasil does not criticise prejudices against immigrants, but portrays each of the characters as a lonely cosmos experiencing difficulties in connecting with others.

Elejalde and Barnev in the lead roles have deservedly won the shared award for Best Actor at the Seminci with their organic performance of the graceful nuances in the communication between two people who represent opposing universes. Meanwhile, the dominant interior scenes and the warm tones of the image help create an intimate atmosphere in keeping with the plot that touches on the most delicate facets of human relationships.

Vasil is a co-production between Spain and Bulgaria, produced by Distinto Films, Activist38 and Diferente Films AIE. Filmax manages its international sales.

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(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)

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