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Sofia Film Festival Kicks Off With Environmental Message, Strong Industry Lineup



It’s not a coincidence that Volker Schlöndorff’s latest film The Forest Makerthe environmental essay documentary about Australian agronomist Tony Rinaudo, who found a way to grow trees in the most barren areas of Africa, is opening the 27th Sofia International Film Festival kicking off Thursday in the Bulgarian capital.

One of the major film festivals in Eastern Europe is going green, and the veteran German filmmaker, winner of the Palme d’Or and what was then called the best foreign language Oscar for The Tin Drum (1979), will plant the first tree of the future Sofia Film Festival Forest.

“We wanted to remind ourselves of our deep connection to the land and our power to be agents of change together. We wish to engage the public in the global vision of sustainable development of society and a responsible attitude towards nature”, the festival organizers said about the green initiative supported by Sofia Municipality and the telecommunication company Yettel.

Under the motto “Reconnect,” the biggest Bulgarian film event runs from March 16 to 31, screening more than 150 titles. A total of 12 films have been selected for the international competition, including Bulgarian titles The Art of Falling by Orlin Milchev and The Good Driver directed by Tonislav Hristov.

First and second films competing for the main awards also include Vasilis Katsoupis’ Inside with Willem Dafoe, which premiered last month in Berlin; Roving Woman by Polish director Michal Chmielewski; Maayan Rypp’s directing debut The Other Widow; German director Joachim Neef’s Nightwatch; Iranian director Nader Saeivar’s Germany-Iran-Turkey co-production No End; and Mexico-Italy co-production Red Shoes by first timer Carlos Eichelmann Kaise.

Renowned North Macedonian filmmaker Milcho Manchevski (Before The Rain, Dust) will serve as jury president.

This year’s 12-title Balkan competition includes the Croatian drama Safe Place directed by Locarno and Sarajevo laureate Juraj Lerotić; Turkish drama Burning Days, which unspooled in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard last year; the Warsaw Film Festival Grand Prix winner May Labor Day by Bosnian director Pjer Žalica; the Teona Strugar Mitevska-directed The Happiest Man in the World, a 2022 Venice festival premiere; and the Bulgarian entry Mother by Zornitsa Sophia.

As special highlights, the Sofia fest will screen several of this year’s Oscar contenders, including Todd Field’s TárSam Mendes’ Empire of Light and Santiago Miter’s Argentina, 1985as well as Armageddon Time by James Gray, Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s The Silent Twins and Vicky Krieps-starrer Corsage by Austrian director Marie Kreutzer.

Legendary actress Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of screen icon Charlie Chaplin, will receive the Sofia Municipality Special Award for her impressive career spanning six decades and, together with the director Jessica Woodworth, present her latest film. Luca. The organizers are also honoring Czech director Jan Svěrák, who will receive a seven-film retrospective tribute, pick up a special award and present his latest feature, Bethlehem Light.

Veteran European auteurs Bille August and Krzysztof Zanussi will also walk Sofia’s green carpet for their features The Kiss and The Perfect Numberrespectively.

The 20th of Sofia Meetings, the festival’s industry event and co-production market, runs from March 23 to 26. Organizers are expecting 300 industry professionals to attend the anniversary edition.

“Like in previous years, the upcoming Sofia Meetings Co-Production Forum will be a fine mixture of talented upcoming directors and more established names,” says Mira Staleva, head of the Sofia Meetings. “Directors like Lech Kowalski, Amman Abbasi, Andrey Paounov and the directing duo Tomad Weinreb and Petr Kazda will present their new films in the work-in-progress section.”

Here are a list of selected projects from the 2023 Sofia Meetings.

