Here you can find a selection of quotes linked to the topics, covered throughout the discussions. For contextualised analyses of the findings, please refer to the presentations and articles in the section Events and Publications. 

Film memories

“I was involved in cinema from a very young age. I bought a camera, a small one, 2×8 [16 mm]… I used to shoot [my own] films. Some of them were stolen. Yes, they were stolen in the place where they were developed, in Sofia, during socialism… because they featured [for example] the visit of [Fidel] Castro in Pravets… that sort of films of historical [value]… I was given back blank films with nothing on them… The first film I watched was at home. My uncle had a small cine-projector. I was probably around five years old. All I remember is the title and nothing else. It was some sort of a romance film. I can’t tell any of the plot. It was Tahir and Zuhra (1945). Whoever knows what nationality it was, I have no memories. But later, I went to Sofia with my dad. He had some sort of work there. And in Rex Cinema… I don’t know what it was re-named to afterwards, it was right at the Central Market Hall… I think it was called Sevastopol later. [There] I watched Tarzan with Johnny Weissmuller. [It was a] black and white [film]. Naturally, I was very impressed. I was already a little older and there was a lot of action – in the woods, cartwheels, in the meadows, here and there… There was big excitement back then. It was just the time of cinema back then. People went regularly. The cinema hall was full. You could feel [other people’s] reactions inside… Later, in the old cinema which was in the community centre… they demolished it… “Hristo Botev” [was its name]… we used to run head over heels when we were children to go and watch fight films. They were usually Soviet films.” (Man, 66+, Botevgrad)

“A grand atmosphere! You’re going to the cinema! … There was silence. There were no such [bouts of] laughter… No nuts or popcorn. We paid a lot of attention. There was an usher who showed us to our seats. Years later we knew our seats already. We go and we watch in peace. We go to see one film and then we go to see another [straight away] to fulfil our thirst for watching films… At the beginning, when we were still young, maybe when we were in high school, they used to play diverse European films. They played Italian, French, Polish [films] – there were some really nice ones… All of this brought a lot of new things, we learned a lot from them. Later on there were only Russian films… Russian films about the war… Some time passed, the changeover [to democracy] happened, now they only play American films.” (Woman, 78, Kazanlak)

“What I remember most [clearly] is the film Under the Yoke (1952). I was eight, nine or more… Around the time when I started school. [It was probably] the first film that I saw. I remember that there was a villain, whose name I can’t think of now. My pockets were full of small apples from [the] yard [of our] village [house]. I was the first to throw [an apple] at the villain and, after me, all sorts of things flew towards the screen! The [film projector] operator, who was screening the film, stopped the film and said: “No one throws anything at the screen anymore!” It left stains or who knows what. But it was very impressive. I was absorbed in the atmosphere: the exam that took place [in the film], the scandal that [erupted]… I was very impressed. Since then I try not to miss any film that I come across, whether it’s on TV or on [the big] screen, it doesn’t matter. Who with and where? I’m [originally] from the village of Belchin. There was a screening there every Sunday. Everyone went by themselves. Some [went] with their parents, some – without, whichever way one could reach the community centre.” (Woman, 74, Sofia)

“In [my] childhood, we went to Kino Utro [cinema matinees] every Sunday. We just never missed the children’s films. Even with our parents… There was only one cinema in Sopot. It was called “Ivan Vazov”. There was also an open-air cinema in the summer. Going to the cinema was [a] regular [activity]. [We watched] those children’s ones, Nu, pogodi! [Well, Just You Wait!] (1969-2006), The Pink Panther, the Russian children’s films they showed were also very interesting… All the children were happy in the cinema hall, it was full… When I studied in Sofia, I lived with my aunt and uncle. My aunt used to work for the Filmmakers’ Club and I had the opportunity to go and see all newly released films at the first screenings. They screened famous films from abroad that you could not otherwise see in the cinemas.” (Woman, 68, Kalofer)

“I was young, in pre-school. My grandmother took care of the children at home because my mum and dad work[ed]. They didn’t have the time. I used to really like fairytales. And the first film which [my grandmother] took me to see was The Thief of Bagdad (1940). And when I saw the huge spider… the way it was climbing… that was the end of that film for me! I don’t remember anything else. Whether we watched it till the end or not… My mind overloaded! That was my first impression… but it was very… the big screen, the big hall, lots of people… it was as if I was inside [the film], that’s how I perceived it… The second film which my dad took me to, I was a bit older, was Heroes of Shipka (1955). It was a very good film… made [to look] very real… Afterwards, as a child in school and so on, there were screenings here in Slaveykov Cinema, every Saturday, there were screenings… most of them were Russian films… children’s films… The Stone Flower (1946)… what was it [called]… A Little Silver Hoof (1977)… [films] based on Andersen[‘s fairytales]… Really good films!” (Woman, 68, Sofia)

“The first film which I watched with my neighbourhood friends was at Panairno Cinema [Fairground Cinema]. It doesn’t exist anymore… for a long time now… Back then all of the neighbourhood [children] went [together], so to speak… usually at 2 or 4 pm. And we watched the film… the first film we saw… was Sandokan – the Ruler of the Seas. Close to a month after watching the film, “sea battles” were re-enacted between the neighbourhood [children]. We were all “armed”. Everyone was Sandokan and… it was very impressive… It was a French film. Sandokan is a French film. He’s a sea pirate… I was in… first or second grade… The atmosphere… well, usually, at 2 pm it was only us, children. The atmosphere [wa]s very rapturous. Everyone talk[ed] loudly because there [wa]s no one to disturb and we share[d] the emotions – “Look, look, look at what’s happening!”, “Look at him!”… We watched it multiple times. A film was usually watched four or five times, so that you could see the separate details. The first time it’s for a general overview, after that you focus on the details. It was very exciting… You remembered quotes by the protagonists and interpreted them afterwards… Back in the day I was most impressed by an American film which was released in the 1980s, perhaps. To my greatest surprise… All That Jazz (1979) by Bob Foss. It turned my beliefs about life, the world and everything else completely upside down. It all turned [upside down]. Suddenly! You know what the 1980s were like, what was imposed [on us]… and, all of a sudden, this film opens your eyes… literally puts matchsticks in them! And you say to yourself: “How was this film released in this country?! Someone must have made a mistake and let it slip without censorship!” There are many such films which suddenly open a new window for you…” (Man, 67, Plovdiv)

