3D 5th Wave 70s Culture 80s Cinema A Night of Horror AAustralian film Action Activism Adaptation Adelaide Film Festival Adventure Advocacy African American Age of Adaline AI albanian Alien Abduction alien covenant aliens Alpha alt-right altzheimers amazon Amitabh Bachchan Animal Animation anime anthology Anti-vaxx Ari Gold Art Asia Pacific Screen Awards Asian Cinema Australian film AV Industry Avengers Bad Robot BDSM Beach Boys Berlinale BFG Bianca Biasi Big Hero 6 Biography Biopic Blade Runner Blake Lively B-Movies Bollywood Breast Cancer Brian Wilson Brisbane Bruce Willis Camille Keenan Canadian Cancer candyman Cannes cannibalism Cannon Films Cesars CGI Chapman To Character Actors Charlie Hunnam Charlize Theron Chemsex China Lion Chinese Chloe Grace Moretz Chris Hemsworth Chris Pratt Christchurch christian cinema christmas Christopher Nolan Classic Cinema Clint Eastwood Close Encounters Cloverfield Comedy Coming-of-Age Conor McGregor Conspiracy Controversy Crowd-sourced Cult Cure Dakota Johnson Dance Academy Dardennes Brothers darth vader Debut Deepika Padukone Depression Disaster Movies Disney Diversity Documentary doomsday Dr Moreau drama Dunkirk Dustin Clare Dystopic EL James eli roth Elizabeth Banks Entourage Environmental Epic Erotic Cinema Extra-terrestrial Extreme Sports faith-based Family Film Fantasy Father Daughter Feminism Fifty Shades of Grey Film Film Festival Foreign found footage French Cinema Friendship Fusion Technology Gareth Edwards Gay Cinema Ghostbusters Ghosts Golan Globus Gothic Graphic Novel green inferno Guardians of the Galaxy Guillermo del Toro Gun Control Hacker Hailee Steinfeld Han Solo Happiness Harrison Ford Harry Dean Stanton Hasbro Haunted house Hhorror Himalaya Hitchcock Hollywood


Of all the special screening series that unfurl across the Berlin Film Festival program, none are as valuable to global cinema as NATIVe – A Journey into Indigenous Cinema. The biennial event rolls around again in 2019, under the curatorial eye of New Zealand ex-pat Maryanne Redpath and co-programmer Anna Kalbhenn, with the films of the Pacific region the focus of this year’s strand. Some of the Asia Pacific sector’s most respected film figures are on board as advisors, including Indonesian filmmaker Kamila Andini (The Seen and Unseen, 2017); Palawán-Filipino director Kanakan-Balintagos (a Berlin Crystal Bear recipient for 2005’s Ang pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros); and, Samoan-born Eliorah Malifa, co-director of the Pasifika Film Fest

The NATIVe 2019 line-up is as diverse as the cultures of the Island nations, yet bonds the people of the Pacific in their depiction of hope, family, strength and humanity.

BUSONG (Dir: Kanakan-Balintagos; with Alessandra de Rossi, Rodrigo Santikan, Clifford Banagale; Philippines, 2011) From the Program: “Using his Palawan name Kanakan-Balintagos, award-winning director Auraeus Solito traces the legends of his homeland, connecting myths with the contemporary stories of people who are all suffering the consequences of colonisation, pollution and disease. The director unfolds his tale in a series of long takes that include stunning, almost painterly images of landscapes; the protagonists who enter his narrative are all guided by ‘busong’. This Palawan word refers to fate – something that no individual can control.”

FOR MY FATHER’S KINGDOM (Dirs: Vea Mafile'o, Jeremiah Tauamiti; New Zealand, 2019) WORLD PREMIERE. From the Program: “What does it cost to preserve one’s culture and faith in the diaspora? The children of Saia Mafile’o can provide an actual figure because their father surrenders all his income to the Wesleyan church of Tonga. ‘Misinale’ is the name of the fundraising campaign that calls on people in and from Tonga to raise money for the community. In long, dialogue-rich shots, this documentary explores how the church, Tongan culture and traditions can hold a family together but also be a burden.”
Screens with the short film Toa`ipuapuagā Strength in Suffering (pictured, right; Dir: Vea Mafile'o): A young Samoan woman displayed cuts on her body and began to bleed prior to having a near-death experience on Easter Sunday. For many Christians in Samoa, her experience has been perceived as an expression of God’s displeasure.

