My Teacher Octopus (2020, South Africa), – winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Documentary, is part of the program of the festival “Sofia DokuMental”. Craig Foster shoots near Cape Good Hope in Africa. After days and weeks of diving in the cold waters, he meets a young octopus who shows remarkable curiosity. By visiting him every day, Craig gains his trust and creates an unprecedented connection between man and octopus in his natural environment. The author reveals completely unknown to scientists the peculiarities of the behavior of marine animals, shows once again why we must act in a timely manner to save our oceans, but everything is refracted through a deeply personal point of view and captivating underwater photos. Festival organizers will make a gift to the audience with a free screening of the tape.
The Oscar winner is just one of 40 films that will be screened from September 7 to 14 as part of the Sofia DokuMental Festival. The organizers of the Balkan Documentary Center, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Czech Center have selected the best of contemporary world documentary cinema with awards from the Sundance and Berlinale, Oscar nominations and awards. What all the titles have in common is the focus on human rights and the courage of people to stand up for their free choice, will, religion, political affiliation, gender identity, right to vote. That is why the organizers have chosen the slogan “Do cross the line”, which invites viewers to get rid of restraints and prejudices, to cross all boundaries and watch a different and bold movie. After last year’s forced edition online, now the meeting with the audience will be face to face in selected art places – in the domed space of Largo, the House of Cinema “and the Czech Center.
Thematically, the films are grouped into seven sections. “My teacher the octopus” is part of the section “Nature: SOS” or “With (against) nature”. Another film that explores the complex relationship between man and nature is “I’m Greta,” directed by Nathan Grossman. The story of the teenage climate activist is told in the film through captivating, unprecedented footage. The documentary follows its global impact, ranging from school strikes to protests around the world.
Ron Howard filmed in Paradise Restoration the story of one of the deadliest fires in the United States in the film. It tells the story of the devastating firestorm on November 8, 2018, which engulfed the picturesque city of Paradise, California. During its extinguishing, the fire killed 85 people, displaced 50,000 residents and destroyed 95% of local buildings.
“Conflict Zone” is a program that shows the places in the world for which the war and its wounds are not left in the past. This section includes the opening film “The Earth is Blue as an Orange” by Irina Tsilik, which won the award for best director – “World Cinema Documentary”, 2020 Sundance, shown at the last “Berlinale”.
Facing the Status Quo is the name of a program with protagonists who have the courage to oppose political regimes and social injustice, paying the price of repression and persecution. One of the top titles in this thematic section is The Dissident (2020, USA) – Oscar nomination 2021). The film focuses on the assassination of Saudi writer and Washington Post columnist Jamal Hashoghi. Director Vogel mixes political cinema, spy thriller, crime drama, love story and horror. Skillfully intertwining different genres, he explores the notions of power, technology, state-sponsored violence and state tyranny in a kind of ode to freedom of speech. Another very strong title is “The Machine of Vice” (2018, Canada, Directed by Sarah Fowdy). The film is a remarkable testament to a shameful period in Canada’s history after World War II. Amid Cold War paranoia, Canada is launching an investigation into federal officials who may be susceptible to extortion by Soviet spies. Homosexuality, then considered a “weakness of character,” became the subject of surveillance and questioning by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Through the so-called “Fruit machine – a device like a polygraph, the Canadian government is trying to identify LGBT employees and remove them from government service. For four decades, the careers of thousands of men and women have been ruined and their lives ruined.
The theme of gender identity and different sexual orientation is also covered in the film “Toby’s Colors” (2021, Hungary) – part of the program “Freedom has no age”. The film presents a portrait of a family struggling with teenage sexual dysphoria of 16-year-old teenager Toby, sending once again the message that love is all we need. All the works in this section meet us with young people who have the courage to be free, no matter what it costs them.
“The new normal” is a term that the Covid epidemic introduced into our daily lives in the last year and a half. There is no way this did not affect the cinema. Against the backdrop of the crumbling healthcare sector in Greece, George Averopoulos’ film “In the Present” follows the main characters who are trying to cope with the new crisis that has befallen humanity. Observing for a year the attempt of his homeland to cope with this gigantic challenge, the director manages to capture a universal reality and raises critical questions about the era after Kovid, in which the world is yet to enter. In his previous film AGORA II – Chained (2020, Greece), he saw the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic as the third consecutive crisis for the European continent since the introduction of the euro and the refugee wave, which once again calls into question European values. .
Bulgaria presents itself at the festival with 3 films. Two of them are part of the “Silent Heroes” section, dedicated to ordinary people with extraordinary destinies. Among them is Stefan Komandarev’s new film “Life from Life”. Here, too, the director uses a technique familiar to us from his last 3 feature films to cross the paths of several completely unknown and unrelated characters – a 39-year-old journalist, a 37-year-old advertising agent, a 23-year-old student, a 51-year-old fitness instructor and a 35-year-old. annual farmer. What they have in common is the need for life-saving organ transplants. One of them has already undergone a successful transplant, while the others are still waiting. Hoping that one day the time will come for them at all “The general goal of this documentary is organ donation and the promotion of transplants to become a normal part of the culture and values of society in Bulgaria,” says the director.
The other Bulgarian participation in this section is “Silent Heritage” by director Petya Nakova. The film tells the story of the family of the auditory-speech rehabilitator and sign language interpreter Tanya Dimitrova. Most Bulgarians heard about her for the first time during her sign language translations during the briefings of the National Operational Headquarters. She is the founder of the Yanika Rehabilitation Center for Deaf Children. Accustomed from a young age to the silence due to her parents’ deafness, Tanya embarks on an apostolic mission to teach deaf children with cochlear implants and hearing aids to speak, because she is convinced that the earlier the education of deaf girls and boys begins, the more – they will be easily realized in the society.
For the first time in 10 years, a Bulgarian documentary was co-produced by HBO Europe and through the streaming platform HBO GO entered the homes of viewers from 23 European countries.
The third Bulgarian title is “Music for a movie”, included in the section “Small towns, big stories”.
More music will be played at the festival. “Sisters of Radio Frequencies” (2020, Great Britain by director Lisa Rovner) is included in the program for the last night. The film tells the never-before-told remarkable story of the pioneers of electronic music, who embraced machines and technology to completely transform the way we produce and listen to music today.
And as befits the closing of such an event, after the screening, Largo will be announced by an after party with live music.
The festival will have a competition program that aims to encourage young women directors in the documentary genre. The audience will also present a special award. Many of the screenings will be followed by discussions involving the film’s creative teams, and among the guests from abroad are directors Antonia Kilian, David Osit, camerawoman Tanya Khorilchuk and others.
The organizers of the Balkan Documentary Center, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Czech Center, the festival director Martichka Bozhilova, the programmer Evi Karageorgu, supported by the National Culture Fund, Sofia Municipality and the American Embassy in Bulgaria, have the ambition to turn Sofia DokuMental into one. of the most significant events in the cultural calendar of Sofia.