- Zornitsa Sophia’s drama film focuses on a theatre director who is forced to reconsider her views on motherhood
Mother [+see also:
interview: Zornitsa Sophia
film profile], the newest feature by director and actress Zornitsa Sophia, is competing at the 40th Golden Rose Film Festival in Varna (23-29 September), a film event organised by the Bulgarian National Film Center as an annual celebration of local cinema. And we’d wager that Mother will receive at least one award at the gala ceremony on the last day of this year's edition, which may sweeten the bitter taste recently left by the film being disqualified as Bulgaria’s Oscar hopeful, as too many lines in the screenplay are in English.
The script, written by the director together with Miglena Dimova, centres on Elena (Daria Simeonova), a young theatre director who has already made a name for herself in the artistic world of Sofia. Elena dreams of having a child with her partner, Leon (Croatian actor Leon Lucev), and for a while, the future looks quite bright. But as Elena slowly starts to realise she may never conceive, she is invited to Kenya, where she is supposed to teach acting and various performing arts in an orphanage. The experience will make her reconsider everything she thought she wanted for herself and her future.
Mother has a somewhat didactic approach to storytelling and sometimes lacks subtlety, but all of its shortcomings are outweighed by its huge heart. Although it doesn’t shy away from the harsh way of life in Kibera, one of Africa’s biggest slums, Mother has a powerful message that will undoubtedly reach the film’s audience. It is incredibly endearing to be told again and again that, no matter our issues and challenges, there is always someone less fortunate than ourselves, and that helping that person or community has a beneficial effect not only on those who are helped, but also on those who provide this help. Mother is a powerful ode to volunteering and urges viewers to look around and see what they can do to make the world a better place. And no, they don’t have to go to Africa for that…
The film also looks at the artistic endeavour from two points of view – that of the creator and that of the audience. There is, without doubt, a beautiful paradox in how an artist can feel both powerful and powerless. At the beginning of the movie, we see Elena shouting, “Stop the rain please!” And the rain stops. Of course, we are on a stage, and Elena is leading the rehearsals for her next play, yet it is obvious that she is incredibly powerful in that context, as everything that happens on that stage is the direct result of her decisions. However, destiny (biology, actually) will soon tell her, in the harshest way possible, that she cannot do anything and that she is completely powerless, at least in one aspect of her life that she considers extremely important.
From the other point of view, Mother is a paean to therapy through art. It is extremely endearing to see the effect of dances, costumes and masks (“Masks can hide and heal identities,” says the protagonist at one point) on the orphans, who, for a moment, forget the grey world around them and enjoy music, movement and colour. And no, Mother doesn’t take a “white saviour” approach, as it also frowns upon how people from rich countries visit African slums only for an Instagram photo, or a day or two of volunteering only to leave and never look back. “And who saves who?” one might ask at the end. The answer may differ from what we would expect.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.