Mileva/Kazakova: The Beast is Still Alive!

No, I can not make a real review of this film…

But why not?

I know the two makers too well, and the project. I have seen them pitching the film at several workshops. And I am just so happy for them that they have finished the work. A good film, an important film, a rich film. And taken for the Sarajevo festival recently.

So, you can not be objective, you mean?

There is no such thing as objectivity in reviewing films, and I normally can take the necessary distance, when I write about films made by people I know. But this time, no, precisely because of my admiration for Mina and Vesela, and their courage and their stubbornness to finish a project that will be well received outside

their own country and raise big discussion – it already has – in Bulgaria. It actually states that 60% of the parliament members in Bulgaria were agents for the communist regime! Just that statement – we are talking about a member of the EU! And not just Bulgaria, they also mention, or say point at the connection between the Greek Syriza and the billionaire Kokkalis, who was a stasi agent during GDR. And talk about Bokova, who was appointed for a job in the UN. She was a key person in the communist times.

So, you think the two directors are courageous and stubborn… are they also good filmmakers, are they artists?

Mina is an excellent animator, her dramatic drawings of ”the Beast”, aka communism, are of high artistic quality, some are like paintings you could hang on the wall, if they were not moving, and Vesela, well I have kind of been in love with her since I met her years ago. Her energy, her talent as an actress and producer and director. She is a gift to the film playing the young woman, who goes around the world to find out whether there is anything good about communism. As an actress she knows the métier, she is present and she has passion, when she asks questions. She plays a young woman, who has a dialogue off-screen with her grandfather, who lived during the communist period and ended up being part of the Goriani resistance movement.

What was that?

I had never heard about it but I understand from the granddaughter in the film that she wants to have him and this guerilla movement ”into Bulgarian history”, which has so far not been possible and there is another strong point that the film makes: The period of communism is not dealt with in the school books in current Bulgaria. You understand why, when you in the film, person by person, is told what this and this parliament member did during the years of communism and when you see and hear about the concentration camp Belene, where thousands of opposition people ended their lives. This is the strong side of the film, the focus on Bulgaria – present and past. It’s actually quite shocking and they tell it well through the story of the grandfather, who was a true communist, but was imprisoned for his criticism of the regime, was hired – because of his intellectual skills – as an agent, who did economical analysis, before he went for the Goriani group.

I sense there is a but…?

Ah, you want the reviewer to be critical even if he says he won’t! Well, and it sounds crazy to say so, but there is too much in the film. I could have lived without the visit to Cuba, I am a bit fed up listening and watching Zizek again and again. It’s probably my fault but I think he is a showman and I don’t get what he says because I always study his crazy body language. It’s like Mina and Vesela wants to broaden out what has happened to Bulgaria. Does it work? I´m not sure. Anyway there is so much dynamic in the film created (also) from the clash they construct between the animated Beast-sequences and Vesela going around, or with her sitting at the archive staring at the files of grandfather. Those moments are maybe the key moments of the film, emotionally.

As you don’t want to give pens to the film, how do we end this non-review review…

With a quote, words to that effect: … at the camp (Belene), the prisoners, those who were condemned to death, were given a mirror, so they could look at themselves for the last time before they were executed.

Bulgaria, 2016, 91 mins.

Photo: Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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