Monday, May 18, 2009

Variety Review | Eastern Plays

Cannes | Eastern Plays (Bulgaria-Sweden) By JAY WEISSBERG

A Waterfront Films (Bulgaria) presentation of a Waterfront Films (Bulgaria)/Chimney Pot, Film i Vast (Sweden) production. (International sales: Memento Films, Paris.) Produced by Kamen Kalev, Stefan Piryov, Fredrik Zander. Executive producer, Maya Vitkova. Co-producers, Anguel Christanov, Thomas Eskilksson. Directed, written by Kamen Kalev.

With: Christo Christov, Ovanes Torosian, Saadet Isil Aksoy, Nikolina Yancheva, Ivan Nalbantov, Krasimira Demireva, Hatice Aslan, Kerem Atabeyoglu, Chavdar Sokolov, Alexander "The Indian" Radanov, Anjela Nedialkova, Ivan Vitkov.
(Bulgarian, Turkish, English dialogue)

The quiet despair of directionless souls could be a dreary subject in the hands of a lesser novice, but Kamen Kalev's "Eastern Plays" is an honest, skillful rumination on the search for inner and outer connections. While the storylines of two existentially adrift brothers aren't always well integrated, Kalev brings a fine ear for dialogue and an unsentimental warmth to this personal tale, making for an impressive debut that ends on a surprisingly hopeful note. A long and fruitful fest life is assured, with even a chance for modest Euro arthouse play.

The bleak apartment blocs on the outskirts of Sofia, Bulgaria, are home to Georgi (Ovanes Torosian), a troubled teen dabbling in skinhead culture. Half-heartedly drawn to a violent racist clique by Fish (Chavdar Sokolov), Georgi is borderline disaffected, joining in when Drega (Alexander "The Indian" Radanov) leads a foreigner-bashing posse in an attack on a visiting Turkish family.

Stepping in to help the victims is Georgi's largely estranged older brother Christo, known as Itso (Christo Christov). While Georgi opens the pic, this is Itso's film in many ways. A former art student and sculptor, Itso just about gets through his days as a carpenter, supplementing a methadone dependency with multiple beers.

Itso pushes everyone away, especially g.f. Niki (Nikolina Yancheva), until he intervenes to help the Turkish family and connects with their daughter Isil (Saadet Isil Aksoy). Forming an unlikely yet thoroughly believable duo, these two are brought together by their mutual need for the kind of supportive humanity not found in their daily lives; they're the only people who listen to each other when they speak. Beyond overcoming the objections of her mistrustful parents (well played by Hatice Aslan and Kerem Atabeyoglu), Itso needs to surface from his funk before he can reach for a future.

While both brothers are floundering in existential solitude, Itso projects a far deeper sense of being both lost and trapped. Perhaps it's because tyro thesp Christov, an old friend of Kalev's, was the basis for the script, and many details are taken directly from his life. Kalev's sensitivity, combined with dialogue as truthful as it is natural, leaves no room for vampiric verisimilitude; while it comes as a shock to discover, in the end credits, that Christov tragically died last year, the entire film is suffused with poignant respect.

Less successful is a political subplot involving Drega accepting cash from a candidate to foment racist attacks; though undoubtedly based on fact, this belongs in a separate film. Kalev also seems to be searching too hard for ways to integrate the different strands.

All perfs are strong, but it's Christov and Aksoy who linger in the memory. At first Itso seems an unappealing character, but his haunted quality and sense of decency, coupled with wrenching despair, quickly confound that superficial impression. Aksoy, so fine in Semih Kaplanoglu's films "Egg" and "Milk," is a striking presence, her external beauty enhanced by a palpable empathy.

Largely handheld lensing captures the characters' unsettled cores, and the blowup from HD is flawless. Several scenes stand out for their emotional and technical honesty, including Itso's conversation with a shrink (Ivan Vitkov), in which Christov, seen in shadow against a window, explains that he has the strength to get up, but nothing to hold onto.

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Julian Atanassov; editors, Kalev, Stefan Piryiov, Johannes Pinter; music, Jean-Paul Wall; production designer, Martin Slavov; sound (Dolby Digital), Momchil Bozhkov, Boris Trayanov; associate producer, Dobriana Petkova; assistant director, Ina Hadjieva; casting, Vania Bajdarova, Harika Uygur. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 17, 2009. Running time: 88 MIN.

Cannes 2009 | Eastern Plays by kamen Kalev

Eastern Plays | Bulgaria, Sweden - 1h23 (2009) Directed, written by Kamen Kalev.
Film Info in PDF

Produced by Kamen Kalev, Stefan Piryov, Fredrik Zander. Executive producer, Maya Vitkova. Co-producers, Anguel Christanov, Thomas Eskilksson.
(Bulgarian, Turkish, English dialogue)

Cast: Christo Christov, Ovanes Torosian, Saadet Isil Aksoy, Nikolina Yancheva, Ivan Nalbantov, Krasimira Demireva, Hatice Aslan, Kerem Atabeyoglu, Chavdar Sokolov, Alexander "The Indian" Radanov, Anjela Nedialkova, Ivan Vitkov.

Synopsis: Two brothers who've lost all contact are suddenly brought together when they have opposite roles in a racist beating : while Georgi who's recently joined a neonazi group participates in the violence, Itzo witnesses and rescues the Turkish family.
Georgi, now being asked to participate in larger events, starts to question his implication in the movement and Itzo wonders if the beautiful Turkish girl he saved could be his ticket out from his sad life in Sofia. Only by reuniting will the two brothers be able to assess what they really want from life. (more...)