“In 1967 [my family and I] lived in a village. [We were] one of the first families to buy a TV set. They played a film at the time – I don’t know what its nationality was, I always planned on checking and learning more about it – Das grune Ungeheuer [The Green Monster] (1962)… The TV set was put on top of the cupboard, covered with an embroidered cloth. All the grandmas from the neighbourhood would come and bring [their own] little chairs [and] in the winter, a wooden log under their armpit, for the stove, so that it was warm. And [we would all] sit down and watch the film. And The Green Monster would start! If anyone made any noise, a war would erupt! [I’ve never had] such an experience again! I was seven years old back then… Back in the day there were [also] set days when a [film projector] operator would come to the village with a [projectionist] machine in the wagon. He turned the reel by hand. They screened film[s] on the wall of a house, painted in white. In the same way, grandmas [came] with little chairs [and] children [sat] at their feet. [I remember watching] Sly Peter (1960)… [he and] Kalinka walked round the scrooge [while] he was counting his money under the blanket…  I have been very emotional and affectionate, since I was a little child, so I went and kissed all grandmas and grandpas who had sat down in order. And they gave me sweets!” (Woman, 60, Karlovo)

“The first film I remember seeing, I think, is Striped Trip (1961), which was Soviet… I was probably four or five at the time. My father took me to the cinema. There was the old Iskra Cinema in Kazanlak, which is where the court currently is. I remember vividly that the projection equipment was old, it must have been one machine only, because the film was interrupted, they changed the film reel on the cine-projector, they turned the lights on and they continued the screening of the same film again [later]. And it was very impressive! … Whereas the first Bulgarian [film] which I saw, I think, is Sly Peter (1960) with the artist Rachko Yabandzhiev, was it? A very old Bulgarian film. Perhaps one of the first Bulgarian colour films. How old [was I]? Perhaps I was already older, maybe six or seven years old… I think I watched Sly Peter in the cinema hall of what used to be Bulgaria Cinema… The atmosphere was, how should I say it? Very happy and exalted. The cinema hall of Iskra Cinema was small but it was full. There was no room. Since my father was friends with the projectionist… the tickets were obtained with, how should I say it?… With connections. The next films which I remember when I was little… Stars of Eger (1968), it’s historical, about the defence of some Hungarian fortress during the Turkish invasion. There were no seats [available] in the cinema hall! And the cinema hall in what used to be Bulgaria Cinema is quite big. There were seats at the front row [and] there was also a balcony. Everything was full, especially the balcony where the better seats [we]re. There was absolutely no room. After that, the films that drew in huge audiences were the Italian, as you call them, spaghetti [westerns] with Giuliano Gemma, Blood for a Silver Dollar (1965), Adiós gringo (1965)… we were young children back then but I must have seen a film three or four times! … We went with friends, we were a bit older already, perhaps in second or third grade. We used to go to the cinema by ourselves as well. What I also remember [is that] they used to show children’s films but they were in the morning, from 10:00 to 12:00. After that the screenings were at 1:30, 3:30, 6:00 and 8:00. That’s when they showed the other films, the ones for adults. When we were children, I was taken to children’s films as well but most of them, I think, were Russian. There was no such animation as today. The most interesting film was Nu, pogodi! [Well, Just You Wait!] (1969-2006), but it was probably released after 1970. Before that I remember some animations… there was a Czech film about Milko and Morko, Fairy Tales of Moss and Fern (1968-1979)… And when Well, Just You Wait! was released, other [children’s animations] started appearing but, at the time, we could only see a picture of Micky Mouse. Micky Mouse wasn’t screened at the time in our cinemas… There were pictures in magazines, some comic books. That’s where we saw Micky Mouse with the mice and the duck, what was his name, Donald… Later still, perhaps in 1970s [or] 1980s these films with Micky Mouse started appearing as well. Definitely, they started entering [cinemas] only around 1980… We constantly played with [toy] guns, [re-enacting] cowboy[s]… We watched The Three Musketeers back then, we had wooden swords made, paper cloaks with crosses, like the musketeers and we fought with the wooden swords… With my brother and my cousin, with the rest of the children in the neighbourhood… So, films had a big effect on children. Oh, something else I remember! Another very popular film was The Sons of Great Bear (1966) with Gojko Mitić. In it the Indians were the good guys and the white guys were the bad guys because it was a GDR [German Democratic Republic] film and we had to show that the white conquerors were bad. Gojko Mitić was very popular. We had head[bands] with feathers made and we all wanted to be Gojko Mitić!” (Man, 59, Kazanlak)

“My first memories are not so much linked to films in cinema… but with the made-for-TV film Every kilometre (1969-1971)… I have really vague memories of getting together, because not everyone had a TV set. And it was like that [for] the whole neighbourhood. The film started and everyone came together. Since I was the skinniest and tiniest, they would put me under a sewing machine to stay and watch [from there].” (Woman, 55, Kyustendil)

“My favourite film since I was a child was Favourite #13 (1958), starring Apostol Karamitev. I used to really like this film. I remember it wasn’t only me but everyone – old, young and children… When the first TV sets appeared… black and white sets… the first film they played [on TV] was Favourite #13. And we got together with great interest [to watch it]. Everything was set up in a collective [spirit]. People were different [back then]. Only a few people in the whole neighbourhood had TV sets. But whoever had a TV set invited everyone over. We got together. The women made popcorn… at home, on the stove… But there was [a sense of] togetherness. It was very pleasant to watch a film and we were particularly [impressed] by the first TV sets. This film has remained in my mind and I continue to like it still. And sometimes, when I have the time, I sit down again and I play it – you can choose any film on the Internet nowadays.” (Woman, 55, Targovishte)

“Back in the day there were two elderly men, Petko and Tsvetko, they had a UAZ truck [with a film projector] and they used to tour [the nearby] villages in the summer where we spent our school holidays. They would come every Wednesday… [set up] at the town hall. We would gather about twenty people and they would screen us this travelling [programme]. And it was an event for the village…” (Man, 52, Tran)

