Valentin Valchev: See you at the Eiffel tower

A Bulgarian filmmaker makes a film for a charming, warm and smiling American photographer, Marion Michelle. He met her during the research for a film to be made in the footsteps of Joris Ivens, who made his ”The First Years” about Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia just after the war. Michelle was the scriptwriter of the film and had a relationship with Ivens until 1950. She is old and will not live long, and yet – as she says to the director Valchev: you are giving me a new life in the film, thank you.

This is what he does but this is not the only element worth noting from an extensive work that brings the viewer to Poland to look for characters that took part in the film from that time, as well as to Prague, briefly in a not very important sequence, contrary to the trip to Bulgarian town Radilovo to visit families of men and women who played in the film. The construction, maybe sometimes a bit too gemacht, and there are scenes you would not miss if they were not there, makes Valchev go to meet the different places and characters, for afterwards to bring the material to be shown to Marion Michelle. There is a lot of gold in terms of moving scenes in this light hearted, unconventional documentary.

As for Ivens, clips are part of the story as are lots of stills, but he is really not an important character for Valchev, who gives his heart to his character and makes Marion Michelle grow narratively in her lovely French garden house. The film is shown at idfa festival.

Bulgaria, 2008, 95 mins.

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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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