MABABANGONG BANGUNGOT (THE PERFUMED NIGHTMARE; Dir: Kidlat Tahimik; with Kidlat Tahimik, Hartmut Lerch; Philippines / Germany, 1977) From the Program: “Kidlat Tahimik’s 1977 cult film is about crossing bridges. A bridge connects his native village Balian in the Philippines with the rest of the world; the young Kidlat dreams of a bridge to the moon and, when he arrives in Paris as a migrant worker, he is inspired by the architecture of bridges. This self-taught filmmaker’s cinematic debut was the first Philippine film to make it into cinemas in Germany. Celebrated by international film critics as a milestone in postcolonial filmmaking, it is a work rich in idiosyncratic aesthetics and political themes.”

MERATA: HOW MUM DECOLONISED THE SCREEN (Dir: Hepi Mita; New Zealand, 2018; pictured, top) From the Program: “As the archivist of Merata Mita’s work, her youngest son Hepi Mita embarks on a journey through his mother’s life. Creating a dialogue between her work as a filmmaker and her personal life, his unique excavation reveals how deeply connected the personal, the political, and the creative were for the late Merata Mita (1942–2010), Aotearoa’s first female Maori director. This documentary does not only shed light on a resilient woman who fought for her goal to ‘indigenise the screen’ - it also reveals the strain this kind of political work was to have on her family.”

ONE THOUSAND ROPES (Dir: Tusi Tamasese; Frankie Adams, Uelese Petaia, Sima Urale; New Zealand, 2017; pictured, right) From the Program: “Set against the grey backdrop of a Wellington suburb, this film describes the effects of a violent history and the discrimination experienced by many Samoan migrants during the 1970s. Somehow, the past is always present. Juxtaposing quietness with moments of violent outbursts and animated sequences, director Tusi Tamasese and cinematographer Leon Narbey have created a visually evocative story of one man’s attempt to address his past wrongs in order to build a more hopeful future.”

OUT OF STATE (Dir: Ciara Lacy; USA, 2017) From the Program: “Doing time in prison might give you access to your traditions and roots, but how can you take that home after your release? This documentary describes two working-class Kanaka Maoli men who make the emotional journey back home to their families in Hawai’i.”
Screens with short film Stones (Dir: Ty Sanga): Nihipali and Naʻiwi are the only Mū spirits left in their Hawai’ian forest. When Nihipali encounters a human child, the veil between the spirit and human worlds is lifted.

SHE WHO MUST BE LOVED (Dir: Erica Glynn; Australia 2018) From the Program: “Freda Glynn was never a big talker but these days she talks even less. When her documentary filmmaker daughter Erica Glynn tells her she wants to make a film about her, Freda responds simply with a shrug. And yet Freda, a pioneer of the Indigenous media landscape in Australia, has much to relate. Family and art, history and stories all merge in this intimate portrait of a strong-willed woman. Together, Freda and Erica Glynn embark on a complex search for answers.”

TANNA (Dirs: Martin Butler and Bentley Dean; with Mungau Dain, Marie Wawa, Marceline Rofit, Chief Charlie Kahla, Albi Nangia; Australia, 2015; pictured, right) From the Program: “Tanna, an island in the Republic of Vanuatu, is the setting for a clash between the Yakel and Imedin tribes when, amidst preparations for her Imedin initiation ritual into womanhood, Wawa steals away with Dain, grandson of the Yakel chief. Based on real events that took place during the 1980s and shot entirely in the Nauvhal language, Tanna was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2017.”

VAI (Dirs: by Nicole Whippy, 'Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Matasila Freshwater, Amberley Jo Aumua, Mīria George, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Dianna Fuemana and Becs Arahanga; with Mereani Tuimatanisiga, 'Ar-Ramadi Longopoa, Betsy Luitolo, Agnes Pele, Evotia-Rose Araiti; New Zealand, 2019) WORLD PREMIERE. From the Program: “For Vai, life on the South Pacific Islands is characterised by the constant tension between change and repetition and between moving to different places and returning to the traditions of her ancestors. Her world lies somewhere between Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Niue and Aotearoa, and it is shaped by environmental threats, isolation, scarcity of resources and a tense relationship to New Zealand. This delicate portrait of Vai’s life journey celebrates the strength of female kinship, of community, and a sense of responsibility for future generations.”

