“I wanted the film to have a certain lightness of touch”
by Domenico La Porta
28/08/2011 - Konstantin Bojanov, for whom this is his debut film, says he doesn’t like the excitement of Cannes where he presented Ave [trailer, film focus] in avant-premiere (in SIC – International Critics’ Week). He prefers the quietness and conviviality of a festival like Sarajevo which, this year, returned the compliment by awarding Ave the Special Prize of the Jury (presided by Ari Folman), as well as the Cineuropa Award which was an opportunity for us to meet with the director who was feeling fulfilled after a difficult shoot from a human relations point of view...
Cineuropa: The film is a co-production between France and Bulgaria. How did this collaboration come about?
Konstantin Bojanov: In reality, Geoffroy Grison, who is the film’s French co-producer, was the first person on board the project when Ave amounted to two simple pages of synopsis. We met him at Cannes with the Bulgarian co-producer Dimitar Gochev and from then on, all three of us worked very actively on writing the screenplay. It’s through this artistic involvement that the film is linked to France, because on a budgetary level, Ave was entirely financed in Bulgaria.
While the film’s action unfolds in Bulgaria, the story could have been set anywhere. Was it important for you to situate the film on a human level independent of its geographical situation?
That was the most important thing for me. I wanted a story that speaks a universal language like the novels of William Faulkner which tell stories set in remote corners of the southern United States but where it’s very easy to identify with the characters from a human point of view.
The film has a humorous tone which contrasts with the dramatic situations it describes. Was this for fear of lapsing into a certain form of overly-heavy social drama?
I don’t know why, but I always return to comedy. It’s an obsession with me. I wanted the film to have a certain lightness of touch and so I very deliberately created some comic elements. I’m glad that this tone manages to carry viewers through the film’s more dramatic events because during filming, the atmosphere was very tense between the two actors and for a long time I thought that this animosity would show through on screen. Fortunately, this isn’t the case.
Didn’t the actors get along on a personal level?
No. It was hell. There was no chemistry between them. I knew that without a good cast, I wouldn’t have a film, because Ave really hinges on the relationship between its two actors. I spent more than a year looking for an actress to play Ave at over 700 casting sessions. Two weeks before the start of shooting, Angela Nediakova auditioned for a small role as a junkie and I offered her the lead role despite her total lack of experience. She refused and then disappeared. We looked for her everywhere and finally found her in a café and persuaded her to accept. The day of the shoot, she didn’t turn up on set. I’ll spare you the details, but this attitude didn’t at all please Ovanes Torosian, her partner in the film, who is a very introverted person and also very difficult to direct. From a directorial point of view, Angela turned out to be much more dedicated to the role and we built a relationship based on trust which enabled her to be wonderfully honest, even in the most difficult scenes.