Milko Lazarov • President, Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers

“We give prominence to the film professionals who normally remain in the shadows”

– After three years in office, the head of the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers gives us his opinion on the importance of the Union’s annual awards and their importance for the local industry

Internationally known for its award-winning features alienation [+see also:
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Bulgarian director Milko Lazarov has also occupied the post of head of Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers already for three years. Following the celebration of “Vasil Gendov” National Festival of Bulgarian Cinema (May 2-9), On May 15, after a lengthy hiatus, the union presented its annual awards for the first time in a while Krzysztof Zanussi Awarding of the main prize for the best film in the feature film category Pavel Vesnakov‘s German lesson [+see also:
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. Additionally, Elitza Gueorguieva‘s Our quiet place was deemed deserving of the award for Best Documentary while Svilen Dimitrov‘s shell in love won the award for best animation. Meanwhile, we chatted with Milko Lazarov about the importance of the awards and what they mean for the local industry.

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Cineuropa: What made you decide to revive the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers awards?
Milko Lazarov: It was high time to reestablish these traditional awards, which were established in 1975. They suffered from instability during the post-communist upheaval, which was very difficult for Bulgarian cinema. Then they existed for a while during the last decade, and now I hope that with their return, they will once again play an important role in our national film environment, this time forever. As President of the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers, I see its reintroduction as my personal responsibility. Established in 1936, our union has weathered various regimes and political turmoil with the core mission of highlighting and supporting artistic achievement in cinema. This is our primary focus as we are not a professional organization or syndicate; We are an artistic association. The awards are in the foreground.

They were celebrated together with the national festival “Vasil Gendov”. from Bulgarian Cinema, but there are also those Film Festival Golden Rose for feature films and Golden Ryton for documentaries and animations. Isn’t that enough for such a small film industry?
First, Golden Rose will be held in Varna and Golden Rhyton in Plovdiv (except for the last edition, which was celebrated in Sofia due to the pandemic); Therefore, their programs do not reach audiences in Sofia. So we saw the awards as an excuse to invite the audience to the capital – which is after all the most populous city in Bulgaria – to see an almost exhaustive list of recent Bulgarian film production, which now totals more than 60 films. Secondly, the awards of these festivals highlight artistic achievements only in the basic categories, while the Association of Bulgarian Filmmakers invariably awards all professional guilds, including technical guilds, along the lines of academy awards around the world. We put the spotlight on those film professionals who typically remain in the shadows.

Hence the program “Vasil Gendov”.me includes the feature film selection from Golden Rose and the documentary and animation selection from Golden Rhyton, Correctly?
I agree. We’ve also now recorded titles from the last 18 months. As per the regulations we are taking into account the last 12 months but have made an exception due to the pandemic situation. Many films were cut during the lockdown without being released, resulting in a rich film production, while our festival presented a fairly comprehensive picture of the latest Bulgarian productions: 11 feature films, 23 feature-length documentaries, nine animation films and more than 20 shorts. It’s a real exuberance that we won’t enjoy anytime soon. Our biggest success was the packed cinema halls, especially in the evening slots. We also target young audiences and students, and our goal is to have an educational function as well. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting that many viewers, so I was pleasantly surprised.

You named the festival after the pioneer of Bulgarian cinema, Vasil Gendov. How important is he to them? today’s Bulgarian film industry?
While we cannot fully comprehend his filmography today, as only excerpts of his seminal films survive, his work has had a significant impact on the entire history of our industry, which resonates to this day. Apart from making films with his wife, Zhana Gendova, he developed and engaged in educational activities and also toured the country as a film distributor. In this sense, Gendov marked the beginning of many branches of the Bulgarian film industry; It is therefore logical for me to name the festival and the awards of the professional guilds after him.

How did you decide to invite Krzysztof Zanussi to present the main prize for? a fictional movie?
Many Bulgarian film professionals have studied in Poland, e.g. director Ivan Nichev and my filmmaking teacher, Professor Vladislav Ikonomov. So in that sense there is a big film connection between Bulgaria and Poland. The Association of Bulgarian Filmmakers shares the views of Polish professionals, while Zanussi is also closely associated with the educational aspect of cinema, which is important to us. It’s a real honor to have him as a special guest at the festival.

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