“We went to the neighbourhood cinema with friends and classmates… Sometimes we spent [the time] from morning to evening there. If I have to rewind the tape… in terms of the [films], it was titles popular for their time – cowboy[s and] Indian[s], the big French cinematography… there’s no one particular title that comes to mind. But there was a ritual – we were always with banichka and boza in the cinemahall… perhaps because the cinema was close to school and that’s where we spent our pocket money… I sometimes came across some strange finds. There [wa]s one thing on the poster [and] something completely different in the cinema theatre. I either stayed or left… But I definitely felt very lucky that for this particular reason I was one of the few in Stara Zagora who managed to watch All That Jazz (1979). Hair (1979) as well. Films which were removed on the first day of the weekly film programme, for obvious reasons, and we retold them to each other as some sort of finds: “Oh, do you know? We saw this!”… It definitely had an effect. I was one of the children who paid attention to what was happening. I listened to Radio Free Europe or at least I tried to tune in on the [radio] at home… The fact that you managed somehow to [avoid censorship], especially [after] an official stamp, so to speak… because cinema had to be approved first… Coming across such topics was a small miracle.” (Woman, 52, Stara Zagora)

“It’s one thing to… shower, get dressed… wait in front of the Balgarka cinema for your date with your boyfriend… and your mother [who] works at the children’s shoes shop opposite… and if not she, then her colleague to observe who the boy whom you enter with is or whether he is holding your hand when you go out… and to see your friends and acquaintances… and to meet all of your friends by the time you get home… it’s another thing to be at home, with your feet raised in front of the TV. It’s a different emotion. You can’t compare [the two].” (Woman, 50, Sliven)

“Perhaps Verano Azul [Blue Summer] (1981-1982) when I was little… it was a film which… back then I was approximately the same age as the two [female protagonists]… and perhaps that’s [what made me like it]… teenage years, first love… girls become women… relationships within the family, with the parents, with the siblings… The relationships between people affected me. How love happens… I also liked Every Kilometer (1969-1971) but everyone watched it. I lived during a time which was a bit different to today’s children, who can choose what to watch. Back then it was only whatever they played on TV. Despite all, there were some good films. I liked them. Every Kilometer… Oh, Warmth (1978)… A Nameless Band (1981) – it’s number one! For me, that film would always be number one out of the old Bulgarian films. It’s just when you watch these films now you go back [in time] with nostalgia… Ladies Choice (1980)… You just go back [in time] with some sort of nostalgia about the time back then… I suppose I watched Verano Azul alone with my sister… But the serious films I watched them in the evenings [with my family]. There was also [the programme] Studio Hicks [X], which broadcast very interesting [films]… There were some sort of traditions. One knew that on Saturday evening they played a crime movie and so on.” (Woman, 46, Pleven)

“The first thing that is imprinted in my brain in terms of children’s films is Good Night, Children. We always awaited it with pleasure. There was one [TV series following the adventures of] Ushko and Zabcho [Earie and Toothie], it was about [two] bunnies… On Sunday they broadcasted [the programme] Every Sunday which is when they showed The Pink Panther [animated series], Tom and Jerry… the type of more American films, so to speak, because they [were] not from the Eastern Bloc.” (Man, 43, Kazanlak)

“My most distinctive first memory of cinema is when I was about six years old. My parents and I watched All That Jazz (1979) by Bob Fosse in the big screening hall of Cinema Aleko. Back then it really had a big screening hall with at least a thousand seats, for sure. It [closed down] fifteen years ago, I went to watch films there till the last day… What I remember is that the hall was packed. So, not just for my parents, who took me, but for all the people, going to the cinema [to see] a Western film… back in the day when Western films were, firstly, delayed [to be released] and, secondly, [put] through the censorship filter… it was a really important ritual, to go to the cinema. It was something significant for the family, as a whole… So, the atmosphere was… completely engrossing. I even have a picture-perfect memory of the [Angel] of Death, Jessica Lange. It’s my first film memory as a whole. She was in a beautiful, ethereal dress. She, after all, played Death who had to kidnap Bob Fosse’s character… So, that’s what impressed me. The other thing was… I’ll share this… I remember that I really had to go to the toilet and we had to make the whole row get up [for us] so that [my parents] could take me, which surely made me lose about fifteen minutes of the film. So, the effect on me was striking because, as I said before, to this day I am involved in music…” (Man, 41 Gabrovo)

“In terms of the film Yesterday (1988)… if you remember [the scene] where the headmaster [says:] “What are these monkey-type dances? I’ll show you some Beatles!”… I remember in our school the older punk and metalheads… freedom comes, it’s 1991… so they decide that they would cause trouble for the head master… he was a communist [and] Stalinist… and they draw over his office door – Kiss, Iron Maidon, AC/DC, all the bands… and the head master lined us all up… the older students from the fifth grade upwards… sixth, seventh and eighth…  and [he shouted, just like in the film:] “I’ll give you some metalheads! I’ll send you all to labour schools!”… It was inspired by the film Yesterday. The older [students] braved [insubordination].” (Woman, 40, Sofia)

 “Even though I am from Burgas, I grew up in Sozopol, in the open-air cinema there… which they demolished later because they encountered archaeological findings and I stood there, watching them demolish the screen and crying, when I was about four or five. Otherwise, where I lived in Sozopol was close to a Bulgarian police company resort, which still exists and it had a[n open-air] cinema. The boys and I used to cut through the fence and go in secretly to watch films. We watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) hundreds of times one summer, we knew [the whole film] by heart. And Labyrinth (1986) with David Bowie. You can’t watch this through the fence, you have to watch it inside… I don’t even know exactly how old I was but I was certainly under the age of ten. I was younger, seven or eight. With all the boys in the neighbourhood. They used to repair the holes [in the fence] every evening and we would cut them again… Growing up all those years there was the Apollonia Festival, which has cinema and theatre sections – it’s something that changed me a lot. That’s why I know how important it is for children to go to the cinema and to the theatre when they are young.” (Woman, 38, Burgas/Sofia) 