Production : Waterfront Film | Bacho Kiro 39 1202 Sofia Bulgaria
Tél : +359 2 985 2300 | |

Co-Production : Chimney Pot (Suède) | Film i Väst AB (Suède)

foreign sales : Memento Films International
6 cité paradis 75010 Paris France
Tél : +33 (0)1 53 34 90 20 | Fax : +33 (0)1 42 47 11 24 | |

Kamen Kalev was born in Burgas, Bulgaria in 1975. He graduated from the Femis Film School, Paris. Kamen's short films Orpheus, Maltonius Olbren, Get The Rabbit Back, Rabbit Troubles were presented and received awards at many International films festival such as Cannes, Berlin, Clermont-Ferrant, NY Film Festival, Locarno, Stockholm, Sarajevo... He also directed over 60 commercials and a number of muisic videos.

KAMEN KALEV Filmography

2009 : Eastern Plays
2007 : Rabbit Troubles (cm / short)
2005 : Get The Rabbit Back (cm / short)
2002 : Orpheus (cm / short)
2001 : Maltonius Olbren (cm / short)

Bulgarian movie “Eastern Plays” selected for Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes
On May 17, 2009 Bulgarian movie “Eastern Plays”, directed by Kamen Kalev premiered in Cannes. It will compete for the Camera D'or Award given to debut films. According to Olivier Pere, Directors’ Fortnight director, “Eastern Plays” is “original, moving and profound, and the actors are just amazing”. The film is a real find, he says. It is a low-budget one with many of the crew working for free. Private investor Angel Hristanov supported the shots financially. During a film festival in Sarajevo Kamen met Peter Gustavson, Director of a Swiss Film Fund, who also lent a helping hand. Three well-known Turkish actors play for free as well.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Honey of a Deal for Kaplanoglu

Germany’s leading regional film fund, Filmstiftung NRW, has allocated $14.7m – a third of its annual budget - to 35 projects, including Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu’s BAL - HONEY, the third and final part of his Yusuf trilogy, between Kaplan Film and Heimatfilm.

German film production will step up a gear this week after the Berlin-based German Federal Film Board finally agreed its budget for 2009. It is understood to be close to last year’s $93.4m. The decision, following a special meeting of its administrative council, means the FFA can resume funding, including paying producers “reference funding” for successful 2008 projects.

Friday, May 01, 2009

2009 | The Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival in Ankara

ANKARA - The Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival in Ankara will feature movies from the 1980s to turn the spotlight on the pressures women faced during that decade. Ninety films by 81 female directors will be on silver screen at the festival. The political, social and cultural transformations of the 1980s, a significant decade both in Turkey and in the world, will be relived on the silver screen as part of an annual women’s film festival in Ankara. The festival will open May 7 at 8:30 p.m. at the State Opera and Ballet building in Ankara with an opening ceremony that will be aired by state-run TRT 2. The festival will conclude May 14.

Film fest looks back at the 80’s

"The 1980s were years in which films were subject to censorship and women were confined to traditional roles in Turkey," Halime Güner, the coordinator of the 12th Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival, said at a press conference Wednesday. "We want to bring the ’80s back and put them in the spotlight from the perspective of women to highlight the pressures women faced at the time and remind people of the historical facts of the period, which tend to be forgotten."

The Flying Broom film festival is Turkey’s first to focus on women. This year’s edition will feature screenings of 90 films by 81 female directors from 26 countries, along with side events related to the theme, "1980s."

Speaking at the press conference, film critic Alin Taşçıyan said women’s cinema symbolizes the opposition to the pressures and traditional roles women are confronted with and to any kind of discrimination, including gender discrimination. She said it was after the 1980s that women began to raise their voices in Turkish cinema and shoot their own films that dealt with women’s problems.

"This year’s festival has the best program in the last two years of all the film festivals in Turkey and in the world, including the Cannes Film Festival," Taşçıyan said. "I invite everyone to watch these carefully selected films."

The films screened will include those by prominent female directors such as the German filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger, the Spanish actress and director Antonia San Juan and Magda, known as the diva of Egyptian cinema. The event will also showcase Turkish and international documentaries by female directors, as well as films from the 1980s, including "Mine" (1982), by the renowned late director Atıf Yılmaz, and "Tüm Kapılar Kapalıydı" (1989) by Memduh Ün. Ün’s film, titled "All the Doors Were Closed" in English, focuses on the difficulties its female hero faced under the military regime of the 1980s.

In addition to film and documentary screenings in different categories, the festival will also feature panel discussions, exhibitions, concerts and other side events. An exhibition titled "On September 12É" referring to the day the Turkish military staged a coup in 1980, will run between May 8 and 18 at the İbrahim Çeçen Foundation IC Art Gallery on Kızılırmak Street in Kocatepe. The exhibition will feature letters sent by women from Turkey’s different provinces, reflecting on their thoughts and feelings about the coup period and its effect on women. Letters written by the visitors to the exhibition will also be added to the collection.

The International Federation of Film Critics Award will also be presented at the festival, the only event in Turkey where this award is given.

Festival films will be screened at the Kızılırmak movie theater and the German Culture Center as well as at university campuses in Ankara. Documentaries will be shown at Ankara University’s Communication Faculty, and at the Bilkent University and Middle East Technical University campuses. Short films and documentaries will be free of charge. Other tickets will be 6 Turkish Liras. For more info: