Ralitsa Asenova has lived in Paris for 10 years. She has studied theater and cinema at the Sorbonne, at the University of Bologna, and at the Cultural Policies of Europe at the Institute of European Sciences in Paris. In 2014, together with two French women, he created the "Meetings of the Young European Cinema" in Sofia and the "Days of Bulgarian Cinema" in Paris, the third of which will be held in the autumn.
For the third consecutive year, the festival has gathered talents in the field of cinema. What will be the focus this year?
There are several highlights this year. The first and second feature films by young European authors, already presented at prestigious festivals, a thematic program of films and discussions called "Children's Rights", part of the project of the French Institute in Bucharest - "Perspectives on childhood, education and migration in Eastern Europe “. So is the Forever young program, ageless films by classic directors who, at the beginning of their careers, were unknown to the public, like most of the directors we show in our program. This year we are especially proud of the parallel educational program in cinema, with free screenings and discussions that we have developed for students, in partnership with the Sofia Culture Program, the Bulgarian National Film Archive and the French Institute. The difference, compared to the previous two editions, is that this year the school screenings are open to all interested children and young people, within the vacancies in the cinemas.
What is Bulgarian participation in films and how do we become involved in European cinema?
It was in the program for students that we included the first feature film of the young director Elitsa Petkova - "Lament". In our opinion, both the topic and the aesthetic form will provoke interesting discussions with young people. For me, this is a film that carries a point of view and a look at contemporary reality through cinema. In contemporary Bulgarian cinema we are witnessing more and more such films, which somehow join the European cinematography and are noticed in the important European festivals. The idea of our association is mostly to present the Bulgarian cinema in Paris, where I live most of the year, and reciprocally the best of the modern French and European cinema in Bulgaria.
How will this year be different when it comes to designing the program?
We have different criteria when selecting films, but the main and most important is that each of them carries something original, often not shown so far in Bulgaria, different aesthetics that we can present and defend to the public. I have already mentioned the various components of the program. With each passing year it becomes more inclusive. Contemporary European cinema is not a tradition, it is both avant-garde and with a look at the classics - a harmonious blend of genres, styles and innovative discoveries.
You have announced a preliminary contest for the festival trailer. What are the young talents you have chosen?
This year, we turned to students from high schools in Sofia who sent their photos or videos with which they stated their wish to participate. With four of them - Velizara Georgieva, Lyubo Chavdarov, Sami Al Dakroni, Alexander Dimitrov and with the special participation of the director Svetoslav Draganov, as well as two ladies from our team - Yoana Pankova and Vasilena Vasileva, we shot the trailer of the festival. It impresses with its minimalist means of expression, a deliberately sought counterpoint to the dynamic inner emotional world of the youngest generation.
Is there a specific theme for the trailer?
There were three pre-set words that the students had to think about. After that, we discussed the ideas for a long time and came up with the ones that were built into the trailer. I would say that a large part of the conceptual realization was born directly during the production process, a method borrowed from the "New Wave" of French cinema.
Tell us more about creative workshops and how students are selected?
During the first two editions of the festival, we made a critique workshop. And in this edition we also included a hands-on workshop in which students will have the opportunity to make their own short films. The only condition for them to get involved is to be motivated and consistent, because the workshop requires a lot of work during this festival week.
How does such an idea find its place in Bulgaria? And what are the feelings and emotions between the European and Bulgarian artists?
I would not say that the idea of this type of festival, with a non-competitive nature, with student activities, with films unknown to the public, is easy to implement in Bulgaria. But maybe every start is difficult. European artists are always happy to visit Bulgaria, and vice versa. The days of Bulgarian cinema in Paris are very enjoyable, and I hope to be fruitful. Foreign guests get to know contemporary and old Sofia, meet their colleagues - more than once the festival was an occasion for new acquaintances and collaborations. This is also part of the purpose of our event.
How do teenage boys manage to concentrate on a learning film festival, and what do they most often surprise you with?
Our experience from the first two editions shows that it all depends on the way a certain film is presented: with an appropriate and intriguing discussion, with a meeting with a director or another professional, etc. Of course, the selection of films is also very important and usually, when this work is well done, there is no problem with concentration. "Educational Film Festival" sounds a bit strict, but our goal is to arouse interest in the mysterious image, in the boundless world of cinema. To give the necessary guidelines for analysis, and subsequently for young people and children to discover its merits and mechanisms for its creation, with our help. When there is a need, if I can use the slang expression, to "ignite" them in the cinema and help them with the initial steps… This is our methodology in other film education projects that we deal with and enter the Bulgarian scene.
What are the most common topics that students focus on? What are your professional observations?
The themes are provoked by the films, but perhaps the most interesting is this: about the young man's place in society and how he fits into it. Of course, they love well-made comedies. They raise the topic of the dilemmas of existence, the contrasts between generations, the fears of future realization and, of course, similar to their love stories. For the first year we will hold a practical workshop, during which short films will be made. We are yet to find out what the topics will be. We would suggest to the participants: the inspiration from the city labyrinth, a place for interesting stories and amazing destinies.
Where will the festival take place? How did the venue provoke the participants' desire for the perfect movie?
This year the festival will take place at the Odeon cinema and at the French Institute in Sofia. Both places are emblematic of Sofia. Odeon Cinema, with its rich history and active advocacy of significant classical and contemporary cinema, and the wonderful hall of the French Institute, which is gaining momentum among Bulgarian movie buffs with selected titles from French cinema, often not shown in Bulgaria so far. I hope that the city as a plot space will inspire the participants in the practical studio to make their films. It will end with a screening of these films at the Odeon Cinema in front of an audience that the young authors themselves can also invite - another opportunity to relay the interest in cinema among young people.