Sofia Film Festival 2023 Environmental Message, Lineup  

It’s not a coincidence that Volker Schlöndorff’s latest film The Forest Maker, the environmental essay documentary about Australian agronomist Tony Rinaudo, who found a way to grow trees in the most barren areas of Africa, is opening the 27th Sofia International Film Festival kicking off Thursday in the Bulgarian capital.

One of the major film festivals in Eastern Europe is going green, and the veteran German filmmaker, winner of the Palme d’Or and what was then called the best foreign language Oscar for The Tin Drum (1979), will plant the first tree of the future Sofia Film Festival Forest.

“We wanted to remind ourselves of our deep connection to the land and our power to be agents of change together. We wish to engage the public in the global vision of sustainable development of society and a responsible attitude towards nature”, the festival organizers said about the green initiative supported by Sofia Municipality and the telecommunication company Yettel.

Under the motto “Reconnect,” the biggest Bulgarian film event runs from March 16 to 31, screening more than 150 titles. A total of 12 films have been selected for the International competition, including Bulgarian titles The Art of Falling by Orlin Milchev and The Good Driver directed by Tonislav Hristov.

First and second films competing for the main awards also include Vasilis Katsoupis’ Inside with Willem Dafoe, which premiered last month in Berlin; Roving Woman by Polish director Michal Chmielewski; Maayan Rypp’s directing debut The Other Widow; German director Joachim Neef’s Nightwatch; Iranian director Nader Saeivar’s Germany-Iran-Turkey co-production No End; and Mexico-Italy co-production Red Shoes by first timer Carlos Eichelmann Kaise.

Renowned North Macedonian filmmaker Milcho Manchevski (Before The Rain, Dust) will serve as jury president.

This year’s 12-title Balkan competition includes the Croatian drama Safe Place directed by Locarno and Sarajevo laureate Juraj Lerotić; Turkish drama Burning Days, which unspooled in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard last year; the Warsaw Film Festival Grand Prix winner May Labor Day by Bosnian director Pjer Žalica; the Teona Strugar Mitevska-directed The Happiest Man in the World, a 2022 Venice festival premiere; and the Bulgarian entry Mother by Zornitsa Sophia.

As special highlights, the Sofia fest will screen several of this year’s Oscar contenders, including Todd Field’s Tár, Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light and Santiago Mitre’s Argentina, 1985, as well as Armageddon Time by James Gray, Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s The Silent Twins and Vicky Krieps-starrer Corsage by Austrian director Marie Kreutzer.

Legendary actress Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of screen icon Charlie Chaplin, will receive the Sofia Municipality Special Award for her impressive career spanning six decades and, together with the director Jessica Woodworth, present her latest film Luca. The organizers are also honoring Czech director Jan Svěrák, who will receive a seven-film retrospective tribute, pick up a special award and present his latest feature, Bethlehem Light.

Veteran European auteurs Bille August and Krzysztof Zanussi will also walk Sofia’s green carpet for their features The Kiss and The Perfect Number, respectively.

The 20th of Sofia Meetings, the festival’s industry event and co-production market, runs from March 23 to 26. Organizers are expecting 300 industry professionals to attend the anniversary edition.

“Like in previous years, the upcoming Sofia Meetings Co-Production Forum will be a fine mixture of talented upcoming directors and more established names,” says Mira Staleva, head of the Sofia Meetings. “Directors like Lech Kowalski, Amman Abbasi, Andrey Paounov and the directing duo Tomad Weinreb and Petr Kazda will present their new films in the work-in-progress section.”

Here are a list of selected projects from the 2023 Sofia Meetings.

