Jessica Woodworth and Peter Brosens with the Special Award Sofia Film Fest

After the premiere of "Luka" in Sofia, the festival will present a special retrospective of the directors

Jessica Woodworth and Peter Brosens have dedicated their joint creative path to cinema. A graduate of Princeton (classical theater and literature) and Stanford (documentary film), she won a Fulbright Scholarship and filmed the documentary The Virgin Diaries in Morocco. While working on her thesis film Urga Song in Mongolia, she met Peter Brossens. He studied social and cultural anthropology and holds a master's degree in visual anthropology. Between 1993 and 1999 he produced and co-directed the documentary series Mongolia Trilogy. At the beginning of the new millennium, Woodworth and Brosens devoted themselves to new collaborative projects through their independent Belgian production company Bo Films.

Jessica Woodworth and Peter Brosens are one of the most distinctive and successful creative duos in contemporary European cinema. Their films are anticipated and often triumph at international film festivals, and their last three works have been co-produced with Bulgaria. The retrospective will include all their feature films from Khadak to Luka.

Venice Golden Lion of the Future winner Khadak (2006) is a poetic portrait of the sad reality in Mongolia, a combination of dreams and memories. Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth's first feature film tells the epic story of Bagi, a 17-year-old herder in the freezing steppes of Mongolia whose destiny is to become a shaman. Bagi saves the life of a beautiful girl who is stealing coal. Together, the two discover that rumours of a general epidemic are false, and the aim is to destroy nomadism and pastoral traditions.

Ambitious and visually impressive is Brosens and Woodworth's second film, Altiplano (2009), presented at Cannes Critics' Week. Shot on three continents and in five languages, it tells the stories of two grieving women whose lives intertwine.

In The Fifth Season (2012), a mysterious disaster strikes a village deep in the Ardennes. Spring refuses to come. The cycle of nature has turned upside down. Alice, Thomas and Octave, three children from the village, try to make sense of the world that is crumbling around them. This visually striking, symbol-laden work of cinema won the film critics at its premiere at the Venice International Film Competition and the Green Drop and Young Cinema Award.

The world premiere of Jessica Woodworth and Peter Brossens' fourth feature film, King of Belgians, is in the Horizons programme at the 73rd Venice Film Festival 2016. The film has been successfully programmed at over 30 festivals around the world, including Busan, Palm Springs, São Paulo, Thessaloniki, Dubai, Tallinn, Rotterdam and Gothenburg. Belgian actor Peter Van den Begin (The Fifth Season) has been given the role of the King. Nina Nikolina plays the role of the Bulgarian folk singer Ana, who wins the heart of the Belgian king, and Valentin Ganev is the deputy director. He is the Turkish secret service chief. The film features a real Bulgarian folklore ensemble with singers from the most famous Bulgarian choirs - "The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices", "Philip Kutev", "Slavey" quartet and others. The journey was filmed almost entirely in Bulgaria, co-produced by Art Fest (Mira Staleva and Stefan Kitanov). "This film is a classic "mockumentary" (pseudo-documentary), which skillfully combines satire in the expression with deeper messages," - says Variety.

The meeting of The Barefoot Emperor (2019) with the Bulgarian audience was marked by a real summer storm in the special edition of the 24th Sofia Film Fest in the pandemic year 2020. The film is a dramatic comedy about the misadventures of the familiar King of Belgium (Peter Van den Begin) in a sanatorium on Tito's Island in Croatia. Together with his entourage and a new girlfriend, the charming Lady Liz (Geraldine Chaplin), they fall under the care of the sanatorium's authoritarian director, Dr. Otto Kroll (Udo Kier). At one point, a delegation from Vienna appears, led by Dr. Ilse von Stroheim (Geraldine Chaplin), head of the nationalist New Europe... 

The inspiration for the latest film story, produced by Peter Brossens and narrated by Jessica Woodworth in Luka (Belgium-Italy-Netherlands-Bulgaria-Armenia), comes from Dino Buzzati's masterpiece The Desert of the Tartars. The protagonist Luka is a young soldier who longs to go into battle and finds himself in an isolated fortress. There, a squad of men vainly await the attacks of a mysterious enemy. This film shines with the presence of the legendary Geraldine Chaplin and the lead role is entrusted to the young Jonas Smulders, one of the promising "rising stars" of the Berlinale. The film is again co-produced by Art Fest, and premiered in Rotterdam's Big Screen Competition in 2023.

"The film transports the story's action to the future, to a windswept wasteland, the result of our neglect of climate change... Luka's hunger for war and blood gradually settles - he is enchanted by Fort Kairos and his friendship with two of his brothers-in-arms. The bond between them brings light and warmth to their joyless world, but a tragic twist is about to happen..." says director Jessica Woodworth.

Don't miss the films of the creative tandem Jessica Woodworth and Peter Brossens in the programme of the 28th Sofia International Film Festival!

Expect "Luka" on the big screen in Sofia on the eve of the festival!

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