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Maya Vitkova about Viktoria΄s Victory
© Yoana Pavlova
First Publication: altcine 13/02/2014
 
 
   
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While the “drabness” of Bulgarian cinema, as Professor Dina Iordanova calls it in her book New Bulgarian Cinema (College Gate, 2008), seems to have escaped the screen and overflown local reality, the news about Maya Vitkova΄s Viktoria conquering the world of festivals came as a surprise. Which is surprising in itself, as it took her many years to prepare (for) this film – while shooting her critically acclaimed shorts Stanka Goes Home (2010) and My Tired Father (2011), while working as Executive Producer for Eastern Plays (2009), probably the first contemporary feature that was perceived by young Bulgarians as a revelation, even while she was helping others in her long career of Assistant Director and Casting Director. Knowing her perfectionism and dedication, no wonder the final result was worth a world premiere in Sundance plus the competitions of IFF Rotterdam and Göteborg IFF, all in one month.

Viktoria is beautiful and challenging for many reasons, not only because of her audiovisual and poetic qualities, but also due to the fact that the film may be interpreted in different ways. The fantastic reviews in multiple outlets (Screen, The Hollywood Reporter,  IndieWire to name a few) did a great job decoding the personal and political past woven into the plot. Still, more details and angles are yet to be discovered, and I hope that this interview, conducted at the quay of the LantarenVenster movie theatre in Rotterdam, could work as an elucidating close-up.

Viktoria by Maya Vitkova

Yoana Pavlova: You just arrived from Sundance, where a lot has been discussed about women in cinema, you were interviewed there on a few occasions on this topic, and here, at IFFR, a lot has been said about the state of Europe these days. What context do you think is more relevant to the subject of Viktoria – women or the place of Bulgaria in Europe?

Maya Vitkova: I think both. I have never thought of myself as a female director, to be honest. Not that I am in denial or anything, but it was very interesting to see how important the Americans think is the fact that you are a female director and I appreciate it. In terms of financing your film, it is never easy, when you are a woman, I agree with that. In terms of making an entire crew work for you, when you are a woman, and especially having in mind that I am the writer, the director, and the producer of the film Viktoria.
I have been meeting a lot of difficulties, especially when I was closing deals, because in Bulgaria there are still people who are, let΄s say, cheating on deals, and even if you have a solid contract, which I did, I always had problems with people, you know, now and then. But the good thing is that I have a fantastic lawyer, and he told me one thing: “No matter what is written in the contract, there is always someone who is breaking it. So you have to be prepared!” And I am prepared for the worst, always. That said for the female part.
Then, if we are discussing Bulgaria in the European context, I wish that we could use more assets of this – I prefer to be in an European co-production, I prefer to work with more European colleagues, I prefer to be more in the context of Europe than I am in the moment. I think that trying to finance a film only nationally is a mistake. You should try and finance it internationally, especially as an European co-production, yet if you are doing this, you should be aware that it is much more time-consuming, and then there are going to be more people wanting to read the script, there are going to be more comments – all this will probably take ages. Again probably, the best way is to have a very good first feature, so then you can start and do it the way you think it should be done.

Yoana Pavlova: Speaking of Europe and collaborations, what has been your experience working with Romanian film professionals?

Maya Vitkova: Romanians are very easy, because they have been gaining success since 2006 when The Death of Mr. Lazarescu opened the door for Romanian cinema. The Romanian National Film Center or CNC is not giving more money than the Bulgarian National Film Center, the thing is that that they are proportioning the money better. They give less money to much more productions, and then the percentage of good films is higher, compared to when you give money only to four films and expect three of them to be good. It is not possible, it does not work with Bulgaria.
Romanians are also very experienced with co-productions, because there have been many foreign productions shot there, for a long time. There are many foreign productions being shot in Bulgaria as well, but it is different, because the Bulgarian side is always positioned as a service, they are not creatively involved, as much as the Romanians are involved in the co-productions they are doing. In this particular case, I did not have any problems, I just had a partnership with the company Mandragora and that΄s it!

Viktoria by Maya Vitkova

Yoana Pavlova: Do you think you already have any impact on Romanian cinema after your collaboration with Radu Jude and Anca Puiu?