“My mother and my father are cinephiles and [at] the dawn of democracy (which for me was just something on TV which I did not understand at the time) they bought VHS cassettes. Here, in Pravets, where the hotel is, there wasn’t a hotel but lots of stands and they sold pirate VHS cassettes there. There were no original ones in 1991-92, that’s for sure! And my parents used to buy a lot. What I remember is, in addition to the animations, which I did not like to watch much at the time, Road House (1989) with Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch and Ben Gazzara, which is from 1989, and Backdraft (1991) with Baldwin… one of all the Baldwin brothers… and Kurt Russell. It’s the first pure B-movie action film. [Road House] didn’t have a particular effect on me save for a striptease scene… I was young, that’s what I found interesting. I still find it interesting, yes. I used to rewind [to watch it] and the reel was creased right there because of it. Backdraft is a lot more serious, which I still watch often… maybe once every couple of years… and I always cry during it. I wanted to be a firefighter back then, which was my first, should we call it, ‘dream job’… In terms of cinema, they used to take us from school to the state cinema “Stamen Panchev”, which used to be where the Forum Cinema now is. We used to watch some incredibly mind-numbing animations, which I can’t name, but they were super boring! That’s when I told my mother: “Mother, I don’t want to go to the cinema anymore because it’s boring there!” She said that we’d go when there’s [a bigger film]… A few years later she took me [to see] Anaconda (1997) with Jennifer Lopez and Jon Voight and that’s when I said: “That’s for me!” It’s a bad film but I really liked it back then. The big screen, the decent (for its time) sound and the big snake that eats them all – for a child of seven that was very impressive.” (Man, 30, Botevgrad)

“In my days, when I was maybe eight or ten years old, I used to watch The Hedgehogs’ War (1979) and With Children at the Seaside (1972) on TV. Perhaps With Children at the Seaside impressed me more because, as a child, I probably identified with the children in the film. Something that probably impressed me [in] the film’s atmosphere was that, how should I say this? The children were very free and, at the same time, carefree… [In terms of] the [film’s] effect on me… perhaps we somehow tried to imitate these children, we delved into the film and tried to re-create it… with the other children [from] the block of flats where we lived.” (Woman, 30, Gabrovo)

“I am not sure how old I was, maybe five. Up to this day my dad and I have this tradition of going to see at least one film a week [in the cinema]. We watch Bulgarian films very often but not lately… So, with my dad, he chose the film, because I was too young, I think it was one of the film-versions of Winnie the Pooh. I liked the film… The memories are somewhat fading gradually but… from a more mature age, I remember going to the cinema every week up until this day, he is seventy-eight now. He used to take me before, nowadays I take him. But the tradition continues… He was three years old when [his parents] took him, so he decided to do something similar [with me].” (Man, 28, Burgas)

“I don’t think I remember the very first film which I saw but it was most likely Disney’s animations. After all, there w[ere] TV set[s] in my childhood. There were video stores. They were very widespread. Or we would borrow VHS cassettes from the library. So, there was the opportunity to watch films more often. Perhaps the film which imprinted [in my mind] the most… save for the animations… is Titanic (1997) which I [also] watched a minute ago, it was on TV. What impressed me is that every time I watch it… I know it absolutely by heart… line by line… but I still find it interesting… because of the drama I react in some sort of way. In addition, I recently had to travel on a ferry with a large group of people. What I also noticed was that everyone within the group… the moment we boarded the ferry, everyone decided to imitate the famous scene with the arms spread wide [at the top of the boat]. I find it very interesting that a film which is more than 20 years old can be so popular and famous [still] so that everyone knows it, everyone knows these moments and still remembers them… It’s an emblematic moment which everyone recognises.” (Woman, 25, Shumen)

“My dad gave me a PC as a present in fourth grade. It had lots of games and a few films pre-installed. Actually, two [films]. The first one was Bambi (1942). I really liked it. I cried, I laughed. It [wa]s something like [enjoying] Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) nowadays but I had a different mindset back then. Bambi brought the same cocktail of emotions for me. However, the other film was Jurassic Park (1993). I thought that it was a children’s film with dinosaurs. I played it and was in shock… Since then I don’t watch horror films… I decided that animation was my thing. I remember I had this period afterwards where I was obsessed with Snow White. I mean, colouring books, drawing her… We even had a video store near my block of flats, in the West [neighbourhood] in Kyustendil and I kept going to [rent out] the different versions of Snow White, not just by Disney but there were all sorts. My mum came back home from work at 5 pm and [I would tell her]: “Mum, we’re watching a film, I [rented] it from the video store”. [She would ask:] “What film?” [I would respond:] “Snow White!” [and she would say:] “Snow White again??” I spent quite a lot of time with Snow White. And afterwards… And just to mention, [waching] Bulgarian cinema for the first time… that was interesting! As a typical person born in 1996, [I was] ignorant [about Bulgarian films]. In [St. St. Cyril and Methodius Primary School] my music teacher was Strashmir Bozhilov and he would play Bulgarian music for us. I had never listened to Bulgarian music before and I was very impressed because it sounded good, it wasn’t chalga, the lyrics made sense… I started asking around on YouTube about these songs and that’s how I learned that they were linked to Bulgarian films. And that’s how it started for me. At a slightly later stage, around seventh grade, I was acquainted with Bulgarian cinema as well. But [it was] the old Bulgarian films.” (Woman, 21, Kyustendil/Sofia)

“My first memories are actually from a TV series which I watched when I was little – Alf (1986-1990) on VHS cassettes in the kindergarten. I was probably three years old, I don’t remember exactly… But they played different VHS cassette every morning while I was having my breakfast there. And that’s my first memory. Later on, when I came across the TV series on TV, it always conjured up sweet [memories].” (Woman, 17, Karlovo)

“When I was very little I didn’t watch films but animated series because that was what appealed to me. Most frequently I watched Scooby Do, Tom and Jerry and a programme which they used to show and still do – wrestling [WWF/E]. I grew up with wrestling and still watch it… They showed it in the evenings on Friday and Saturday. I awaited to watch it with anticipation. When I grew up a bit, I started fighting with pillows and toys, as if they were my [wrestling] opponents. And, it turns out, nowadays I play video-games with wrestlers.” (Man, 17, Pleven)

