#TIFF, #TorontoInternationalFilmFestival, #TheFather
Bulgaria based filmmaker Petar Valchanov and his partner Kristina Grozeva write, produce and direct films ranging from documentaries, and shorts to feature films. IBNS Canada Special Correspondent, and Canadian-Media's Editor Asha Bajaj catches up with Petar Valchanov, director of "The Father", one of the critically acclaimed films premiered at the TIFF 2019.
Image Credit: TIFF
Kristina Grozeva and you are a writer-producer-director couple based in Sofia, Bulgaria and have been working together. Where and when did you meet Kristina and what motivated you to form a partnership to work together? What was the name given to this partnership?
We have known each other and worked together for more than 16 years. We met in the film school in Sofia. Our first meeting outside the film school was at a festival in Egypt. Our passion for film developed while we were in school. During that time, we helped and cooperated with each other. It was not of course, official cooperation. Our desire for cinema was in the developmental stage. Then after graduation, we tried one commercial and then one short film. We had lots of fun and gained good experience. We felt we were good partners, and this inspired and motivated us to form a partnership to work together. The official partnership started with one short film Jump. We created a production company called Abraxas Film.
Name a few films, documentaries and shorts and features which were produced by you both? Give some details of their themes, and the background reflected by these films? Where were they shot?
In 2012, we co-directed the short film ‘Jump’. We also produced several short films and features, including the documentary Parable of Life (2010) and feature films such as 'The Lesson' (2014), 'Glory' (2016) and 'The Father' (2019). The documentary ‘Parable of Life’ is about a painter, who is my father. "The Lesson" depicts the drama about economic stress and the desperation of Bulgarian society. ‘Glory’ is a parable exploring the themes of corruption, class differences in contemporary Bulgarian society. They were shot in Bulgaria in real locations.
Describe the struggle you faced before you got recognition. Who was your idol?
The struggles we faced mostly pertained to getting finances in Bulgaria. For one of our feature films, we got only 15,000 dollars as funds, which was a small amount. After that, we started getting financial help from the United States. Our idols were our teachers, programmers and directors of films of different genres
Coming to the film 'The Father' which is written, directed and produced by Kristina Grozeva and yourself, what motivated you to write the script?
Our real-life experiences concerning relationships and communications between different generations were the main motives for us to produce this film. ‘The Father’ is the most personal and intimate story. The opening scene of the film, in which after Pavel's mother's funeral, one neighbour comes and tells his family that she had a phone call from Pavel’s mother, relates to my real experience. In real life. After the funeral of my mother, one neighbour, who was an intimate friend of my mother's, came to us to tell us that she had a phone call from her mother. I was startled at that time. I began to think that maybe my mother is trying to send us a message, maybe she had something she wanted to tell us. Then after further investigation, we found out that it was due to a faulty phone connection. This event motivated us to write the script for the film ‘The Father.’
(The storyline of the film as mentioned on the IMDb website centres around Vasil, who has just lost his wife Valentina. When a woman at her funeral proclaims that the dead woman called her cell phone, Vasil seeks out the help of a well-known psychic in order to contact his wife. His son Pavel tries to bring him to his senses, but Vasil stubbornly insists on doing things his own way. "The Father" is an intimate family drama about the difficulties of connecting with those close to us. )
Which elements, do you think, were responsible for the film's critical acclaim? Besides supernaturalism, what are the other elements of the story? How did you rationalize the supernatural element in the film: such as hearing noises at night; the breaking of mother’s favourite vase and Father’s reasoning that his wife is trying to tell something.
Besides supernaturalism, other elements that were responsible for the film being acclaimed as North American Premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema section, are humour, comedy, grief, guilt and coping with life. We introduced comedy in the film to send a message across the viewers as well as to the world at large that to visualize sorrow through comedy and laughter is crucial in diminishing the effects of sorrow.
Lastly, it was the guilt of the character Vasil, which was responsible for evoking events such as Father hearing noises at night, breaking of mother’s favorite vase, Father's insistence that his wife is trying to tell something, and Valentina’s friend struggling to convince Vasil that Pavel's mother had been calling her again and again. The end, when Vasil confesses that he had killed Valentina, rationalises the supernatural element of the story because it was the guilt of Vasil, who is portrayed as mentally challenged, which had given rise to hearing noises at night and that Valentina was trying to say something to him.