Maya Vitkova: I know I was among the first in our country to work with Romanians. They have one very important advantage – very solid literature that contains plenty of archetypes, so they can easily lay on them, use them in order to make good films. In order to have a good film, you need a good script, and they are particularly good at that!

Yoana Pavlova: If we go back to Bulgarian cinema, what is your relationship with it, how do you see your place in it?

Maya Vitkova: My relationship with Bulgarian cinema started long ago, I was Assistant Director and Casting Director for many years, almost 15. I worked with many different directors and I had this fear... I am not saying that this happened every time, but if we were discussing the worst-case scenario, as I always do, I was afraid of the result. I am talking about quality, gaining the love of the audience as well, how to cleverly give your film a life after it is already shot and produced. The best experience I have had is after I had finished working as a first AD – it is the first feature of Kamen Kalev, for which I am the Executive Producer. I did this job with the clear idea that it will be a successful film, and it was not only an intuitive feeling. It was also due to the fact that the people who came and worked for us were really paid bad, but they did it, as they believed in the film. This production gave me a lot of freedom too, somehow I fully met my potential, because I had to secure so much! Now I wonder if could be able to do it again.
My place in Bulgarian cinema? I see myself alone. I think that everyone there is an individualist, which is probably one of the biggest problems. I have tried to be part of groups, but it never works, because as soon as someone gains what they have been wanting to, they just forget about the group, and I do not want to be let down anymore. So I prefer to work alone, with my collaborators of course, and I am not alone actually, since I have the best crew in the world!

Yoana Pavlova: What about subject and style, do you feel close to any classic Bulgarian film director? While watching Viktoria, I thought for example of Rangel Vulchanov and his absurdist approach in The Unknown Soldier΄s Pathent Leather Shoes (1979) – have you thought about this?

Maya Vitkova: No, I have not thought about this, but it is a compliment! I think it is a brilliant film!  If I have to go for my taste, I would mention Eduard Zahariev. I love his films, I believe he is a world-class director. So, if I want to be “attached” to somebody, I would prefer him. Also, the film of Rangel Vulchanov you mention, it is a fantastic example.

Yoana Pavlova: Trying to be more precise about the style of Viktoria, if I say “magical realism”, how would you feel about it?

Maya Vitkova: Yes, absolutely!

Yoana Pavlova: Because I have been thinking that your film has much more in common with Bulgarian literature, not so much with our cinema. Especially with Emiliya Dvoryanova, she also explores women with the means of magical realism and in historical context.

Maya Vitkova: I have only heard about her, I still have not read her novels, but I was told she works in this style. As far as magical realism in literature goes, I think it is harder to sell, because it is untranslatable. When you work with images, it is much easier, as they are an instant emotion – it either touches you or it does not work for you. With literature the translation changes many things. First of all, the person who translates the texts, needs to know our language very well, and then also the nature, the Bulgarian nature. We have been discussing a lot why Yordan Radichkov, who is a genius, has never been widely acknowledged abroad. It was just untranslatable.

Yoana Pavlova: One final question – women usually carry their babies for nine months, you carried this film for nine years. When Viktoria was finally born, was there an umbilical cord?

Maya Vitkova: Yes...

Yoana Pavlova: Did you cut it?

Maya Vitkova: I still have not, but I will!
 
 
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Category
 
 
 
 
  The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
  Eastern Plays
  Viktoria
  The Unknown Soldier`s Patent Leather Shoes
 
  Anca Puiu
  Maya Vitkova
  Kamen Kalev
  Radu Jude
  Dina Iordanova
  Yoana Pavlova
  Eduard Zahariev
  Rangel Valchanov
 
  Bulgarian National Film Center
  Mandragora Movies
 
  Success as a chameleon
  Hallo Holland - Holland Film Meeting Report
 
 
 
 
 
  Maya Vitkova Official Website
  Viktoria on Facebook
  Viktoria Official Website
  Yordan Radichkov on Wikipedia
  Emiliya Dvoryanova on Contemporary Bulgarian Writers
  Mandragora Official Website
  Bulgarian National Film Center
  CNC Official Website
  IndieWire Official Website
  The Hollywood Reporter Official Website
  Screen Official Website
  IFF Goteborg Official Website
  IFF Rotterdam Official Website
  Sundance Official Website
 
 
 
 
 
 
       
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