“I think that this is the first film which I saw… in general, the first films I’ve seen were with my sister… in Komsomol Cinema which no longer functions as a cinema… I think all of us who were born in Stara Zagora have gone there and remember it… it was The Incredibles (2004)… The relationship with cinema… in my opinion… we were the last generation which could start going to the cinema in cinema theatres and not in multiplexes in the shopping mall… what I remember was the voice of Edna Mode who in the film is voiced by [an actress] with a very piercing [voice] … I think that she’s perfect for the part. In the end, the overall effect… of sharing the cinema experience was… the first thing which I remember… And did anyone of you get films from a videotheque? If you remember, it was next to [what is now] Nedelya Patisserie. When videotheques still existed, I remember [going] very often. They had even remembered me because we went very often to [borrow films]. I don’t know if you went to get films [from there] but there were occasions when I’ve kept a VHS cassette [for too long]… It was again my sister and I watching films… feature films, I can’t even remember the titles right now… we kept them [too long] and my dad had to pay [a fine].” (Man, 17, Stara Zagora)

“I remember… I can’t say specifically [at what] age… but [it was] a Disney film… of course… I adored The Little Mermaid (1989). I won’t forget singing the songs [from the soundtrack] to my mum. She made me sing “Mila moya mamo” [“My Dear Mum”] and I sang to her “Under the Sea”. In general, we had a lot of discs… I watched it on DVD… The Little Mermaid was [my] trademark. How has it affected me? In addition to knowing [by heart] all of the songs from the film… I can say that it’s definitely my favourite film because I try to be like Ariel, to a certain extent… meaning that If I get something in my head, it must happen, 100%… And the first time I went to the cinema… [the first time my parents] took me to the cinema, in general, it was for [The Passion of the Christ (2004)] … and it was a huge [group] of people… there were people standing up, sitting down, lying down… It was so casual that I remember it. I was four years old and I kept asking: “Mum, what’s this? Mum, who’s that? What’s happening? I don’t understand a thing. Is this Jesus Christ?” I really liked the casualness of it all and the fact that everyone got together… It’s not like cinema today [where they keep announcing]: “Please, don’t litter!”… It was very casual…” (Woman, 16, Stara Zagora)

Present experiences

“The last one [I watched] in the cinema… I’m not talking about TV… was La La Land (2016). I learned about it from the press. [I watched it] here in the local cinema. I went with a colleague of [my friend’s]… It was before it was nominated for an Oscar, which it didn’t win… There were very few people in the cinema hall. There is another screen. They were playing some phantasmagoria there. It was full [whereas] there were [only] seven of us inside [for La La Land]… We discussed it afterwards, when we left. In general, I really liked the film. We regretted that it did not get an Oscar… [I recommended it] to her colleagues and other friends. I don’t know if they went to see it… I mainly learn [about new films] from the press and TV, when they play trailers. It seems [to me] that the advertisement of new films isn’t particularly good… I read the 24 Chasa [24 Hours] Newspaper. It’s not particularly prominent there either.” (Man, 66+, Botevgrad)

“One evening, I call a friend of mine on the phone and she asks me: “Aren’t you watching the Vietnamese film?”… Korean, yes! I apologise, it’s Korean, yes! I don’t know if anyone [here] has ever watched another Korean film? … I only watched two episodes: the struggle of that young lady to defeat the smallpox [epidemic] in the village and when the king and the… the officer duelled because they both loved her… It’s a different atmosphere, completely different to everything we have seen before. The events take place probably somewhere in the 16th-17th century… Jewel in the Palace (2003- ) was it? I have not seen all the episodes [but] I want to say that TV sometimes points our attention towards something unknown, something we can read in a book but we haven’t… This is how they show it – very realistically with very good acting by the artists… people you have never seen and might not see again in different series but they obviously have good artists, producers, directors, script-writers… [The way] nature [is presented], life in the palace, the relationships… And I wonder how our films are accepted [abroad], for instance, how would they view a Bulgarian film in Korea? If the Koreans would sit down and reflect on a Bulgarian film the way that we are now reflecting [on a Korean film].” (Woman, 71, Kazanlak)

“I follow Stolen Life (2016-2021) now, the Bulgarian one. I like it and, because I used to work in that sphere – medicine, I watch it with [great] interest. I always prefer the Bulgarian ones and now they make good Bulgarian films, which describe our life… When I am by myself, I watch entertaining things, something that you can laugh at, to relax… Even if I have the opportunity, I am out of the habit of going to the cinema. It won’t be as attractive to me anymore. The person that used to be by my side is gone and I won’t start going to the cinema… I had a good life with my husband. We used to go everywhere together. So, it just wouldn’t attract me, except for watching at home nowadays… What I notice now is adolescents take [on board] a lot from the action films… the violence… And I don’t think it’s correct. Another thing that I have noticed, because all children like watching films on TV and mothers also tend to want a way to not have to deal with them and to [be able to] do something else, so they play them [cartoons]. And so, on the one hand, they learn… my grandson, for instance, remembered everything, he knew the little films in English by heart and that’s how [he developed] a love for learning languages. And he finds it very easy. But what I notice is, when we were children, we really liked the Russian children’s films because the characters were beautiful, interesting, and now, what sort of interest? [The characters] are so ugly and scary… And they use such expressions that I wonder how they can include them in films for children, there is [no moral], nothing instructive.” (Woman, 68, Kalofer)

“Very recently… I watched a film which, as a matter of fact, I read that it wasn’t that good, despite the great artists starring in it. Because I like all four artists in it a lot, I decided to see how bad it was. It was Book Club (2018)… The film definitely is… light, let’s call it that way. But, despite it all, I wouldn’t classify it as that bland, let’s say… [I saw it] in the cinema. What I would like to say is that I don’t like to watch significant films at home. And I don’t download films. At home I watch films that I relax with, some sort of TV series, crime and so on… I can watch them an endless number of times but as a type of relaxation and not like going to the cinema. For me, cinema remains ‘going to the cinema’. I get dressed, I go out… If there’s no way [to watch particular films in the cinema], I’ll read about them. But I prefer to go to the cinema. At home – it’s somehow a different atmosphere, what surrounds me is different… I prefer to go to the cinema. As my colleagues call me: ‘old-fashion[ed]’. So, Book Club was well acted out… a light genre but, at the same time, there were philosoph[ical questions] about people of a certain age… what young people should think about them and so on… In all honesty, the film which I saw didn’t strike me… didn’t impress me in the same way as my first visit to the cinema. There is a great offer of films nowadays. You can download them, buy them, to follow them on TV… The offer is enormous. They fight over the audience, so to speak… with aggressive advertising and so on… I like to watch films which have been recommended by proven [sources]… either people of the same taste in cinema as myself… or some critical notes which I trust… for example, in some newspaper or magazine. I trust these notes and I go, all in all.” (Woman, 67, Sofia)