Second Fiction Feature Film Projects

Drean BirdDirector Murat Pay, Producer Halil Kardaş/Film Code Production (Turkey)
Jaune et BleuDirector Giulia Grandinetti, Producers Riccardo Neri, Vincenzo Filippo/Lupin Film (Italy)
YugoslaviaDirector Ivan Bakrač, Producers Ivan Bakrač, Nikolina Vucetic Zecevic, Guillaume de Seille/Quadrifolium Films (Montenegro), Arizona Films (France), Biberche (Serbia)
Drowning DryDirector Laurynas Bareisa, Producer Klementina Remeikaite/Afterschool (Lithuania), Co-producer Matiss Kaza/Trickster Picutres (Latvia)
The Last SlapDirector Matteo Oleotto, Producer Miha Černec/Staragara IT (Slovenia, Italy), Spok (Italy), Propeller Film (Croatia)

Plus Minus One Film Projects

DissonanceDirector Elitza Petkova, Producer Veselka Kiryakova/Red Carpet (Bulgaria), Co-producer Wood Water Films (Germany)
MarioDirector Guillem Miró, Producer Ana Inés Fernández/Somera Films, Corte y Confección de Películas (Spain) (in partnership with MFI)
ResonanceDirector Yordan Petkov, Producers Victoria Mitreva, Vanya Raynova/ Garti Films, Portokal (Bulgaria)
SłońceDirector Anna Zamecka, Producers Klaudia Smeja, Bogna Szewczyk – Skupien /MADANTS (Poland)
The HostessDirector Eric Nazarian, Producer Eric Nazarian, Panos Papahadzis, Maria Laskaridou /Argonauts Productions SA/Voyager Pictures (Armenia, Greece, Turkey)
The Last SummerDirector João Nuno Pinto & Fernanda Polacow, Producer Andreia Nunes/Wonder Maria Filmes (Portugal), Grifa Filmes (Brazil)
The Road Less TraveledDirector Tyagi Pallava, Producer Viktoria Petranyi/Proton Cinema (Hungary)
Travellers, Director Pierre Filmon, Producers Pierre Filmon, Sonal Sehgal / Almano Films (France), Sonal Sehgal Films (India)
Worker, Director Giorgi Kobalia, Producers Nika Gugushvili, Vako Kirkitadze/Film Asylum (Georgia)
YDirectors Maria Popistașu, Alexandru Baciu, Producer Anamaria Antoci/Tangaj Production (Romania) (in partnership with CROSSROADS)

Projects in Bank

AnimalDirector Milada Těšitelová, Producer Julie Žáčková / Unit and Sofa Praha (Czech Republic)
End PointDirector Maria Dauza, Producer Michael Sarantinos / STEFICON (Greece)
Because I Love Bad Weather, Director Yana Lekarska, Producer Kalin Kalinov / Invictus Ltd. (Bulgaria)
Memento Non Mori, Director Şeyhmus Altun, Producer Fevziye Hazal / Jurnal Kolektif Production (Turkey)
Julio’s VisionDirector Raul Garcia, Producer Raul Garcia / Solaris Dreams Films (Colombia)
PotionDirector Natalka Vorozhbyt, Producer Iryn Kostyuk, Sergiy Demidov, Anna Eliseeva / FILM AU PRODUCTION (Ukraine)
RadicalDirector Kenneth Mercken, Producer Maarten D’Hollander / Kreter Films (Belgium) (in partnership with EAVE)
The ViolationDirector Kate Cragg, Producer Daniel Landin / Art Practice (United Kingdom)
Things Washed AshoreDirector Janis Abele, Producer Marta Romanova-Jekabsone / GESTA FILMS (Latvia)

First Films First

40Maria louisa Bouleavard, Director Kristina Spassovska, Producer Maya Vitkova / Viktoria Films (Bulgaria)
BeastsDirector Maja Križnik, Producer Vlado Bulajić, Lija Pogačnik / December (Slovenia)
Before I Fall AsleepDirector Senka Domanović, Producer Marija Stojanović / SENSE Production (Serbia)
Nothing Will Be Named After MeDirector Đorđe Vojvodić, Producer Miljan Vučelić / Bitter Frames Production (Montenegro)
LionfishDirector Thanasis Trouboukis (Greece)
Long weekendDirector Katarina Koljević, Producer Natasa Damjanovic & Vladimir Vidic / DART FILM (Serbia)
ShibbolethDirector Alexandra Matheou, Producer Tonia Mishiali / Bark Like a Cat Film (Cyprus)
PietaDirector Andra Chiriac Hera (Romania)

