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21.03, - 16:00, Cinema House
Director:  Hristo Hristov
Christo Christov - Retro
A Tree Without Roots
A Woman At Thirty-Three
The Barrier
The Icon Stand
The Last Summer


Bulgaria, 1968, 95 min, color

The end of the I the century. Rafe Klinche, a woodcarver, arrives in a small town in the western regions of Bulgaria. He has been commissioned to make an iconostasis in the new church. He finds lodgings in the home of the Glaueshev family. Rafe Klinche falls in love with their daughter, Katerina. He makes slow progress with the iconostasis. Lazar, Katerina's brother, encourages the artist to hurry up, but Rafe surprises him with the news taht he wants to marry Katerina who is pregnant. Her mother Sultana makes the girl have a miscarriage. Katerina dies. Rafe is in despair. Disatisfaction in the town against the religious oppression of the Greek clergy grows. The priest, Lazar and Rafe are arrested and tortured. When the iconostasis is completed, it appears that Rafe has depicted scenes from daily life. The younger people like it, but the older people consider it heretical. The artist sets off along his travels again alone with his art and his grief.

When Christo Christov enters the Bulgarian feature film cinema in the late 60-ies with his The Icon Stand (1969), what he already has behind his back is medical practice, scenography projects, opera productions, national awards for theatre directing as well as specialization with Mikhail Rom at the Mosfilm Studios. There is hardly another director in his generation to manifest himself in as varied spheres of art as Christo Christov. And there hardly is another colleague of his to have been so officially celebrated and so officially stigmatized by the totalitarian power. The film about proletarian leader Georgi Dimitrov Anvil or Hammer (1972) brings him a Golden Rose from the Varna Film Festival and the position of Chairman of the Union of the Bulgarian Filmmakers; and social drama A Woman at Thirty-Tree (1982), brings him a media discussion, public reproach by the professional community and deposition from chairmanship, all staged by the party censorship. His is a biography of a whole generation of Bulgarian cinematographers balancing
between art's high imperatives and the humiliating conditions dictated by the political situation. Christo Christov defends his artistic dignity by making a stand for cinematographic values. The Icon Stand, The Last Summer, 1973 (Best Foreign Director Award in Atlanta, USA, 1974 and the Special Jury Award at the Young European Cinema Festival in Toulon, France, 1975), and A Tree Without Roots, 1974 (First Award in Varna, 1974) set standards for artistry, and were realised despite and against the dogmas of social realism. These three films confirm Christo Christov's trade mark the inherent metaphoric quality of his style at the same time bringing up the personal identity problem for the first time in bulgarian cinema. Searching for such identity in man's connections with nature and tradition, director delves into deeper dimensions of human psyche and beyond the simplification and dogmatism imposed by the political situation. This is how he gets to The Cyclope, 1976 (Diploma at the Berlinale, 1977) the first Bulgarian film focused entirely on man's inner world; and to his sublime achievement, The Barrier, 1979 (Silver medal from the International Film Festival in Moscow, 1979) a tragic parable about the barriers separating us from spirituality and pure beauty. The colours become even more intense in his next film, The Truck (1980) where the problem of living a dull life lacking in spirituality acquires tangible social dimensions the erosion of values in the times of setting totalitarism. Christo Christov's attempt to declare his own line of "moral anxiety" fails: A Woman at Thirty-Tree (1982) gives rise to repressions against him and is a convenient pretext to intimidate disobedient intellectuals. Next come his attempts within the limits of the censured: Interlocutor By Request (1984), Profile (1986) Test '88 (1989) as well as documentaries about art. The changes in the early 90ies inspire Christo Christov to continue working actively for the Bulgarian cinema at the head of the Feature Film Commission with the National Film Centre (1995-1999), as the Chairman of the Social Council for Cinematography (1999) as well as a professor at the National Film and Theatre Academy. His feature "attempt at repentance" is Sulamit (1997). He also receives international acclaim for documentary films "The Silver Knight" in Minsk '96 for Don't Give Up (Dum Spiro Spero) (1995): a film dedicated to artist Zlatyo Boyadjiev and singer Boris Hristov. One of the most awarded Bulgarian film directors abroad, Christo Christov is the first Bulgarian to be elect a member of the European Film Academy an acknowledgement for his ambition to make Bulgarian cinema beyond the barriers of aesthetic provincialism.
Ingeborg Bratoeva
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