The 16th edition of the Sofia International Film Festival took place in March 2012. Screenings are held throughout March and into April, giving the public and festival employees ample opportunity to sample new films and old classics. The festival's busiest week was mid-March: the festival juries watched the films in competition; directors, producers and other industry professionals networked, pitched projects, and took part in panels and workshops at 'Sofia Meetings', and at week's end was the awards ceremony. The festival has five competitive sections: International, Balkan, Bulgarian Feature, Documentary, and Shorts. Its out-of-competition categories are wide-ranging, including old and new Bulgarian films, the work of 'Masters' and 'New Discoveries' in world cinema, 'Focus' sections on individual countries (Romania and Ireland), and retrospectives of the work of key directors such as Danis Tanovic, Ettore Scola, Miloš Forman and Andrzej Wajda.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Jameson Short Film Award. The festival's most lucrative prize, it awards €6,000 to the director of the best Bulgarian short film, selected from 12 finalists. This year's winner was Morning by Neda Morfova, which observes the interaction between a teenage girl and the policeman who drives her home.
The festival's International Jury awards a Grand Prix of €5,000 to a film from the International Competition, which consists of first and second features by directors from around the world. 2012's winner was Found Memories (Historias que so existem quando lembradas) by Júlia Murat, which traces the effects of a young photographer's arrival among the elderly population of a Brazilian village.
The festival's third monetary award offered €1,000 to the best documentary: the prize for this year went to This is Not a Film (In film nist), in which Iranian director Jafar Panahi records his daily struggle against the regime, which has placed him under house arrest and banned him from making films for 20 years (hence the film's title). This year, for the first time, UNESCO supported the festival's Best Documentary award. UNESCO also helped the festival to organise a 'Balkan visions' public forum, which examined the correlation between culture and development in Southeast Europe.
Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov and his debut feature Avé took 4 of the festival's remaining 7 awards, including Best Director and Best Balkan Film. Bojanov's film follows Avé, a teenage girl, and Kamen, a friend she meets while hitchhiking from Sofia to Ruse. Kamen is increasingly disturbed by Avé's potentially dangerous habit of telling made-up stories about their lives to the people who pick them up.
Sofia International Film Festival: www.siff.bg