“[The] last [film] I watched was The Foreigner (2012). I like it because it shows the mindset of the Bulgarian [people]… the manner of behaving and communication… [I watched it] on the internet… Because I can make a choice. Otherwise I have to look up on the cinemas and follow when it would be on, which takes time… But on the internet I can choose and watch whatever I need. There is great choice there… I learn about new films on the Internet predominantly… Websites, adverts…” (Woman, 55, Targovishte)

“The film which I saw last and left the biggest impression, I saw on TV… it was the Bulgarian Glory (2016). Because it’s somewhat linked to my profession as well, after I watched it, we discussed it with my colleagues at work. This film just amazed me! It’s made [in such a way]… it was as if I was in it and I participated… very real with wonderful acting… A very real film! They showed… well, there were some things… But they showed [contemporary] reality in this film… [I watch films] on the Internet and on TV because Plovdiv is too far from Stamboliyski for me, I work shifts and I don’t have the opportunity. There is no cinema in Stamboliyski and there is no cinema in Peshtera to go to either.” (Woman, 55, Stamboliyski)

“I don’t like going to the cinema by myself… if [I’m watching a film] at the cinema… If I’m at home, I can watch… Perhaps because we are the type who like to pay careful attention in the cinema and only afterwards to sit down, talk and discuss… we really like to do that… that’s why we choose carefully. [We go to see] Bulgarian films or films which we have [learned about] through or been somehow impressed by adverts or trailers. So, we made a point to go and see them… But it’s difficult for me… it’s difficult for all of us to watch with 3D glasses because we have to place them on top of our glasses… Our generation… Eating popcorn in new cinema theatres distracts me so much! The fact that [food] consumption is allowed distracts me even when it’s [just] the sound. It also annoys me on aesthetic grounds because some are not particularly careful not to leave rubbish behind. And if they don’t manage to clean between two screenings, you have to wade through popcorn [on the floor]. Then there’s the smell of burnt butter… if there’s no good ventilation… In other words, there are external influences which can violate my perceptions of cinema as such… I don’t follow any rankings. I very rarely download from torrents. It would have to be films that someone has recommended a lot and I am convinced it would be a great cultural omission if I did not watch them. But, for example, when it comes to the movies from the Oscars… We try… I try to even watch the ceremony and to make a note of the ones who won something. But in the last two-three years are the winners have been huge disappointments for me, including this year… [Three] Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). We went to see it. It came straight after the ceremony. : We pondered over it afterwards. We even discussed it with other acquaintances, a wider circle [of friends]. We wondered and wondered… We also wondered about the system of values which a film… a work of art… imposes on us. Is it possible that there isn’t a single positive character in the end? … So, I’m puzzled by the criteria applied [in choosing the winning films]. After all, it’s an Academy which gathers many famous names in the film industry. How… and exactly what… brings to choosing a film to be distinguished? But it makes a huge difference when [such a distinction] is attached to a title… It has this many Oscars for this and that… or Best Actress in a Leading Role… Best Film… and so on. People are influenced by it. Same with the aggressive marketing. You might not want to be informed about this film but there is no other way. They will inform you. Whether it’s before you check your email or before logging onto a website… You have to go through the trailer… Or if you have had the imprudence to sign up for some [newsletters] through which you receive advertisements… The other way through which I keep informed is by watching specialised culture programmes, for example, The Day Starts with Culture or… there is another one on bTV…” (Woman, 52, Haskovo/Kyustendil)

“The last [film] was literally [a few] days ago – Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017). It’s more than obvious that there was a ritual because I’m a big Winnie the Pooh fan. My daughter, who knows this, told me: “Mum, we have to watch this film together. It’s compulsory!” So, I waited for her to come back home for the break. We watched it at home… She has a Netflix account. It was great fun! A quality reel which introduces you in an unexpected way to the author of a favourite work. I was somehow always focused on the book and never made the effort to learn that much about the life of A. A. Milne. Domhnall Gleeson did a great interpretation [of the character].” (Woman, 52, Stara Zagora)

“On zamunda… the well-known zamunda… there are a lot of Bulgarian films. I regularly watch the old ones… A Nameless Band (1981)… that sort… When The Foreigner (2012) was first released on zamunda, I first watched it on the computer. But I have [now] probably watched it five times [already]. I liked it so much, I found it so cool! After that there was another film by Niki Iliev [which] I didn’t like as much, but it was ok. The last film I watched on TV… I watched it half-way through, it was Bubblegum (2017)… I watched it half-way through [and] I fell asleep. Before that I had downloaded Omnipresent (2017) on the computer. I played the beginning and I stopped it. It somehow seemed [rather] heavy. I had read the review[s and] what it was about. Then I had downloaded another one… really famous recently… Ah, yes, Monkey (2016)! They played it on TV? Yesterday or the day before… I couldn’t watch it on TV, I only noticed it and I downloaded it the next day on my computer [to have it and watch later]. I played it for a bit and I stopped it. I don’t know… I’ve heard that the film Directions (2017) is very good but I have not seen it. Oh, last week I watched XIa (2015)… [no,] XIIa (2017) on the computer. I have seen XIa twice, once on the computer and once on TV. It was last week again, I think. I watch[ed] them both by myself… When they are on TV, I watch with whoever is with me, with [my] family… When I start discussing at home with my husband, he gets annoyed. For example, when I say: “Look at how [this character] gives his [loved one] something or tells her something!”, he gets annoyed. [He says:] “Stop comparing yourself!”… The TV series which I am watching right now… They show Suburban Cops (2018- ) on Nova Television. Well, I watch it. I like it because it lifts my mood up. I start Stolen Life (2016-2021) but stop it half-way through when they start with all the dramaturgy, all the drama, that sort of thing… I just turn the volume down… Otherwise, it keeps going [in the background]. I used to like the one which they play on bTV right now… the TV series… the new one… Dear Heirs (2018- ) was it? The second season just started. And I like that one. It [features] young [and] positive people… interesting events… I don’t [go to the] cinema. In the sense that, I predominantly watch [films] at home, on TV or on the laptop… I used to. Back in the day. But nowadays… I don’t know why it so happened that I don’t go. It’s probably easier for me to click in zamunda and download [what I want]… If it is at the cinema… As the somewhat dirty joke goes… whether I want to or not, I’ve paid for it. When I go to the cinema and I have paid 10-15 leva for a ticket, I will have to finish watching it. So… it’s probably because I am also unemployed and I don’t have so much of a financial opportunity.” (Woman, 46, Pleven)

