Rositsa Valkanova: Romanian Movies Took Bulgarians on Their Teams to Berlin and Cannes
Novinite is offering an English-language version of an interview with the Bulgarian co-producer of Aferim!, a movie awarded with a Silver Bear in Berlin in 2015.
Rositsa Valkanova talks with Vladimir Mitev, a Bulgarian journalist who runs the bilingual Bridge of Friendship blog, about Romanian-Bulgarian cooperation in cinema which brought about international recognition for Romanians and Bulgarians.
Bridge of Friendship is dedicated to helping Bulgarians and Romanians know each other. Its publications are always out in both Romanian and Bulgarian.
Over the past years Romanian and Bulgarian filmmakers have been cooperating actively, with their joint effort bringing about high-quality movies and international recognition. One of the fruits of this partnership – Aferim, which was awarded a Silver Bear in Berlin in 2015 – was presented at the Dohodno Zdanie edifice [a landmark neoclassical building] in Ruse within the Sofia Film Fest on the Road mini festival.
The film tells a story of the wild times of the 1930s, when Romanian policeman Constandin receives an assignment from local boyar Iordache to find Carfin, a Roma slave who fled after an affair with Iordache's wife, Sultana. As they are searching for Carfin, later nabbing and bringing him back to his owner, Costandin and his son run into the Wallachian realities at the time when the Romanian identity is being affirmed among its citizens and emancipates itself from Ottoman and Phanariot influence.
In a conversation with the audience after the movie's screening, Radu Jude said the story represented a historic moment which also affected present-day Romania, including on nationalist sentiment. At the same time, the film sheds light on the ongoing social change in the 19th century.
Bulgarian Rositsa Valkanova, minor producer of the movie co-produced by Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and France, took part in communication with the audience. She gave an interview for the Bridge of Friendship blog, pointing out the tendency of Romanian-Bulgarian partnership that has been ever more prominent in cinema over the last years.
Ms Valkanova, you are one of the faces of Romanian-Bulgarian cooperation in cinema in the last years. What are the concrete dimensions of this cooperation to date in terms of projects and accomplishments?
Truly, over the last years Bulgaria has started to be sustainably present in the European film production not only through national produce, but also as a minor co-producer of Dutch, Spanish, Russian, Greek, Macedonian, Serbian Turkish and other films – and last but not least, Romanian ones. In 2015, two titles appeared – apart from Aferim! and De ce eu? [“Why Me?”] of Tudor Giurgiu, where the Chuchkov Brothers are the Bulgarian co-producer. This year, the movie Câini[“Dogs”] by Bogdan Mirica has had big success on festival screens, with Stefan Komandarev’s Argo Film being the co-producer from Bulgaria. In the moment, a work by Paul Negoescu is in preparation, and it is also in co-production with Bulgaria (“Screening Emotions”). I am sure that new projects are also being prepared. Those who worked together will seek to repeat the cooperation, since one can work really well with Romanian counterparts. We understand each other fully, there are no big distances to separate us and, what is quite important, the movies realized to date have indeed achieved big success! As unpleasant as it may be to us, but the fact is that Romanian movies also “brought” Bulgarians to both Berlin and Cannes. I don’t think this should be enough for us, we should strive on our own and do cinema that will make it to the much aspired big festivals. I am sure this will happen, but in the meantime, it is very important for us to gather experience, and not just by working on Bulgarian movies. Such a co-production is possible due to the quota for minor co-productions which is part of the annual state help for cinema in Bulgaria. Co-productions are a crucial part of the filmmaking system in Europe and we are glad that Bulgaria adopted this practice more than 10 years ago. For your information, it is only this year that the adoption of a certain co-productions quota is expected in Romania.
Romanian filmmakers could look for minor partners or film equipment in different countries. What attracts them to Bulgaria, rather than other countries near their homeland?
Of course they also look in other countries! Both we and then look for co-producers in the first place in rich countries like France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, but what is most natural is the aspiration to collaborate with neighbors. We have a lot in common in terms of mentality, traditions, we get along, but it is not enough for us to be merely “Bulgarians and Romanians” to work together well. Everyone has to find their own colleague, the person with whom they share the same views, tastes, priorities. Such people can be found everywhere and we can only be glad to discover each other with our neighbors.