A session of short films will also screen, featuring Justine Simei-Barton and Nikki Si'ulepa's Snow in Paradise (New Zealand, 2001); Amie Batalibasi's Blackbird (Australia, 2015); Jeremiah Tauamiti's Liliu (New Zealand, 2018); Tusi Tamasese's Va Tapuia (New Zealand, 2009); and, Kamila Andini's Memoria (Indonesia, 2016)

NATIVe – A Journey into Indigenous Cinema will screen February 7-17 at two venues, Cinestar IMAX and Cubix 7, as part of Berlinale 2019. Tickets and session details can be found at the strand’s official website.



Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War earned top honours at the 31st European Film Awards (EFA), held on December 15 in Seville, Spain. The Polish filmmaker’s tragic love story, loosely based on the turbulent and rebellious life led by his parents, took home five of the top categories before a live audience of 1,600 guests and industry figures at the historic Teatro de la Maestranza.

In addition to the Best European Film award, the Polish/French/U.K. co-production secured Best Director and Best Screenwriter trophies for Pawlikowski (pictured, above), returning to the winner’s podium for the first time since 2014, when his film Ida dominated the ceremony. “I’d like to thank my parents for living a disastrous and ultimately beautiful life,” said the 61 year-old filmmaker, who also acknowledged the unified front represented by those present. “Today we celebrate our differences, we unite in our diversity. Europe is not one voice, but a choir of different voices.”

Slated as Poland’s entry in the Best Foreign Film Oscar category, the monochromatic drama also won Best Actress for Joanna Kulig, and Best Editing for Jarosław Kamiński. The EFAs add to a growing list of accolades for Cold War that include the Cannes Film Festival Best Director award and the Best Foreign Film honour from America’s National Board of Review. 

The film was denied an EFA clean sweep when leading man Tomasz Kot lost to Marcello Fonte for his understated performance in Matteo Garrone’s Dogman. which also found favour in the Costume and Hair & Make-Up categories. Martin Otterbeck won Best Cinematographer for the Norwegian drama Utøya: July 22, a harrowing survival tale based upon the mass shooting at the political summer camp in 2011.

Other winners included Lukas Dhont’s Girl for European Discovery; Jane Magnusson’s Bergman- A Year in a Life for Best Documentary; Another Day Of Life from directors Damian Nenow and Raúl De La Fuente for Best Animated Feature; Andrey Ponkratov for his production design on Summer (Leto); sound designers André Bendocchi-Alves and Martin Steyer 
for the German film The Captain; and, visual effects veteran Peter Hjorth for his work on Ali Abbasi’s Border.

Honorary EFAs were bestowed upon beloved Spanish actress Carmen Maura, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Oscar-winning Greek auteur Costa-Gavras (Z, 1969; Missing, 1982), who accepted the EFA Honorary Award. The audience-voted People’s Choice EFA went to Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age romance Call Me By Your Name.

The shadow cast by the United Kingdom’s ‘Brexit’ movement was addressed by two of the most respected and outspoken statesmen of Britain’s film community. Upon receiving the Best European Comedy award for The Death of Stalin, writer/director Armando Iannuci earned big laughs when he stated, “This is a European film. I’m Scottish/Italian, shot mostly in England, were financed by the French, did a lot of our post-production in Belgium. It just shows what a good idea it is if different countries in Europe come together to work with the British. Let’s call it a European community, a European union. I’m going to take the idea back to the United Kingdom this evening.”

Past Best Actor EFA winner Ralph Fiennes (Sunshine, 1999), present to accept the honorary European Achievement in World Cinema award, was harsher in his condemnation of his homeland’s current political climate. “Can I be English and European? Emphatically yes. There is a crisis in Europe and our feeling of family, of connection and of shared history, shared wounds - this feeling is threatened by a discourse of division. In England now, there is only the noise of division.”

In line with the sense of celebration central to the kudocast, Fiennes ended on a hopeful note. “But the expression in a film can be a window for us to see another person, another human experience,” he said. “We can celebrate our differences of custom and common humanity at the same time.”