“I found it quite strange and interesting [to watch] the new film about Winnie the Pooh. It was because my daughter insisted. She wanted to watch it. And I cried… It was really an experience. I even thanked her for taking me [to the cinema]. Just like for the character, it was [about] returning to what is important and meaningful, not just looking at reality but leaving some room for entertainment and pleasure. And [it was] mostly [about] paying attention to the person next to you. And the other thing which is linked to cinema theatres. It’s the only thing which I don’t like about them, the atmosphere – all this noise and all this… the big screen isn’t for me. I like the homely atmosphere which predisposes you for a more intimate contact [with the film]. The old film theatres – yes, [they did that].  Back in the day, yes. But this big screen in particular… I leave with a headache… It’s louder in sound… [Home] is the place that gives me peace. You can relax at home. You can be in any sort of position, so that you are most comfortable – whether you are in an armchair, on a chair, on the sofa… [I want] to be comfortable and to enjoy it. I don’t want to consider someone making a noise [or] walking at the front and getting in the way of me seeing… The only thing which I like [about watching films in the cinema] is that they present upcoming films on the big screen.” (Woman, 44, Karlovo)

“The last film is waiting for me because I paused it at home on the TV. It’s called Chosen (2013-2014). [The protagonists] receive, accidentally or not… not accidentally… some boxes with a picture and a weapon… and they go and kill each other… and it’s a bit sinister. But looking at where the world is headed… probably it’s headed there… So, this film is still waiting for me to finish watching it because when I had my salad and aperitif, I had dinner and had to go to bed… I rewind [the TV programme] a week back and if something grabs my sight… I was looking for something like a comedy, something light, for example, [a] romantic or family [film]… but I don’t know why [I chose this one]… I think it’s a drama. Or thriller. I don’t know, I’m not sure. I turned it on to see what it was about and the next moment I was already watching it… The experience has changed because when you miss a scene, you can rewind and finish watching it.” (Man, 43 Kazanlak)

“Last night I watched a part of The Godfather, not all of it, on HBO On Demand, a service that is still not very popular in Bulgaria and only one [cable TV] operator offers it. The convenience to play a film with two clicks of the remote cannot be compared to [the experience] of going to pick up a film from a videotheque… [Then] that film is not available… So, you want to watch the film, which everyone is praising, but someone took it before you. It will be returned but whether you would manage to get it remains unclear. The convenience of access [nowadays] to a larger extent kills the desire and impatience to [watch]… a particular film as quickly as possible. It’s the same with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which is a very good service… and including Disney who will be releasing their distribution channel next year… so yes, the experience has changed, especially inside the home. It’s much more accessible and easier. You don’t need to pirate because especially [the] on demand [channels are] part of the cable TV fee. There is no significant [price] difference. So, this way, which isolates piracy, loses part of the pleasure [of anticipation].” (Man, 30, Botevgrad)

“The last film which I went to see at the cinema was Mamma Mia! 2 [Here We Go Again] (2018). I went with my husband. I chose it because I was really impressed by the first part of the film… and it was a natural continuation of the film. My expectations were perhaps slightly higher than what it was but, even so, I was impressed by the film. The atmosphere which it created for me… Perhaps what I liked was that the film was linked to ABBA songs, which lifts your mood up even more. They managed to make the viewers, at least me, personally, feel like I am in the film and sympathise with the event which happens in the second part. I think it has a huge impact to go and see [something] in the cinema, than [to watch it] at home on a small screen. The experience is completely different, that’s why I chose to go and see it in the cinema. And yeah, I liked the film.” (Woman, 30, Gabrovo)

“A few months ago, there was this festival, Master of Art. I went to a screening of Michelangelo – Love and Death (2017). It’s a documentary film. Apparently, I didn’t know a lot of things about him… in the sense that… how many things he was involved in. I found it quite interesting. And, yes, I just wanted to watch something from the festival… It was actually [in] one of the smaller cinemas in Sofia, not in the malls… the older cinemas… I can’t remember which one exactly but, yes, it was a small cinema hall with not a hugely grandiose, big screen but… There were quite a lot of people attending actually.” (Woman, 30, Stara Zagora/Sofia)

“The last film I watched was Siberia (2018) with Keanu Reeves. Where? At home, on my laptop… Because I feel most comfortable watching films in a home setting. I feel like I can enjoy the film most fully, because if I miss something or if I fall asleep, God forbid, I can stop [it] and I can rewind. For me it is really important that I am comfortable when watching [films]. I watched it by myself. Why I choose this film? Can I say because of Keanu Reeves?” (Woman, 29, Sofia)

“The last film is… a bit mainstream but [it was] Ocean’s Eight (2018) on Thursday, one day ago. My father and I kept our tradition. It says ‘ritual’ on the slide but it’s more like a tradition [for us]. The atmosphere in the cinema has changed substantially. The cinema halls are modernised, the sound is modernised, it’s all the way it should be, in my opinion. The behaviour of the citizens is not ‘modernised’ but that’s another question… It borders on stupidity. They sit wherever they want [and tell you]: “Why can’t you sit at the row above?”… I lived in the Students’ Town in Sofia for five years and came back [to Burgas] three years ago. That thing there [just doesn’t happen]… I am also a teacher, in addition to [being] a landscape architect, and I see what is going on. Families, including the parents and the children… In Sofia there might be people coming from the nearby villages as well, but there is a desire to cultivate [the habit of] going to the theatre, going to the cinema… They would release the programme on Wednesday and we would book straight away in advance for Thursday on the very same evening. Here everything is at the last moment, the behaviour is like we are at a village fair… The population is growing simpler and there is no desire to develop culture.” (Man, 28, Burgas)