Second Fiction Feature Film Projects

Drean Bird, Director Murat Pay, Producer Halil Kardaş/Film Code Production (Turkey)
Jaune et Bleu, Director Giulia Grandinetti, Producers Riccardo Neri, Vincenzo Filippo/Lupin Film (Italy)
Jugoslava, Director Ivan Bakrač, Producers Ivan Bakrač, Nikolina Vucetic Zecevic, Guillaume de Seille/Quadrifolium Films (Montenegro), Arizona Films (France), Biberche (Serbia) 
Drowning Dry, Director Laurynas Bareisa, Producer Klementina Remeikaite/Afterschool (Lithuania), Co-producer Matiss Kaza/Trickster Picutres (Latvia)
The Last Slap, Director Matteo Oleotto, Producer Miha Černec/Staragara IT (Slovenia, Italy), Spok (Italy), Propeler Film (Croatia)

Plus Minus One Film Projects

Dissonance, Director Elitza Petkova, Producer Veselka Kiryakova/Red Carpet (Bulgaria), Co-producer Wood Water Films (Germany)
Mario, Director Guillem Miró,  Producer Ana Inés Fernández/Somera Films, Corte y Confección de Películas (Spain) (in partnership with MFI)
Resonance, Director Yordan Petkov, Producers Victoria Mitreva, Vanya Raynova/ Garti Films, Portokal (Bulgaria)
Słońce, Director Anna Zamecka, Producers Klaudia Smeja, Bogna Szewczyk Skupien /MADANTS (Poland)
The Hostess, Director Eric Nazarian, Producer Eric Nazarian, Panos Papahadzis, Maria Laskaridou /Argonauts Productions S.A./Voyager Pictures (Armenia, Greece, Turkey)
The Last Summer, Director João Nuno Pinto & Fernanda Polacow, Producer Andreia Nunes/Wonder Maria Filmes (Portugal), Grifa Filmes (Brazil)
The Road Less Travelled, Director Tyagi Pallava, Producer Viktoria Petranyi/Proton Cinema (Hungary)
Travellers, Director Pierre Filmon, Producers Pierre Filmon, Sonal Sehgal / Almano Films (France), Sonal Sehgal Films (India)
Worker, Director Giorgi Kobalia, Producers Nika Gugushvili, Vako Kirkitadze/Film Asylum (Georgia)
Y, Directors Maria Popistașu, Alexandru Baciu, Producer Anamaria Antoci/Tangaj Production (Romania) (in partnership with CROSSROADS)

Projects in Bank

Animal, Director Milada Těšitelová, Producer Julie Žáčková / Unit and Sofa Praha (Czech Republic)
End Point, Director Maria Dauza, Producer Michael Sarantinos / STEFICON (Greece)
Because I Love Bad Weather, Director Yana Lekarska, Producer Kalin Kalinov / Invictus Ltd. (Bulgaria)
Memento Non Mori, Director Şeyhmus Altun, Producer Fevziye Hazal / Jurnal Kolektif Production (Turkey)
Julio’s Vision, Director Raul Garcia, Producer Raul Garcia / Solaris Dreams Films (Colombia)
Potion, Director Natalka Vorozhbyt, Producer Iryn Kostyuk, Sergiy Demidov, Anna Eliseeva / FILM AU PRODUCTION (Ukraine)
Radical, Director Kenneth Mercken, Producer Maarten D’Hollander / Kreter Films (Belgium) (in partnership with EAVE)
The Violation, Director Kate Cragg, Producer Daniel Landin / Art Practice (United Kingdom)
Things Washed Ashore, Director Janis Abele, Producer Marta Romanova-Jekabsone / GESTA FILMS (Latvia)

First Films First

40, Maria louisa Bouleavard, Director Kristina Spassovska, Producer Maya Vitkova / Viktoria Films (Bulgaria)
Beasts, Director Maja Križnik, Producer Vlado Bulajić, Lija Pogačnik / December (Slovenia) 
Before I Fall Asleep, Director Senka Domanović, Producer Marija Stojanovic / SENSE Production (Serbia)
Nothing Will Be Named After Me, Director Đorđe Vojvodić, Producer Miljan Vučelić / Bitter Frames Production (Montenegro)
Lionfish, Director Thanasis Trouboukis (Greece)
Long Weekend, Director Katarina Koljević, Producer Natasa Damjanovic & Vladimir Vidic / DART FILM (Serbia)
Shibboleth, Director Alexandra Matheou, Producer Tonia Mishiali / Bark Like a Cat Film (Cyprus)
Pieta, Director Andra Chiriac Hera (Romania)