Works In Progress Selection

Axis Of LifeDirector Atanas Hristoskov, Kalinov Brothers/ Invictus (Bulgaria)
BlazingDirector Balázs Dudás, Producer Gábor Kovács/ CineSuper (Hungary)
BreathersDirector Lech Kowalski, Producer Maison Mariou/Revolt Cinema (France), David Dávila Herrera/Living On Film (Mexico)
DadDirectors Dimitris Georgiev, Mariy Rosen, Producers Lyubo Yonchev, Rosen Savkov, Elena Doroshenko, Teodora Mladenova / Four Elements
Die Like A ManDirector Eric Nazarian, Producer Eric Nazarian/Voyager Pictures, Confluential Films / Mucho Mas Media (USA)
DyadDirector Yana Titova, Producers Vanya Rainova, Aleksandar Aleksiev, Nikolay Stoichkov/ Portokal, NoBlink (Bulgaria)
Everybody Dies On The NewsDirector Victor Ivanov, Producer Konstantin Vasilev/ B2Y (Bulgaria, Croatia)
Love OffDirector Ivaylo Hristov, Producer Orlin Ruevski/ Moviemento (Bulgaria)
Medium, Director Christina Ioakeimidi, Producers Yorgos Noussias, Louizos Aslanidis/Ekso Productions (Greece), Red Carpet Films (Bulgaria)
Nothing New Under The SunDirector Murad Zaloğlu, Producer Halil Kardaş/Film Code Production (Turkey)
PlagueDirector Ivan Vladimirov, Producer Mila Voinikova/ Miramar Film (Bulgaria)
RescuersDirector Ilina Perianova, Producers Ilina Perianova, Mila Voinikova/ Uga Buga Art, Miramar Film (Bulgaria)
Nobody Like MeDirectors Tomas Weinreb, Petr Kazda, Producer Guillaume de Seille/ Arizona Films (Czech Republic, Slovakia, France)
That’s It For Today, Director Marko Đjordjević, Producer Miloš Pušić/Film Center of Serbia (Serbia)
The Answer To All QuestionsDirector Dimitar Kotzev-Shosho, Producers Alexander Stanishev, Dimitar Kotzev-Shosho/ Kontraplan (Bulgaria)
The Circus FantasyDirector and Producer Raul Garcia/Solaris Dreams Films (Columbia)
The Backstage, Director Hovhannes Galstyan, Producers Hovhannes Galstyan, Laura Clever/ Anso Films; Parallels Film production; Clever Production; Wady Films; One Man Studio Production; GreyMark-45 Studio (Armenia, Germany, Luxembourg)
The PlatformDirector Nikolay Sotirov, Producer Nikolay Mutafchiev/ Premierstudio Plus (Bulgaria)
TrophiesDirector André Chandelle, Producer Vera Chandelle/Fabrikata (Bulgaria, Belgium)
WedlockDirector Magdalena Ralcheva, Producer Magdalena Ralcheva, Pavlina Jeleva/ Nuance Film (Bulgaria)
WindlessDirector Pavel Vesnakov, Producer Veselka Kiryakova/ Red Carpet Films (Bulgaria)
WiesenwoodDirector Jannis Alexander Kiefer, Producers Philipp Kreuzer, Katja Kuhlmann, Chris Degenhart, Lotte Ruf/ Maze Pictures (Germany)
Yasmeen’s ElementDirector Amman Abbasi, Producer Kamen Velkovski/ Alaz Film (Portugal, Pakistan)

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