Rosen Spasov (Bulgarska Nacionalna Filmoteka)
Binka Zhelyazkova (1923- 2011) is a pioneer of Bulgarian cinema. She was part of the first generation of professionally trained filmmakers in Bulgaria and her career encompassed the beginning and the end of the government-owned studio system. She was also the first woman feature film director in Bulgaria, and one of the few female directors in the 1950s working worldwide. A byahme mladi was written by Binka’s husband Hristo Ganev and is the first feature she directed on her own. Based on autobiographical moments from their life (they were both participants in the antifascist movement) the film explores the hope, idealism and anxieties of the war generation and established Binka as a director in her own right. A byahme mladi follows a couple of young antifascists, Veska and Dimo, as they fall in love while working for the underground, and how their idealism ends in disappointment. Binka and Hristo would experience a similarly complex relationship with the system they fought for, a relationship that caused many of their films to be censored and their career silenced. Despite all the difficulties at home, Binka’s films managed to receive recognition outside of Bulgaria.
A visual tour de force in black-and-white, A byahme mladi is a testament to Binka Zhelyazkova’s masterful use of the film language. Influenced by Soviet cinema and Italian Neorealism, the film showcases her masterful use of framing, shadows and light and her extraordinary cinematic maturity. Thanks to Binka’s legacy, Bulgarian cinema today includes a number of well-established women directors. Her own career, however, ended after 1989 with the fall of the Soviet system, and her standing in Bulgarian cinema was never fully restored as she remains associated with the communist past. In 2006 I made a documentary about her called Binka: To Tell a Story About Silence, which has generated more interest in her work. However, her films remain largely inaccessible and are still to be fully discovered and appreciated.
Cast and Credits
Scen.: Hristo Ganev. F.: Vasil Holiolchev. M.: Tsvetana Tomova. Scgf.: Angela Danadzhieva, Simeon Halachev. Mus.: Simeon Pironkov. Int.: Dimitar Buynozov (Dimo), Rumyana Karabelova (Veska), Lyudmila Cheshmedzhieva (Tzveta), Georgi Georgiev-Gets (Mladen), Emilia Radeva (Nadya). Prod.: Boyana Films. 35mm. Bn.
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