This was a truly ‘coming-of- age’ edition of the well-known Sofia International Film Festival (March 9-19, 2017), organized with professionalism and self-confidence, and yet marked by enthusiasm and experimentation zeal! Small wonder, as its creator – director and producer Stefan Kitanov, continues to tirelessly display his creative streak and insatiable appetite for movies and music (he is also the power behind the “Festival Band,” consisting mostly of European festival directors, which I have had the privilege to enjoy a number of times in Karlovy Vary). Mira Staleva, SIFF’s deputy director, on the other hand, is also in charge of now authoritative European film project forum, Sofia Meetings, which has been gathering momentum for fifteen years now, making possible a number of remarkable projects as Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. lazarescu (2005).
This year, the festival comprised of twenty eight programs, most visible of which were the Main Competition program (15 first and second films from three continents), the Jameson Short film Competition (11 titles), the Balkan Competition (11 films), and the International Documentary Competition (11 titles) – not to be confused with the selection of Bulgarian Documentary Premieres, featuring another 12 films. Surely, the programs, introducing the most recently awarded films around the world – the four Gala Films, the sections Big Awards and Cinema Today: The Great Masters, as well as the homages to famous world directors like Aki Kaurismaki and Cristi Puiu (Chair of the International jury) – were also competing for the viewers’ attention. The recipients of the prestigious Sofia awards were the great Bulgarian actress Stoyana Mutafova, Bulgarian documentarian Adela Peeva, notable Polish director Agnieszka Holland and the Hollywood actor John Savage. And then there was the specifically Canadian connection, epitomized by International jury member Deborah Kara Ungar (The Game), and by the touring edition of Montreal (Concordia University-based) Cinema Politica, whose goal since 2003 has been to offer, free of charge, independent socio-political documentaries throughout Canada and internationally.
The FIPRESCI jury consisted of Christina Stojanova (Canada), Massimo Ecci (Italy), and Boryana Mateeva (Bulgaria). It gave its award to Requiem for Mrs J (Rekvijem za gospodju J, 2016), a Serbian/ Bulgarian/ Republic of Macedonia/ Russia/ France, second feature of Serbian director Bojan Vuletic.
© FIPRESCI 2017
Edited by Christina Stojanova