Home NotizieCultura 4th Sofia DocuMental International Film Festival Spotlights Human Rights

4th Sofia DocuMental International Film Festival Spotlights Human Rights

by Lyubomir Gigov
5 minuti di lettura

The 4th Sofia DocuMental International Film Festival (September 18-25, 2023) will present the top 20 international award-winning documentaries of the past year, of which 18 will be premieres for Bulgaria and 12 have female directors or co-directors. The entries have been distinguished at Berlinale, Cannes, Sundance, IDFA-Amsterdam, DokLeipzig, CPH:DOX-Copenhagen and other A-festivals. Some of the filmmakers will be on site to meet and hold exclusive discussions with the Bulgarian audience.

The films are grouped in thematic sections covering gender-based violence, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race and religion, the struggle for equality and personal revolutions as a result of global social and climate change, the consequences of the war in Ukraine, and military politics in Belarus.

The best film by a female director and a record number of international guests from the documentary industry in Sofia will be selected from among six entries in a special competition programme, which has been a trademark of the event since 2020. This year, the Bulgarian Fund for Women will present the special award to the winner at the closing ceremony on September 24.

Sofia DocuMental will open on September 18 with the internationally acclaimed film Motherland in the presence of the event’s co-organizers from the European Parliament Liaison Office in Sofia. The Swedish-Ukrainian-Norwegian co-production scrutinizes post-Soviet Belarus, where corruption and a brutal war-honouring culture divide the young generation and the government instrumentalizes fear-mongering. The film’s co-director Hanna Badziaka will be among the guests of the Festival.

Other highlights on the bill:

– Anna Hints’s Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (Estonia/France/Iceland), sensually framing naked women’s bodies in beautiful and intimate close-ups for a compelling and unforgettable experience;
– Valerie Kontakos’s Queen of the Deuce (Greece), telling the story of Chellie Wilson, an eccentric Greek-Jewish immigrant to the US who built a porn film empire and a reputation as one of the most iconic and charismatic figures between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s;
– Coco Scrijber’s Look What You Made Me Do (The Netherlands), about three women who became murderers as a result of abusive relationships;
– Steffi Niederzoll’s Seven Winters in Tehran (Germany/France), in which Cannes award-winning actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi stars as 19-year-old student Reyhaneh Jabari, who was sentenced to death by the Iranian regime for killing the man who tried to rape her;
– Free Money (Kenya, US), directed by Sam Soko and Lauren De Filippo, about the world’s largest experiment in universal basic income in which the residents of a poor village in Kenya are paid USD 20 monthly without having to work for it in the course of 12 years.

On the last night of the Festival, September 24, Daniel and Alexandra Liz Bernuti will be present in person for the screening of their film My Muslim Husband (Romania), exploring the confusing world of discrimination in which a young married couple with incompatible beliefs find themselves trapped.

The Focus on Ukraine will present two films: When Spring Came to Bucha, a heart-wrenching story of loss, hope and resistance, directed by Mila Teshaieva and Marcus Lenz; and Evgeny Afineevsky’s Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, which describes the terrible reality of the fratricidal war and the courage of the Ukrainian people.

The screenings will take place at eight key cultural locations in the capital city: the Largo Sofia pop-up cinema, Cinema House, Odeon Cinema, the Czech Centre, the Institut francais, Goethe-Institut, Ж Jazz Room, and DOM Club.

The embassies of Czechia, Spain, Hungary, Romania, France and the US and their respective countries’ cultural institutes have collaborated in organizing the 2023 edition of Sofia DocuMental.

Special Events

A number of special events are scheduled on the sidelines of Sofia DocuMental. This year’s programme is expanded to non-fiction audio storytelling. The Grand Balkan Podcast (now launched for the first time in a live format) delves into personalities and events from the Balkans with a tinge of light-hearted humour. The Urban Detective documentary podcast will treat the audience of Sofia DocuMental to an audio walk around Sofia with some of its most intriguing secrets, followed by a conversation with the three podcasters. DOM Club will host a special discussion in a live podcast format with Vladislav Iliev, the creator of the Bulgarian Rave Archive (better known as Vladzen).

The Kinoclub Super 8 artists collective will hold an open day event at which everyone can bring their forgotten 8 mm and Super 8 amateur home movies to watch them together.

In yet another sideline, the Festival’s Balkan Documentary Market (BDC) platform will offer a creative laboratory, including targeted trainings and attendance by internationally renowned authors and experts in non-fiction cinema.

Sofia DocuMental Director Martichka Bozhilova says that the Festival’s inherent mission to discover diverse stories that have the power to change and give them a platform to unfold will, over time, strengthen the event’s position as a leading international human rights forum. She points out that the project is duty-bound to combat the monsters of fear, insecurity, disinformation, war, patriarchy and homophobia, armed with foresight, curiosity, critical thought and, above all, perseverance and endurance.


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