which played at Montreal's 2008
Festival Nouveau Cinema, rated 3 out of
4 stars. For the rest of the festival ratings, click
surprise that Yavor Gardev's debut film, Zift, snatched
up six awards at this year's edition of the Golden Rose Festival
in Varna -- Bulgaria's resort city equivalent of Nice, but
with more Bulgarians. No surprise that Zift has been
making big Black Sea waves in film festivals all over the
world, most recently in Montreal. It's quite unlike anything
you've seen before: a high-octane, mystery thriller that combines
film noir, Jean Cocteau, Pulp Fiction, a runaway
gas leak and match.
story line, which at every frame fights to keep up with the
film's madly inspired style, tells the story of Moth, who
in the 1940s in Bulgaria is sentenced to a long prison term
for a robbery he didn't commit. He is released during the
60s into the black hole of Communist totalitarianism whose
tentacles are wrapped around every aspect of Bulgaria's interminably
bleak quotidian. Moth dreams of leaving the country for sunnier
climes but his plans are cut short when he is kidnapped by
cronies from the past who are convinced he knows where he
hid a huge diamond before he was imprisoned. The film follows
his misadventures as he attempts to escape his pursuers. On
the way, he gets involved with Ada, part temptress, solace,
svelte night club singer with an agenda as mysterious as her
diamond-edged dark eyes that melt everything in their path.
sets of this film are worthy of museum pieces: all black ether
and mirrors that are made to reveal the essential Bulgaria
over a 25 year period, from its managed poverty to its darknesses
at high noon under the big red machine from which there is
no exit other than unconditional surrender.
The prison sets are especially made to match the explosive
relationship between the system and subjugates, jailer and
prisoner -- where all hope and striving have been sucked dry
and perverted by circumstance forged and tempered in the crucible
of state control. The prison walls, bearing silent witness
to all manner of torture and taboo, seem to secrete viruses
and malignancies, as if having taken their aspect from enforced
encounters with the degraded human condition. Enhancing the
entire effect of this at once disturbing and highly entertaining
film is the resounding, hard-driving, granite-heavy sound
track that alternately cracks like a whip and coerces like
a dentist's drill.
nothing else, Zift is proof that where budget is
wanting, imagination can more than adequately supply the deficit.
Novice director Yavor Gardev has incontestably put himself
on every discerning critic's watch list with a film whose
sometimes outrageous flash and daring will linger long after
the final credits. Gardev seems to be in possession of extraordinary
skills and imagination, and where restraint is occasionally
in short supply, it is tempered by complete knowledge of subject
matter -- that does not get lost in translation.
you haven't already got the drift, check out Zift,
for a paradigm shift that is Bulgaria's gift to world cinema.
the ratings of all the 2008 Festival
films, click HERE.