The 12th Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) ceremony proved a true celebration of cinema from the region, with awards being bestowed upon films from Australia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Singapore and Turkey. The gala ceremony, held in the main room of the The Brisbane Exhibition & Convention Centre, was hosted by New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis (Once Were Warriors; Whale Rider, The Meg) and Australian television personality Sofie Formica (pictured, below).

Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku) can now add an APSA to its list of growing international trophies after winning the Best Film honour. Having earned the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or in May and already slated as Japan’s official entry in the Best Foreign Film Oscar race, the prolific filmmaker’s family drama is proving to be one of the most warmly received films in a career filled with critical and commercial hits. The film’s producer Taguchi Hijiri accepted the award on his director’s behalf.

APSA International Jury President Alexander Rodnyansky, Russian producer of 2014 APSA Best Feature Film winner Leviathan, said, “We have had the great fortune to be presented with a unique line up of films that represent the different countries, cultures and talents of our region. I have discovered new worlds by watching them.” On the Best Film winner, he declared, “Shoplifters turns an intimate story about an unusual family into a metaphorical social analysis that is relevant not only for Japan, but everywhere.”

Rodnyansky (second from left) oversaw a jury that included (from left) Chilean actress Antonia Zegers, Indonesian director Nia Dinata, Nepalese filmmaker Deepak Rauniyar and Georgian producer Vladimer Katcharava. They awarded this year’s Grand Jury Prize to Lee Joon-dong and Lee Chang-dong for Burning (Republic of Korea), winner of the Cannes FIPRESCI Prize in 2018. The Korean filmmaking team is popular with APSA judges, having previously earned four awards. The unmistakable trophies, designed by Brisbane artist Joanna Bone, feature prominently in the apartment of star Steven Yuen in a scene from Burning.

The Cultural Diversity Award under the Patronage of UNESCO was awarded to Garin Nugroho and Ifa Isfansyah for Memories of My Body (Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku; pictured, right) from Indonesia and accepted on the night by lead actor Muhummad Khan. Nugroho will now present a screening of the film on December 15 in Paris at UNESCO Headquarters as part of the Intergovernmental Committee meeting on the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

In one of the evening's most moving moments, Indian actress-turned-filmmaker Nandita Das was awarded the FIAPF Award for Achievement in Film in the Asia Pacific Region. In her acceptance speech, the passionate advocate for civil liberties and human rights cited her early work in Deepa Mehta's lesbian romance Fire, a film that changed the landscape of Indian cinema 22 years ago and which still inspires her today. Her latest work, Manto, a biographical account of writer Saadat Hasan Manto's life in 1940s India, earned her leading man Nawazuddin Siddiqi the Best Actor APSA trophy.


The Australian sector was recognized in the Best Documentary Feature Film category, where director Paul Damien Williams and producer Shannon Swan were honoured for Gurrumul, the first win for Australia in this category at APSA. Also recognised were Hildur Guðnadóttir and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson for Mary Magdalene, director Garth Davies’ UK/Australian co-production. Legendary musician and chair of the Music in Film jury, Ryuichi Sakamoto said of the winning film, “Mary Magdalene’s soundtrack is a meticulous work of art by the composers. The quality of craftsmanship and the depth of emotions are overwhelming.”

The full list of 2018 Asia Pacific Screen Award winners:

Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku; Japan) Kore-eda Hirokazu, Matsuzaki Kaoru, Yose Akihiko, Taguchi Hijiri

Burning (Republic of Korea) 
Lee Joon-dong, Lee Chang-dong

CULTURAL DIVERSITY AWARD UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF UNESCO: Memories of My Body (Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku; Indonesia)
 Garin Nugroho, Ifa Isfansyah

Nadine Labaki for Capharnaüm (Lebanon)


Dan Kleinman, Sameh Zoabi for Tel Aviv on Fire (Israel, Belgium, France, Luxembourg)

Hideho Urata for A Land Imagined (Singapore, France, Netherlands)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR: Nawazuddin Siddiqui for Manto (India)

Zhao Tao for Ash is Purest White (Jiang hu er nv; People’s Republic of China, France)

Hildur Guðnadóttir, Jóhann Jóhannsson for Mary Magdalene (Australia, UK)

BEST YOUTH FEATURE FILM: The Pigeon (Güvercin) Banu Savıcı, Mesut Ulutaş (Turkey)

