KOSTADIN BONEV: AN IMPORTANT DIRECTOR TO FOLLOW
”Globally, independent films are much more than films produced by big film companies. American independent cinema is stronger than ever. European independent cinema is familiar and close to me – I feel as a part of it. I always enjoy watching Asian independent cinema – there the surprises are the most numerous ones.” – Kostadin Bonev
By Yubo Fernandez and Shailik Bhaumik
Director and Filmmaker Kostadin Bonev (above)
We’re pleased to present a candid Q & A with Bulgarian Director, Kostadin Bonev. Who this year submitted his film ”The Sinking of Sozopol” to the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival. Mr. Bonev won acclaim as one of the year’s best narrative features, and we are most appreciative to him for granting access to both Ms. Yubo Fernandez and Shailik Bhaumik from the Cult Critic publishing team for this interview.
As he shared his professional insight, Cult Critic was able to learn a little about Kostadin’s aesthetics on filmmaking. Let’s see what art house filmmaker Kostadin Bonev has to say about his own work and what’s in store for the future. This was a great opportunity to share a filmmakers insights into the human condition and learn how it affects his filmmaking process.
CULT CRITIC: There was no place called Sozopol on earth. Apollonia sank in the Black sea thousands of years ago. You have said, someday it might sink into the sea of memories again. Kostadin, what compelled you to explore such a place which exists only temporarily?
KOSTADIN BONEV: In fact, Sozopol exists – it is a small town on the coast of the Black Sea. The spirit of the old Apollonia is still alive and defines the look of Sozopol. The city in the movie, however, is a universal symbol, moreover, I wanted to make this place familiar and close to every viewer, regardless of where he watches the film, whether he knows anything about Bulgaria or not.
Q: I have observed that throughout the film you have consciously tried to escape from consciousness. Why do you think ten bottles of vodka or a hangover is required to discover the true essence of life or human civilization or to discover oneself?
A: There is a difference between me and the protagonist of the film. Despite the vodka, I think his consciousness is rather sharpened than blunted. When a person faces the ruins of his failed life, his own mistakes and falls, pain is stronger than anything else. As far as treatment is regarded – everyone has to decide for himself what exactly it should be.
Q: “When hope is gone, miracle is the last resort.” – I see romanticism is the foundation of “The Sinking of Sozopol”. Today in this materialistic 21st century people are losing faith in miraculous or supernatural things. Nihilistic thoughts are covering our minds but do you still believe one day some miracle will happen that will change the direction of our lives or human civilization?
A: Only a person who has not got in a desperate situation does not know that there are such moments when miracle is the only alternative. Chavo is in a situation where it is obvious that he does not have a useful move. Then, with Ina Valchanova, who is a co-screenwriter and author of the novel, we decided to help him with a modern Deus ex machiha.
Q: Your film “The Sinking of Sozopol” repeatedly reminds me of the works of Fellini and Tarkovsky. Do you think they really have any influence on you for making this visual poetry?
A: The film language evolves thanks to the authors who bring new elements into it. Fellini and Tarkovsky are exactly such directors. I would add Antonioni. Nowadays such filmmakers are Lars von Trier and Alexander Sokurov, Tarantino. They create new codes that inevitably come into the set of means of expression that each of us uses.
Q: You have used so many underwater footages in your movie. I personally don’t have much knowledge about underwater shooting. Did you actually shoot underwater or the effect has been made in postproduction?
A: The underwater footages are absolutely real. The set designers built a set at 20 meters under water, while the actor Deyan Donkov and the underwater cameraman did the rest. I stood on the shore and prayed for everything to finish successfully.
Q: I must say, you got a gifted music composer Nikolai Ivanov for “The Sinking of Sozopol”. I think a blind man can also enjoy your movie equally like us. What do you think, how important is the background score for a film?
A: Thank you for the nice words about Nikolai Ivanov, he deserves them. Nicholai really creates music that can be “seen”. That’s why I’ve been working with him for so long.
Q: What do you think in which direction Bulgarian film industry is moving and what is the future of Independent film in Bulgarian market?
A: Cinema, as well as any other process in society, evolves from the energy of young people. This is also the case in Bulgaria. The finances available to a Bulgarian film are such that the fight against commercial cinema, especially with the American one, is meaningless. This cinema has taken over the film multiplexes and has no intention of giving it to anyone. That is why in Bulgaria we have leaned on the European experience – creating a parallel chain of cinemas in which to show “independent” films. The paradox is that the predominant part of European films can only be seen in these cinemas.