You are the minor co-producer of Aferim!, the movie of director Radu Jude awarded a Silver Bear in 2015. You are also co-producer of [Bulgarian] director Dragomir Sholev Podslon [“Shelter”] which received the Big Award of Sofia Film Fest in 2011, while [Romanian novelist and scriptwriter] Răzvan Rădulescu took part in writing the script. What triggered Romanian-Bulgarian cooperation on these films? What was the precise role of Bulgarian state institutions, private companies and filmmakers in them and what recognition have they gained for their participation?
What state institutions provide is funding, without them our cooperation would not be possible as it is. To the other point, each project as its own story. With Ada Solomon, the Romanian producer of Aferim!, we have known each other for nearly 20 years. We always wanted to work together but would not meet in any project while at a “project market” (a side event in almost every international film festival at which projects are presented and partners for their realization are sought) Ada and Radu introduced their new project. I liked it very much and we set off to realize it together. This is a long road that goes through lots of work, translation, draft budgets, realization strategies, search for financing institutions, waiting for results of competitions… Results are not always positive as you can figure out, but when they are, once production money has been raised, this is when the tougher work on the movie’s realization begins. It is not always the case for good movies to gain high recognition, but when it happens, there is a lot of joy. One forgets hardship and is ready to start from scratch. As for the concrete dimensions of Bulgarian participation in the production of Aferim!, it was quite big – the entire filming, camera and lighting equipment, camera assistants, sound equipment, crew in the field, a large part of the props and costumes.
The debut of Drago Sholev was is not realized as a co-production, but I had known Răzvan Rădulescu for years. Drago was looking for a co-scriptwriter and that was how their joint work was kicked off.
For more than 10 years now, the word goes about a “Romanian new wave” in the world of cinema. What is the secret of success of Romanian cinema?
This is a question for cinema scholars and film critics to answer… I think there is a more stable cinema school in Romania and that cinema education is more serious. They understood very quickly that cinema has to be promoted and created a special institution to that end. Whereas in Bulgaria, when we want to promote our movies around the world, to have advertisement budget, this is seen as a whim.
Communication between Romanian directors and actors and Bulgarian specialists in cinema certainly has dimensions which remain behind the scenes. What do Romanians and Bulgarians learn about each other while making films together? Do they attain a new way of thinking, new horizons and other joint projects while getting to know each other?
I think I have already answered to this question. We certainly learn a lot about each other, about our cultures, about similarities and differences between us. It is the same from a professional point of view, even though standards there are much more alike. I can say, not without pride, that the Bulgarian teams are doing a great job, they are very highly appreciated and I recently heard a Greek colleague with a movie done in co-production with Bulgaria say he is so impressed that he intends on hiring a Bulgarian team even if not in co-production with Bulgaria. One more thing, this spring, when the Romanian Movie Academy announced its awards (Aferim! grabbed the prizes in 13 of 15 categories!) it was hard for us to believe that Bulgarians were also among the awarded people – the make-up artist Petya Simeonova and field sound engineer Momchil Bozhkov. We can only learn more from our Romanian counterparts as never in the Bulgarian film academy’s history have foreign colleagues be nominated, let alone awarded, while there have been many [foreign nationals on the teams of Bulgarian movies] over the years. What is more, the categories of “make-up” and “sound on the field” do not exist in Bulgarian awards at all.
What new films and cinema cooperation between Romanians and Bulgarians are being realized at the moment and what can we expect shortly?
I mentioned Paul Negoescu's movie, personally I am preparing for the new project of Radu Jude, which explores the not-so-distant history of Romanian from a contemporary point of view, more precisely the attitude of the Romanian state to Jews during World War Two. I think other colleagues are also looking for co-production with Romania. We are looking forward for Romania to be accepted into the official quota for minor co-production. There was no such co-production until now, so no Bulgarian projects with minor Romanian participation have not been realized actually. It is important that there is such reciprocity. I believe this will happen as early as this year, and then I expect that the number of co-producers will grow substantially.
A Romanian-language version is available here.
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