Rezo (Znaesh’ mama, gde ya byl) (Russian Federation) Leo Gabriadze, Timur Bekmambetov

Paul Damien Williams, Shannon Swan

Yeo Siew Hua for A Land Imagined (Singapore, France, Netherlands)

FIAPF Award for Achievement in Film in the Asia Pacific Region: Nandita Das (India) 


Producer Ifa Isfansyah, director Kamila Andini (Indonesia) for Yuni;

Producer Olga Khlasheva, director Adilkhan Yerzhanov (Kazakhstan) for Hell is Empty and All The Devils Are Here;

Producer Mai Meksawan, director Uruphong Raksasad (Thailand) for Worship;

Director, producer, screenwriter Semih Kaplanoglu (Turkey) for Asli.


Director Feras Fayyad (Syria) for feature documentary The Cave


Sherwan Haki (Syria)
Taro Imai (Japan)
Khanjan Koshore Nath (India)



Japan and the People’s Republic of China lead the field of nominees at the 2018 Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA), with their respective industries securing 7 nominations each. The pack tightens behind them, with Australia, India and Kazakhstan each earning 5 nominations in key categories.

The 12th annual celebration of Asia Pacific cinema, a sector that provides half the world’s film output, features 46 films from 22 countries. Kore-Eda Hirokazu’s Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters (Japan; pictured, top) stands alone at the head of the nominee list with three nominations, including Film, Director and Screenplay nods. The film has sentimental ties to the APSAs, with star Kirin Kiki the 2015 Best Actress award winner for Naomi Kawase’s An; a beloved figure in Asian cinema, she passed away in September, aged 75.

Four other titles earned dual nominations - Lee Chang-dong’s Burning (Republic of Korea); Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s The Gentle Indifference of the World (Kazakhstan, France; pictured, right); Khavn’s Balangiga: Howling Wilderness (Philippines); and, Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s Manta Ray (Thailand, People’s Republic of China, France).

The Australian sector’s five noms came across four categories. Paul Damien William’s Gurrumul will vie for the Best Documentary honour; amongst the Best Actress contenders is US actress Rooney Mara for Garth Davis’ Mary Magdalene; veteran Bruce Beresford earned his first APSA Best Director nomination for Ladies in Black; and, in the Best Original Score race, Harry Gregson-Williams (for Simon Baker’s Breath) and Hildur Guðnadóttir and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson (for Mary Magdalene) will compete.

The APSA nominee family expands in 2018 with the first ever contender from Uzbekistan. Best Actor nominee Karim Mirkhadiyev (pictured, left), star of Rashid Malikov’s stirring father/son drama Fortitude, will carry his nation’s hopes against a formidable field, including Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Manto; India), child actor and former Syrian refugee Zain Al Rafeea (Capharnaüm; Lebanon), Bahman Farmanara (Tale of the Sea; Islamic Republic of Iran) and Akylbek Abdykalykov (Night Accident; Kyrgyzstan).

Rooney faces a tough field of Best Actress contenders - Zhao Tao (Ash is Purest White; People’s Republic of China, France); Damla Sönmez (Sibel; Turkey, France, Germany, Luxembourg); Cannes Best Actress winner Samal Yeslyamova (Ayka; Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, People’s Republic of China, Germany, Poland); and, deaf actress Laura Koroleva (Sveta; Kazakhstan).

The awards, overseen by APSA Academy President Jack Thompson, will be held at a black-tie event on Thursday, 29 November 2018 at Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. Further details can be found at the official website.    


Balangiga: Howling Wilderness (Philippines; Dir: Khavn)
Burning (Republic of Korea; Dir: LEE Chang-dong
The Gentle Indifference of the World (Laskovoe Bezrazlichie Mira) (Kazakhstan, France; Dir Adilkhan YERZHANOV)
Manta Ray (Kraben Rahu) (Thailand, People’s Republic of China, France; Dir: Phuttiphong AROONPHENG)
Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku) (Japan; Dir: KORE-EDA Hirokazu)

Ava (Islamic Republic of Iran, Qatar, Canada; Dir: Sadaf FOROUGHI)
Nervous Translation (Philippines; Dir: Shireen SENO)
Passage of Life (Boku no kaeru basho) (Japan, Myanmar; Dir: Akio FUJIMOTO)
The Pigeon (Güvercin) (Turkey; Dir: Banu SIVACI; trailer, below)
Village Rockstars (India; Dir: Rima DAS)

