The exceptional Deborah Kara Unger is a member of the international Jury of the 21-st Sofia Film Fest

As the first Canadian accepted into Australia’s prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art, the award-winning Deborah Kara Unger followed her debut with Russell Crowe in “Blood Oath” starring in such films as David Cronenberg’s “Crash”, David Fincher’s “The Game” with Michael Douglas, “Hurricane,” with Denzel Washington, and “Payback,” with Mel Gibson. From blockbusters to indies, with over 50 films to her credit, she has starred alongside such luminaries as John Travolta, Nicole Kidman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Keaton, Samuel Jackson, Martin Sheen, and Al Pacino, and will next be seen opposite Nicolas Cage in 2017’s “Vengeance: A Love Story”. Her works have garnered her awards including the Geraldine Page Best Actress Award opposite Sir Ian McKellen in “Emile,” Canadian Academy Award honors starring opposite Sophia Loren in “Between Strangers” and Ralph Fiennes in Istvan Szabo’s “Sunshine”, and in 2014 she received Hollywood’s Woman In Film “Gena Award” – named after Indie Icon and Cassavetes mainstay Gena Rowlandsfor her commitment to independent cinema.

The other members of the jury are Cristi Puiu (Romania), director, Chair of the jury, Manfred Schmidt (Germany), film expert, Elitza Petkova (Germany-Bulgaria), director and Anjela Nedyalkova (Bulgaria), actress.  

Chair of the International Jury for first and second films at 2017 Sofia Film Fest is the Romanian director Cristi Puiu. Born in Bucharest in 1967 he studied painting at Ecole Supérieure d'Arts Visuels in Geneva. During his studies, he made several shorts and documentaries. After his return to Romania he continued painting and made his feature debut – “Staff and Dough” (2001), followed by the short film “Cigarettes and Coffee”, awarded with the Golden Bear at the Berlinale 2004. In the following year appears the work that became a symbol of the new Romanian cinema – “The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu” (2005). Presented as a project of Sofia Meetings in 2004, the film premiered in Cannes winning the Un Certain Regard trophy, followed by six awards at Transilvania Film Festival, the special jury awards in Chicago and Copenhagen, and countless other awards. The next film of Cristi Puiu, “Aurora” (2010), again had its world premiere at Cannes Film Festival within “Un Certain Regard” selection.  The film got prestigious international trophies, including those in Wiesbaden and Karlovy Vary. The movie won the „East of the West” trophy at the latter festival.     
“Sieranevada” is the newest film of Puiu and he will present it to the public in Sofia. The picture caught the attention of both viewers and specialists in the Main Competition program at Cannes 2016. It got the trophies for Best Picture and Best Director in Chicago 2016, Best Original screenplay at International Cinephile Society Awards, and Best Cinematography at 2016 Minsk festival. 

Manfred Schmidt is a film expert who was born and got his education in Germany. From 1969 to 1981 he worked for the “Maxim Gorki” theatre in Berlin. This step led to a seven-year period as a free-lance author and drama consultant. During those years, he completed correspondence courses at the Literature Institute in Leipzig. In 1988 he started working as a consultant in screenplay and dramatic writing and as an author of documentaries for the most prominent German film studios at that time - DEFA. In the years 1990 - 1992, he was a Deputy Editor-in-Chief at DEFA. Shortly before his election as a Chief Executive of MDM (Medienförderung GmbH), a position he held from 1998 to 2016, the respected movie expert worked as a Deputy Program Manager at the Department of Culture and Science of MDR - Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk. Manfred Schmidt is a member of the European Film academy, Kuratorium Förderverein Deutscher Kinderfilm. He is also a member of the Advisory Boards of „Script EAST” and Sam Spiegel International Film Lab.  

The Big Award winner at the 20-th International Sofia Film Fest for her film “Zhaleika”, Elitza Petkova, was born in 1983 in the city of Veliko Tarnovo. In 2009 she took a master’s degree in Philosophy and Japanese Studies in Dusseldorf. Meanwhile she shot primarily socio-critical documentaries. In 2011 she enrolled in the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin. She earned festival awards for scriptwriting and directing as early as her shorts „Mein Sohn” (2013) and „Nabelschnur” (2015) were done.  In 2015 her film „Abwesend” was selected for the competition program of Cinéfondation in Cannes. Her first feature movie “Zhaleika” (2016) was included in the competition program Generation 14+ at Berlinale where it was nominated as the Best First Feature among all sections and received a Special Mention by the international jury. „Zhaleika” “got the Sofia City Of Film Grand Prix award at the 20-th Sofia Film fest, followed by more trophies and countless international festival selections.

Anjela Nedyalkova who acts in “Trainspotting” follow-up, Danny Boyle’s “T2 Trainspotting”, will apprise also the films included in the Competition Program of the Sofia Film Fest.  Her first feature film is Kamen Kalev’s “Eastern Plays”, shot in 2009. Then follows her role in Konstantin Bozhanov’s “Ave” (20011) where her partner is Ovanes Torosian. Anjela also takes part in the movies “The Sixth Day” directed by Vladislav Radev, “Bulgarian Rhapsody” („The Road to Costa del  Maresme”) directed by Ivan Nichev, “The Petrov File” directed by Georgi Balabanov, television series “Liaisons”. In Joost van Ginkel’s „The paradise suite” (2015) Anjela plays the role of a Bulgarian woman Jenya. The jury of the 20-th Sofia Film Fest awarded her with an honorary diploma for this role. “The Paradise Suite” was the Dutch proposal for a foreign movie “Oscar” in 2016.