Most of the titles in the 23rd Sofia Film Fest’s International Competition are confirmed – two of them are Bulgarian films

Lachezar Avramov’s “A Picture with Yuki” and Dragomir Sholev’s “The Pig” are the Bulgarian titles in the 23rd Sofia Film Fest’s International Competition. They will be competing for the Grand Prix “Sofia – City of Film” Prize, provided by Sofia Municipality. It will be awarded to a representative of the winning film on March 16 at the Awards Ceremony.

Lachezar Avramov’s directorial debut is based on Miroslav Penkov's short story of the same name published in the collection “East of the West: A Country in Stories”, originally released in USA in 2011. Presented for the first time within the 2016 Sofia Meetings programme, screenwriters of the film are Dimitar Stoyanovich and Lachezar Avramov, and producers – “Chouchkov Brothers”, supported by the Bulgarian National Film Center. “A Picture with Yuki” (Bulgaria, 2019) is also the first Bulgarian co-production with Japan and Wa Entertainment in particular. The story revolves around the Bulgarian Georgi and his Japanese wife Yuki who met as immigrants in Canada. Having tried unsuccessfully for a baby, the couple decides to undergo in vitro procedures in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, they get involved in a tragic accident, the consequences of which profoundly affect their lives... The lead roles are performed by Rushen Vidinliev and Japanese actress Kiki Sugino.

Dragomir Sholev’s “The Pig” (Bulgaria, 2018) drew the attention of producers in 2015 when it was first presented as a project at Sofia Meetings and won the Yapimlab’s Young Producer Award (Turkey). The project’s development then continued with its participation in Torino Film Lab, with support by SEE Cinema Network and by the Bulgarian National Film Center. In the autumn of 2016, it was presented at the professional forum of So-Independent Festival and won the Nu Boyana Film Studios’ “Danny Lerner Award” for Best Project. The film tells the story of a 13-year-old boy, nicknamed The Pig, who is subjected to daily harassment by his classmates. “The Pig” has received no financial support for its production from anystate institution – it is produced entirely with private funds from the Bulgarian companies “Gorilla Film”, “New Boyana Film Studios”, B2Y, “Screening Emotions” and “Papillon Film” (Romania). The project is also supported by UNICEF.

Wall” (“Wycieczka”, Poland-Germany, 2019) is the feature debut of Polish director Bartosz Grudziecki. The film focuses on the differences between the poor and the rich, the city and the village, the future and the past in modern Poland. The main heroine Anna is a girl living in a small village. Fate meets her with a wealthy couple from Warsaw. Naive and driven by her pursuit of a different life, Anna decides to help them find ancient ruins in the country. During the journey, a serious competition emerges between the women and it even threatens the couple‘s relationship.

Iranian director Ali Jaberansari’s feature debut is “Tehran: City of Love” (Iran-Great Britain-Holland, 2018). Relying on the theme of unhappy love – a common and special storyline in Persian tales, the film tells an exciting story about three different persons looking for love, as well as it reminds us about the inconsistent nature of human happiness.

Hanalei Bay” (Japan, 2018) is the second feature film by Japanese director Daishi Matsunaga. His debut feature, “Pieta in the Toilet” (2015) has become a national hit and has collected many international awards. Based on Haruki Murakami's short story, “Hanalei Bay” is about a single mother’s great pain who lost her teenage son – he died surfing in Hawaii. For 10 years after his death, she continued to visit the island, but never managed to overcome the pain. One day she meets two young surfers...

Steve Krikris’ “The Waiter” (Greece, 2018) tells the story of Renos – an old-fashioned waiter, pedant, loner and keen collector of information. Everyday routine gives him security, but some unexpected events happen and then life seems to be full of surprises.

This year we also have a film from China in the International Competition – Xin Zhu's “Vanishing Days” (China, 2018). The director had almost no experience in moviemaking, but he worked for a long time on his extremely low-budget project. Unlike most debut features, “Vanishing Days” has a bold audiovisual start combined with impressive cinematic language. Fascinating, almost like a fairy-tale, the story takes us to a small town in South China where a teenage girl tries to find inspiration and to write her homework about adventure and strange lands...

Trust” (Turkey, 2019) directed by Sefa Öztürk tells the story of an ordinary family couple and inevitable problems that enter their lives after the reappearance of the woman’s ex-lover. Lack of trust always result in a crack in a relationship, but when feelings are genuine, two people can find their way back to each other’s hearts.

The Romanian film “Monsters.” (Romania, 2019) directed by Marius Olteanu will be a part of the International competition in Sofia shortly after its premiere at the Berlinale Forum. Although this is Olteanu's first feature, he is an experienced photographer and has already directed four shorts. In “Monsters.”, the story is about a couple who has been married for ten years. They seem to be loved by their families and friends when together, but despised individually. Logically and inevitably, a moment comes when the husband and wife have to decide whether separation would be the best move for the future…

Brothers” (Turkey-Germany-Bulgaria, 2018) is Ömür Atay’s debut feature which has its premiere at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival a few months ago. The film was presented both as a project and “works in progress” at Sofia Meetings. The story follows the 17-years-old Yusuf, who returns home after four years spent in a detention center, and his account of what he was forced to commit by his relatives and according to centuries-old traditions. Skilfully crafted, the film focuses on guilt and punishment, and on the choice between family traditions and moral conscience that one is forced to make...

Golden Youth” (France-Belgium, 2019) is the second Eva Ionesco’s film – French director who, for the second time in a row, has an opportunity to enchant the audience with Isabelle Huppert’s charm. Two couples – young lovers and middle-aged upper-class bohemians – meet in Paris, in the legendary nightlife’s vortex of this cosmopolitan city. It doesn’t take long before all four of them begin to share everything – love, drugs, creativity, and the thrill of being alive without living in the constraints imposed by society...

The last movie in the competition is due to be announced.

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