Hoffmaniada (Russian Federation; Dir: Stanislav SOKOLOV)
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (Sayonara no asa ni yakusoku no hana o kazarô
(Japan; Dir: Mari OKADA)
Mirai (Mirai no Mirai) (Japan; Dir: Mamoru HOSODA)
On Happiness Road (Hsing Fu Lu Shang) (Taiwan; Dir: SUNG Hsin-Yin)
Rezo (Znaesh’, mama, gde ya byl) (Russian Federation; Dir: Leo GABRIADZE)

Amal (Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark; Dir: Mohamed SIAM)
Gurrumul (Australia; Dir: Paul Damien WILLIAMS)
Of Fathers and Sons (Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon, Qatar, Germany; Dir: Talal DERKI; trailer, below)
Of Love & Law (Japan, United Kingdom, France; Dir: Hikaru TODA)
Up Down & Sideways (kho ki pa lü) (India; Dir: Anushka MEENAKSHI, Iswar SRIKUMAR)

Nadine LABAKI for Capharnaüm (Lebanon)
Bruce BERESFORD for Ladies in Black (Australia)
Emir BAIGAZIN for The River (Ozen; Kazakhstan, Norway, Poland)
KORE-EDA Hirokazu for Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku; Japan)
Ivan AYR for Soni (India)

Saumyananda SAHI for Balekempa (India)
Hideho URATA for A Land Imagined (Singapore, France, Netherlands)
Nawarophaat RUNGPHIBOONSOPHIT for Manta Ray (Kraben Rahu; Thailand, People’s Republic of China, France; trailer, below)
Chaiyapruek CHALERMPORNPANIT for Malila: The Farewell Flower (Thailand)
ZHANG Miaoyan, XU Zhiyong for Silent Mist (People’s Republic of China, France)

Payman MAADI for Bomb, A Love Story (Bomb, Yek Asheghaneh; Islamic Republic of Iran)
OH Jung-mi, LEE Chang-dong for Burning (Republic of Korea)
Adilkhan YERZHANOV, Roelof Jan MINNEBOO for The Gentle Indifference of the World (Laskovoe Bezrazlichie Mira; Kazakhstan, France)
KORE-EDA Hirokazu for Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku; Japan)
Dan KLEINMAN, Sameh ZOABI for Tel Aviv on Fire (Israel, Belgium, France, Luxembourg)

Ala Changso (People’s Republic of China; Dir: Sonthar GYAL)
Balangiga: Howling Wilderness (Philippines; Dir: Khavn)
The Lord Eagle (Toyon Kyyl) (Russian Federation; Dir: Eduard NOVIKOV)
Memories of My Body (Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku) (Indonesia; Dir: Garin NUGROHO; trailer, below)
The Taste of Rice Flower (Mi Hua Zhi Wei) (People’s Republic of China; Dir: Pengfei)

ZHAO Tao for Ash is Purest White (Jiang hu er nv; People’s Republic of China, France)
Samal YESLYAMOVA for Ayka (Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, People’s Republic of China, Germany, Poland)
Rooney MARA for Mary Magdalene (Australia, United Kingdom)
Damla SÖNMEZ for Sibel (Turkey, France, Germany, Luxembourg)
Laura KOROLEVA for Sveta (Kazakhstan)

Zain AL RAFEEA for Capharnaüm (Lebanon)
Karim MIRKHADIYEV for Fortitude (Sabot; Uzbekistan)
Nawazuddin SIDDIQUI for Manto (India)
Akylbek ABDYKALYKOV for Night Accident (Tunku Kyrsyk; Kyrgyzstan)
Bahman FARMANARA for Tale of the Sea (Hekayat-e Darya; Islamic Republic of Iran)

Eléni KARAÏNDROU for Bomb, A Love Story (Bomb, Yek Asheghaneh; Islamic Republic of Iran)
Harry GREGSON-WILLIAMS for Breath (Australia)
Hildur GUÐNADÓTTIR, Jóhann JÓHANNSSON for Mary Magdalene (Australia, United Kingdom)
Ryan CAYABYAB for The Portrait (Ang Larawan; Philippines)
Omar FADEL for Yomeddine (Egypt)