Q: What are the challenges that you have faced while making and releasing this film?
A: It is a challenge to bring together a crew of 50 to 60 people and make them work as one for weeks. 12 hours a day. If you are not sincere and do not give it all from yourself, you can not succeed.
Q: Do you think independent filmmakers should directly go for digital streaming (VOD) rather than trying to get their films released in theatrically? Or they should try for it?
A: All the alternatives for showing a movie are good and should be used. Of course, the experience at the cinema is unique. There the emotion multiplies itself repeatedly.
Q: What do you think, independent films should be made for Festivals only or it should be made for audience? How effective are the laurels of Indian Film Fests for the commercial success of a film?
A: I perceive film festivals as an opportunity for a movie to be seen by an audience different in its mentality and sensitivity. Thanks to festivals, “The Sinking of Sozopol” was screened in many cities in Canada, the USA, Brazil and Colombia, in Europe and Russia, in China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia. The experience the director has had from similar meetings with the audience is invaluable.
Music composed by Nikolai Ivanov
Q: I find many independent filmmakers saying they don’t believe in the grammar of filmmaking. They just want to break the rules and to be creative? What is your opinion?
A: I have already mentioned that film, like any other art, is a system of codes. This system must be clear and be able to be read adequately. The ultimate goal is your message to reach the viewer in a way that is not deformed. The creation of new codes represents aerobatics in direction and few are in control of it. Perhaps that is the reason a large part of the “independent” cinema is hermetic and is difficult to reach the viewer’s mind.
Q: If you were given a chance to go back to your past life in a town like Sozopol, what would you have liked to do? Correcting your mistakes or you would have let it flow in the current of time?
A: If you ask me, mistakes made in the past can not be corrected. But we can learn from them. They are the basis of our experience.
Q: What was the inspiration for “The Sinking of Sozopol”?
A: At the beginning it was a book of the same name. When I read it, I decided that the man whose story had been told had nothing to do with me. I am his opposite. But for some reason, I kept coming back to this story again and again. Finally, I phoned the author of the book, Ina Valchanova, and we both started writing a script.
Q: In your perspective which are the requirements for a sincere script?
A: You must know what you are describing. The problem must excite you. To add a little detail: if you think that you can also not tell a story, you’d better not tell it.
Q: Have you ever experimented any prohibition to create a truthful, raw film?
A: I take the liberty to experiment in documentary cinema. A story can be told more freely there.
Q: As a director what is the quality you appreciate most in your actors?
A: Actors should be a team. A well-formed ensemble is the key to success. If we accept their talent for granted, for something that is implied, they must be able to listen to their partner and be prepared for unexpected surprises. I love actors – chameleons.
Visit the film’s promotional page
Q: Which directors from the history inspired you?
A: Antonioni and Tarkovsky, Lars von Trier of the contemporary ones.
Q: Do you see the independent film world spreading now?
A: Globally, independent films are much more than films produced by big film companies. American independent cinema is stronger than ever. European independent cinema is familiar and close to me – I feel as a part of it. I always enjoy watching Asian independent cinema – there the surprises are the most numerous ones.
Q: What do you think is the most respectful way of movie making?
A: There are no recipes for making movies. That’s exactly what I like best.
Q: Kostadin, please tell us about your next work?
A: In my new project, a young theater director is rehearsing a play in which a crazy ship captain terrorizes the crew, demanding absolute obedience. Seafarers undertake a rebellion only when the food in the ship has been eaten. Gradually, the violence enshrined in the plot of the play begins to permeate the relationships between the actors.
Q: Any advise for emerging filmmakers around the globe?
A: Do not neglect the experience of those before you. I have learned the most from the ups and downs of those who have made movies before me.
Yubo Fernandez is an Actress, Writer, Producer, Director and the Founder and President of Obuy Films. She lived in NYC, attended Atlantic Film School Workshops and returned to study cinematography at Santo Domingo’s Altos de Chavon School and studied under Claude Kerven, Chair of the Filmmaking Department at New York Film Academy. “How Do We kill Luisa”, “Peldanos de Dolor” and “Constanza” are three films that she’s produced. Yubo is also featured in several films from the Dominican Republic.
Shailik Bhaumik is an award-winning filmmaker and entrepreneur. Known for his feature film “Dasein”, Shailik is the founder and Chairman of Human Lab Corporation, a Multinational Film Company whose mission it is to help Independent Filmmakers survive and thrive in this highly competitive industry. Shailik oversees worldwide operations including production, distribution, and marketing for HLC’s live-action films, as well as films released under the HLC banner.