Works In Progress Selection

Axis Of Life, Director Atanas Hristoskov, Kalinov Brothers/ Invictus (Bulgaria)
Blazing, Director Balázs Dudás, Producer Gábor Kovács/ CineSuper (Hungary)
Breathers, Director Lech Kowalski, Producer Maison Mariou/ Revolt Cinema (France), David Dávila Herrera/Living On Film (Mexico)
DAD, Directors Dimitris Georgiev, Mariy Rosen, Producers Lyubo Yonchev, Rosen Savkov, Elena Doroshenko, Teodora Mladenova/ Four Elements
Die Like A Man, Director Eric Nazarian, Producer Eric Nazarian/Voyager Pictures, Confluential Fims / Mucho Mas Media (USA)
Dyad, Director Yana Titova, Producers Vanya Rainova, Aleksandar Aleksiev, Nikolay Stoichkov/ Portokal, NoBlink (Bulgaria)
Everybody Dies On The News, Director Victor Ivanov, Producer Konstantin Vasilev/ B2Y (Bulgaria, Croatia)
Love Off, Director Ivaylo Hristov, Producer Orlin Ruevski/ Moviemento (Bulgaria)
Medium, Director Christina Ioakeimidi, Producers Yorgos Noussias, Louizos Aslanidis/Ekso Productions (Greece), Red Carpet Films (Bulgaria)
Nothing New Under The Sun, Director Murad Zaloğlu, Producer Halil Kardaş/Film Code Production (Turkey)
Plague, Director Ivan Vladimirov, Producer Mila Voinikova/ Miramar Film (Bulgaria)
Rescuers, Director Ilina Perianova, Producers Ilina Perianova, Mila Voinikova/ Uga Buga Art, Miramar Film (Bulgaria)
Nobody Like Me, Directors Tomas Weinreb, Petr Kazda, Producer Guillaume de Seille/ Arizona Films (Czech Republic, Slovakia, France)
That’s It For Today, Director Marko Đjordjević, Producer Miloš Pušić/Film Center of Serbia (Serbia)
The Answer To All Questions, Director Dimitar Kotzev-Shosho, Producers Alexander Stanishev, Dimitar Kotzev-Shosho/ Kontraplan (Bulgaria)
The Circus Fantasy, Director and Producer Raul Garcia/ Solaris Dreams Films (Columbia)
The Backstage, Director Hovhannes Galstyan, Producers Hovhannes Galstyan, Laura Clever/ Anso Films; Parallels Film production; Clever Production; Wady Films; One Man Studio Production; GreyMark-45 Studio (Armenia, Germany, Luxembourg)
The Platform, Director Nikolay Sotirov, Producer Nikolay Mutafchiev/ Premierstudio Plus (Bulgaria)
Trophies, Director André Chandelle, Producer Vera Chandelle/Fabrikata (Bulgaria, Belgium)
Wedlock, Director Magdalena Ralcheva, Producer Magdalena Ralcheva, Pavlina Jeleva/ Nuance Film (Bulgaria)
Windless, Director Pavel Vesnakov, Producer Veselka Kiryakova/ Red Carpet Films (Bulgaria)
Wiesenwood, Director Jannis Alexander Kiefer, Producers Philipp Kreuzer, Katja Kuhlmann, Chris Degenhart, Lotte Ruf/ Maze Pictures (Germany)
Yasmeen’s Element, Director Amman Abbasi, Producer Kamen Velkovski/ Alaz Film (Portugal, Pakistan)

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