It was the embracing of the co-dependent relationship between the production and distribution/exhibition sectors that brought momentum to the early years of the Bulgarian film industry. Silent feature film production began in 1914 with the great Vasil Gendov’s The Bulgarian Is A Gentleman (aka The Bulgarian is Gallant) and led to works such as Kevork Kuyumdjian’s Baronet (1917) and Sons of The Balkans (1918) and Nikolai Larin’s Under the Old Sky (1922). In 1924 the Congress of Bulgarian Cinema Owners Union was formed, followed by the Cinemagoers Society and The Union of Friends of Film Art (a board of intellectuals who were charged with encouraging filmmaking as an art form).

(Picture, above; l-r, Zakhari Bakharov and Tania Ilieva in Zift, 2008)

Pioneers through this early period of production included Boris Grejov (Merry Bulgaria, 1928), Alexander Vazov (in the Realm of Roses, 1928), Petar Stojchev (Land, 1930), Vassil Bakardjiev (At a Dark Crossroads, 1930) and Boris Borozanov (Bulgarian Eagles, 1941; The Wedding, 1943). The support of the upper class and the funding they provided resulted in cinema becoming a major social influence, its practitioners feted as crucial to the country’s development.

The introduction of Communist rule in 1945 led to the ‘Red Cinema’ era, a period during which the means of film production were appropriated to serve the ideologies of the new leadership. Narrative boundaries were dictated, but the Soviet era also resulted in state-of-the-art facilities and a training regime, so crucial did the Russian rulers consider the impact of film. Bulgaria’s national cinema began to reflect stories of displacement from traditional rural life (Dimitar Minkov’s Bulgarian Old Times, 1945; Georgi Bogoyavlenski’s Back to Life, 1947) and adaptations of literary properties (Dako Dakovski’s Under the Yoke, 1953). In 1955, Sergei Vasilyev’s Shipka Heroes (pictured, above), an account of the heroic stand by Bulgarian rebels and Russian soldiers against the might  of the Ottoman empire in 1877, won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival; in 1956, Boyan Danovski’s Item One earned a Golden Palm nomination on the Croisette; in 1958, Vladimir Yanchev directed star Apostol Karamitev in the comedy Favourite No. 13, which would become a blockbuster upon release and remains one of the country’s most beloved films to this day.

This was also the boom period of the national cinema’s animation sector, peopled by visionary filmmakers such as Vassil Bakardjiev, who began crafting animated advertising shorts as far back as the 1920s. Early innovator Dimiter Todorov Jarava engineered an early version of what would become known as the ‘nicolodeon’ machine in the mid 30s; in 1945, the shorts ‘Sick’ and ‘The Little Thief’ were produced. The formation of the government-funded Animation Film Production Department in 1948 led to ambitious feature-length projects, notably Dimo Lingorski’s The Fearful Bomb (1951) and Master Manol (1952); Ognian Danailov’s Event in the Kindergarten (1952); puppeteer Stefan Topaldjikov’s Orders of the Pike (1953) and Invisible Mirko (1958); and the remarkable works of ‘The Father of Bulgarian Animation’, Todor Dinov, including Marko the Hero (1955), Tale of The Pine Twig (1960), Duet (1961; co-directed with Donyo Donev) and The Daisy (1965). By the 1970s, Bulgarian animation was known around the world, thanks in part to Donev’s beloved series ‘The Three Fools’ (featured, above) and the emergence of talents such as Anri Kulev, Slav Bakalov and Nikolaj Todorov.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s live-action sector continued to grow, maintaining a steady production line of works that resonated with domestic and increasingly international festival audiences. Two decades of Bulgarian cinema would be defined by such works as Stefan Surchadzhiev’s populist comedy Sly Peter (1960); Petar B. Vasilev’s provocative social satire Jack of All Trades (1962); Zako Heskija’s Cannes-nominated Torrid Moon (1966); Mende Brown’s US/Bulgarian co-production, The Clown and The Kids (1967); Dimitar Petrov’s children’s film Porcupines Are Born Without Bristles (1971); Metodi Antonov’s acclaimed masterpiece The Goat Horn (1972; featured, below); The Boy Turns Man (1972), Lyudmil Kirkov adored coming-of-age tale; and, the films of Christo Christov, including his heartfelt parable The Last Summer (1974), surrealist romance The Barrier (1979; pictured, above) and Berlinale competition title, The Truck (1980).

