All seems possible for Mission: London
by Vladan Petkovic
Dimitar Mitovski’s debut feature Mission: London [+see also:
film profile] surprised everybody when it opened in Bulgaria on April 16 with 46,291 admissions its first weekend, making it the third highest opener ever in its home territory. The comedy went on to sell 142,833 tickets in the first ten days on release, beating Avatar’s 130,770. After 11 weeks in theatres, it now stands at 352,625 admissions and a box office of €1,282,491, by far the highest grossing local film of all time.
Based on the immensely popular novel by Alek Popov, who also scripted the film, Mission: London is a comedy of errors set in the Bulgarian embassy in London. The embassy is in disarray – the consul has set up a “duty free shop” that sells cigarettes and alcohol from diplomatic supplies to London’s Bulgarians – and hardly ever engages in any sort of diplomatic activities.
The country has just joined the EU, and president’s wife (Ernestina Shinova) wants to arrange a celebration and invite Queen Elisabeth herself. To this end, she appoints a new ambassador, Varadin (Julian Vergov), who should set the embassy employees straight and make sure that the Queen attends the party.
Besides local comedy values, which include many figures from Bulgarian public life – including musician Koceto Kalki, right-wing politician Pavel Chernev, turbo-folk singer Alisia and pop and opera singer Orlin Goranov (who plays the president) who, intriguingly, mock themselves in the film – Popov and Mitovski infuse the film with intelligent and witty dialogue and tight direction, overcoming the boundaries of simple parody. Above all, the film plays on Bulgarians’ image of themselves and displays a healthy self-criticism often characteristic of Balkan nations.
With a €1.5m budget, Mission: London is technically by far the most advanced Bulgarian film. Giving it a world-class feel and look, the cast includes Guy Ritchie regular Alan Ford and Ralph Brown (The Boat That Rocked [+see also:
film profile]), along with internationally renowned Georgi Staykov (Millennium trilogy, The King of Ping Pong [+see also:
film profile]) who also plays his own alter-ego, a “Bulgarian De Niro”.
The stylish cinematography is the work of Bulgaria’s top DoP, Nenad Boroevich, while the efficient crew is rounded out by Serbia’s most acclaimed young editor, Marko Glusac. The soundtrack features hits by David Bowie, Blur and the Sex Pistols, which go excellently hand in hand with images of London.
Co-produced by Bulgaria’s SIA Camera, Hungary’s Matrix Film, Macedonia’s Dream Factory and UK’s Fidelity Film, the film was funded by the Bulgarian National Film Centre, Hungarian Motion Picture Foundation, Macedonian Film Fund and Sweden’s Film i Väst, as well as Eurimages.
There is no doubt that the money was well spent and this film may well be a model for the box office future of Bulgarian film. The country has a long tradition of comedy, which dried up after its popularity in the 1970s and the 80s – no wonder that the audiences, hungry for quality laughs, rushed to the theatres for a fresh dose of much-needed local entertainment.
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