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ROSA DE ORO 2021

Dragomir Sholev • Director de Fishbone

"Lo que me interesa es esa mentalidad de querer escaparse para evitar tratar problemas ni buscar soluciones"

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- Hemos hablado con el director sobre su nueva película y cómo su compleja estructura le permite hablar sobre la sociedad búlgara a través de la metáfora

Dragomir Sholev • Director de Fishbone

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

Bulgarian director Dragomir Sholev, who gained recognition with his feature debut Shelter [+lee también:
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and two years ago presented his second independent film The Pig [+lee también:
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entrevista: Dragomir Sholev
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, is now ready with his new film Fishbone [+lee también:
entrevista: Dragomir Sholev
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, a Bulgarian-Romanian co-production backed by Rossitsa Valkanova’s KLAS Film and Ada Solomon’s Hi Film Productions. We talked with Sholev about the complex narrative structure and the ideas behind his multifaceted film on the occasion of its premiere at the national 39th Golden Rose Film Festival taking place 23-29 September in Varna.

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Cineuropa: Fishbone seems to deal with the division in Bulgarian society between people faithful to the system and those who choose to live at its margins. It explores it through an environmental topic which, however, could be rather an excuse to tackle deeper issues. Why did you go for this approach?
Dragomir Sholev:
The film has been inspired by real events exposed by a blogger who was managing a camping site on the Bulgarian seaside and revealed some absurd situations in his blog. However, I thought that if we focused too much on the burning issues, the film might become too local, while I was looking for a more universal impact, so I chose the environmental topic as the core of the story. But what I am interested in in general is the paradox of existence within a society whose members cannot find a way to function together.

So, what were the real events?
The blogger I am referring to was indeed encountering dead dolphins on the beach, as it happens in the film, and was burying them until he got fed up with the situation and started writing openly about it. What becomes clear through those stories is that the Bulgarian state was not prepared to deal with such cases, as they were not considered to be of true importance. However, the fuss around them represents the society well. And to this day, no one knows why the dolphins were dying – were they killed by someone or poisoned by polluted waters? There are activists looking for answers but no serious governmental strategy to solve environmental issues exists. Fish Bone does not provide an answer either. Such unsolved cases, considered “small,” create an important allusion to the dysfunctionality of the community as a whole. It reveals an attitude towards the place we inhabit, the surroundings, the others and ourselves too.

In fact, we never see the whole body of the dolphin, which implies an allusion to something bigger that stinks in the country on an overall level, it opens our imagination.
My initial idea was not showing the body at all but many of the already written etudes with secondary characters requested it, so I decided to leave parts of the body, clearly exposed in the frames. In this way I am including also the dolphin’s point of view.

You worked on the script together with two other scriptwriters – Emanuela Dimitrova and Georgi Merdzhanov, while Razvan Radulescu, who was the author of the screenplay for Shelter [+lee también:
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, is script consultant. How did you manage to stick together?
We developed the script over the course of 6-7 years and it went through different stages. We started as a team, then I continued alone and also had consulting session with Razvan Radulescu whose opinion I value very much. Many things changed in the process but what we managed to keep was the narrative structure, which is quite complex for elaboration and shooting, even for coming up with an adequate poster for the final film. It resembles a fish bone – a spinal cord with the main fable and thin bones coming out of it in the shape of small stories. Each of those small stories reveals a different issue, each bone gets stuck differently in the characters’ throats. Also, as each story introduces a new protagonist, it could be perceived as an independent one. However, they are forming part of a bigger context, part of the fish bone structure. Without whichever of them, the construction would fall apart. This approach was provoked by the real story which was full of absurd and abstract details.

To what extend do the characters correspond to their real-life prototypes?
They are mixing different experiences and human features. The retired investigator, for example, was inspired by another real case of a fake investigator, described by Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov, who was disposing of his imaginary power during communism in a town on the Black Sea coast, while torturing the locals. By including such a character in my film, I introduce the figure of an imposter who is a bit mental but appears to be the only one with some working solution.

In Shelter and The Pig, you deal with the abdication of parental responsibility within the family. Could we say that Fishbone continues your elaborations on the theme by focusing this time on the abdication of the state from public life?
Yes, although I haven’t been formulating it this way. What interests me is the escapist mentality that avoids dealing with the issues at stake, as well as looking for their solutions. The comfortable routine that keeps people blind to repeat mistakes. This is a very typical attitude around here.

There are plenty of new faces in the film, mostly young people. How did you find them?
Together with casting director Nina Boyanova, with whom we scouted non-professional actors for The Pig. We have established a manner of work and we applied it this time too. We looked for authenticity and at the same time, we wanted to cast newcomers, not familiar yet to the audience. Introducing fresh faces was of great importance to us.

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