As the grip of Communism began to loosen in the 1980s, Bulgarian cinema began to slyly embrace even more challenging thematic material. This was the decade of Nikola Rudarov’s thriller The Racket (1982); Eduard Zahariev’s Elegy (1982) and My Darling My Darling (1986); Veselin Branev’s drama Central Hotel (1983); Plamen Maslarov’s The Judge (1986); Ludmil Staikov’s historical epic Time of Violence (1988); and, Ivan Nitchev’s Aleksandra (1989).

If the fall of Communism in 1990 was socially and politically liberating, it left the development of the film sector in the hands of private investment – and it proved disastrous. Filmmakers who did get films made focussed on scathing indictments of the old regime and very few, regardless of quality, were seen internationally. Nikolai Volev’s teen-rebel drama Margarit & Margarita (1990; pictured, right), Docho Bodzhakov’s The Well (1991) and Evgeni Mihailov’s The Canary Season (1993) were the only films to be submitted for Foreign Film Oscar consideration in that decade. Independent sector works began to emerge, such as Sergei Komitski’s Bullets in Paradise (1992), Ralitsa Dimitrova´s The College (1992), Hristain Notchev’s The Frontier (1994) and Georgi Dyulgerov’s Chernata Lyastovitsa (1997), but distribution and exhibition proved difficult and critics were vocal.

The new millennium welcomed a fresh optimism, with Bulgarian filmmakers exploring a wider range of film genres. The sole production centre for many years, Bovana Films came to understand the need for diversification and welcomed independent producers and competitive studios. Iglika Triffonova’s coming-home saga Letters To America (2000), Kostadin Bonev’s doco Warming Up Yesterdays Lunch (2002), Andrey Paounov’s The Mosquito Problem And Other Stories (2006) and Zornitsa Sophia’s multi-award winning hit Mila From Mars (2004) were indie productions financed outside the National Film Centre (NFC) funding body. Most heartening were the new talents impacting the scene – Alexa Petrov, director of the controversy-shrouded Baklava (2007); Milena Andonova (Monkeys In Winter, 2006); actresses Aleksandra Sarchadjieva, Elena Koleva and Violeta Markovska, from Seamstresses (2007); and Javor Gardev, director of the noir thriller, Zift (2008).

Festival organisers opened up international events to the new Bulgarian cinema; in 2014, co-directors Kristina Grozeva and Peter Valchanov had their film The Lesson reach the finalist stage of the prestigious European Parliament LUX Film Prize. And the commercial instincts of Bulgaria’s contemporary producers had re-energised; Asen Blatechki directed the action hit Benzin, described as the region’s answer to Hollywood’s hit ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, complete with LA ring-in, Michael Madsen. (Pictured, right; l-r, Liliana Stanailova, Assen Blatechki and Snejana Makaveeva in Benzin)

In June 2018, the NFC bestowed upon the local sector a fresh round of funding approvals that sent a signal to local producers and directors that the sector was strengthening its talent base for the future. €1.8million was distributed across nine features; at the high end of the production slate are Ivailo Penchev’s Uncle Christmas and Martin Makariev’s Into the Heart of the Machine, which will split a €1million purse, while low-budgeters The Platform and Farewell, Johnny and three short films are to take the remainder of the endowment. It is a declaration of intent from the NFC that Bulgarian film is set to continue its pattern of growth, both domestically and globally.

Key Events:
Sofia International Film Festival – Sofia, Bulgaria; March. ( )
From the official website: “Sofia International Film Festival is the leading film festival in Bulgaria. It began in 1997 and attracts more than 70 000 spectators annually. The festival aims to promote important and innovative works of modern world cinema to local audiences and regional Bulgarian and Balkan cinema to international audiences, as well as to encourage cooperation between local and international filmmakers.”

National Film Centre
2A Dundukov Blvd., 7th Floor
1000 Sofia.
Tel: (+359 2) 9150 811
Fax: (+359 2) 9150 827

(All effort has been made to ensure content is comprehensive and accurate at time of publication. No claim to ownership on any visual material; please contact the site directly with issues regarding copyright for immediate resolution)