Borimir Ilkov-Bono • Director of Anna
“I am deeply interested in the decomposition of the family and couples in contemporary society”
- The Bulgarian first-time director talks to us about his fruitful collaboration with scriptwriters and both professional and non-professional actors in his feature-length drama
Borimir Ilkov-Bono, already an experienced assistant director on a number of Bulgarian and international productions, has just presented his feature debut, Anna [+see also:
interview: Borimir Ilkov-Bono
film profile], in the Golden Rose Film Festival’s main competition. He worked with a team of established screenwriters to pen the film, and he talks to us about his personal connection to the script, the selection of professional and non-professional actors, and the representation of Roma people that he aimed to achieve through the movie.
Cineuropa: How did you come up with Anna’s storyline?
Borimir Ilkov-Bono: It was Teodora Doncheva’s idea, and I worked on it with the other three scriptwriters, Teodora Markova, Nevena Goranova and Georgi Ivanov. We had plenty of meetings in order to agree on certain details and events in the film, but mostly on the characters, actually, as they are the most important thing. Also, we discussed the relationship between Anna and the three mothers in the film: the one from the Roma neighbourhood where she is doing her investigative report; the perpetrator’s mother; and her own mum. Firming up those seemingly peripheral characters actually contributed to building Anna’s character and enriching her personality with diverse nuances.
It is actually a very female-centric story concerning motherhood and the relationships between women. How did you connect to the plot as a man?
I am surrounded by women, familiar with the topic of in vitro, and also deeply interested in the decomposition of the family and couples in contemporary society. Anna is not looking for a partner; she just wants to have a child, since this was the model transmitted by her mother, who raised her alone. The lack of a family environment is a crucial issue, as is the devaluation of education – both problems are highlighted in the script. Those are issues in which I am truly invested.
The casting is an interesting mix between very experienced actors, non-professionals with some roles under their belt and absolute newcomers. How did you approach that situation?
Radina Kurdzhilova, who plays Anna, is a famous actress, but mostly from stage plays and TV series. The team unanimously chose her to be the face of the film and thus gave her the opportunity to demonstrate her talent for the big screen. She actively participated in the final corrections to her role, and her personal input was crucial. Moreover, I have known her for a long time, so the process of working with her was pretty smooth. I normally prefer more emotionally restrained scenes, but in the episode after the rape, she felt like crying, so I decided to leave it in the film. She did not improvise on set in general, because everything was closely discussed and decided upon jointly with her, but that was an exception.
We also worked on achieving authenticity in Anna’s journalistic approach – on one hand, she is undercover in the neighbourhood, so she can get the necessary information; on the other, she breaks the professional rules by getting closer to the teenage girl, Pamela, and trying to help her have a different life.
As for the non-professionals, Valeri Lekov, who plays the father from the Roma community, is a well-known figure, since he is a radio host in the Kyustendil region for Bulgarian National Radio. He has played in several films, and there is a very good documentary called Roma Quixote about him. Krasimira Fatima-Leyla Karabulut, who first appeared in A Picture with Yuki [+see also:
interview: Lachezar Avramov
film profile], was chosen by the producers through a Roma community organisation. With the kids, we were quite lucky, since Ivan Kolev, who is a famous casting director, did some deep research in an already chosen filming location, the Sofia neighbourhood of Slatina, and found those very talented kids. We wanted them to be locals, so we went there several times and did auditions before picking Nedka Yordanova for the role of Pamela, together with her little sister. Thus, we formed the family unit, and I think they look quite natural on screen.
What is particularly impressive is the ambiguity in your representation of the Roma minority – by showing different life paths within the community, you portray them as dignified citizens who have the option of making choices for themselves.
Yes, Aunt Gyula’s character, who made the effort to educate her children, is a positive example, as we wanted to show there is a choice. I also wanted to present the different viewpoints on the Roma people – the Bulgarian guy who collects their social benefits is nicknamed “the Donor” because he provides income to the community. However, Anna immediately and wrongly relates it to organ donation, influenced by the rumours that Roma people sell their children as organ donors. In this regard, the nickname implies the negative prejudice towards the Roma people. Part of Anna’s transformation throughout the film is that shift in the way she perceives them.
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