“I have become more pretentious… and choosier when it comes to the audience I watch [films] with. I’d rather they didn’t [eat] popcorn, throwing them back and forth, up and down… discuss things throughout the film, go outside every 5 minutes… It’s super foully, in my opinion. They should focus on the film. I go there to focus on the film, to merge with it… to try and get a certain type of experience for what I pay. It matters who you watch [a film] with, where and how. Even when I watch films at home with my family, we have different points of view. If I like a certain film, the rest of the members of my family might not like it. Although I trust the other members of my family, if [they tell me that] a film isn’t good…” (Man, 26-45, Kyustendil)

“The last film I watched in the cinema was Logan (2017). It’s the last part of [the] X-men [series]… It’s probably the best of all the parts, I think. I liked it best, at least. I’ve even watched it 3 or 4 times at home afterwards. Otherwise, the last film I said I watched was Machine Gun Preacher (2011) two days ago. Oh, I watched Ghost Rider (2007) last night… when I went to bed. For the first time, it wasn’t bad. But it’s not my… I wouldn’t download it to watch it or [go to the] cinema, I watched it on TV… We have a TV in every room. I would even put one in the bathroom if there was a way to watch TV whilst showering. My TV set is on non-stop… I go to the cinema to watch films with more special effects. You can better feel the film itself in the cinema whereas I won’t watch a comedy in the cinema because whether you watch it at home or in the cinema, it’s the same for me, no effects, no nothing… I like films with special effects, for them I insist on going to the cinema… the first time… after that I watch them four more times at home.  I’ve seen The Dark Knight (2016) in the cinema twice and I’ve seen it more than a hundred times at home. I used to fall asleep to it every night… the last part… For me, watching films, especially in the cinema… even before a film is released, I know when to go, I have chosen the good seats in advance on the Internet… it needs to be the best… If I go to the cinema, it needs to be on the best row, the film should already have had its pre-screenings, so that I know there aren’t a lot of people [in] who can distract me while watching… because that film in the cinema… I really, really want to watch it. Whilst at home, it’s the same, if I start a film, nothing else is going on… European cinema… I almost don’t love. Bulgarian cinema… I watch only TV series. American – I watch absolutely everything. European – only football! It’s all that works, in my opinion.” (Man, 25, Buhovo)

“Out of the Bulgarian ones, we watched Directions (2017) in Hall “Revival”… That was the last Bulgarian film which we saw. There was also a discussion there… which happens rarely. However, I think it’s very useful because I think one of the directors was present… and I think it was also a hindrance the day and time when Directions was scheduled… It was on Sunday at 20:00. And the people of Gabrovo, we are a bit… I don’t want to say limited… They prepare for Monday, me included, but one Sunday won’t be a problem. The price was accessible – the ticket was 3 leva. Otherwise, we are not stingy when it comes to such things. We are interested. I constantly keep track of what is happening in other towns around us as well, in terms of arts, cinema… However, I think that young people around me are sceptical and look at it with mockery when we share that we’re going to the theatre or to the cinema. But it’s what interests us. We can’t impose our opinion on anyone else… During [the screening of] Directions… there were really very few of us. When the film ended, I thought: what would the organisers say when they see such a small audience? Otherwise, if I like [the film], I would even go and see it by myself. I won’t beg anyone [to come with]… I can say that we get information either from posters… there’s a grocery shop that often features brochures or… they have a tableau… there’s information specifically about cinema… it’s accessible to any citizen. There’s no need to mention the Internet, [it goes without saying]. Word of mouth. Any other way… the posters really, when I get off at the bus stop in the morning, that’s the first [thing] I see when I lift my head up – I look at what is expected when.” (Woman, 24, Gabrovo)

“I finished watching a TV series – yesterday and today – yes, I did that to myself, 24 episodes [in two days]. Sex, Lies & TV[:Eight Days a Week] (2013- ) – a Bulgarian TV series, shown on TV7, I think it was in 2014 or 2010. What I found interesting was that it was not dumb, first of all, as are most of the new American films that deal with this topic. It was about two TV stations, for instance, Nova and bTV, but with [changed] names, and the feud [and competition] between them, their links to politics, servicing different [political] interests. It included many everyday topics, despite the less than serious title. I watched it with pleasure. Many famous people star in it as well – some of them, we know, for example, Desi Slava, the pop-folk singer, is not under another name but [plays herself]… and there’s others… Katerina Evro. It’s interesting, a bit like journalism but on the screen… I opened zamunda, I looked at Bulgarian TV series, whatever has been uploaded, and I downloaded it straight away, because I have seen [all] the others. And in terms of film[s], last night, in between the series, I was visiting my boyfriend. He has to get up early for work but I had put a film on a USB stick and I played it. Holiday Makers (2016) – again, a Bulgarian film [with] a great sense of humour. I have not laughed as much during a new Bulgarian film for a while. It was funny. The actors were great. All in all, those are my impressions.” (Woman, 21, Kyustendil)

“Nowadays I probably have the time once a month to watch a film and it’s on my laptop. I go on a website and I start choosing by the titles. The last such film was Farenheit [451] (2018), which was interesting in terms of its idea, the concept of the film itself… the significance of paper-based books and that… humanity limits itself… without books… we have to think about… all this information that we have, as art, created during the years and that we need to preserve it… If I play the film and I don’t like it, I stop it. In this respect, I watch films much less often [nowadays]… You have to put some time aside in order to go to the cinema. It happened to me, I had [free] tickets… Four tickets, I think… And I could watch whichever film I wanted in half a year’s time. I ended up throwing them away because I had absolutely no free time to go… which was a pity.” (Woman, 17, Karlovo)

“Lately I realise that I increasingly avoid… American films because, frankly, I feel like I’ve seen them all, the moment I know what they are about… They have 5-minute trailers in which they manage to fit all the information which might interest me… I am of the type of people who… if I know that the next two hours of my life would be busy, I need to know that it won’t be in vain. Many times I catch myself watching films which I have already seen just because I’m sure that I’ll like them. So, one of the films which impressed me a lot and… actually, I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it already… I watched it again recently… was Amelie (2001), which is a French film. I’m a French-language student and somehow it brings me even closer to the[ir] culture. This film… from the beginning to the end… you are not entirely sure what is going on… up to the moment it all ends and falls into place. I adore such stories! Another such story was an independent Australian film which I watched recently, [I came across it] completely by accident on TV… I had no intention of watching a film even, it was just on…  It was actually called Love Is Now (2014). I don’t watch romantic films in general for the same reason, most of the stories are cliché and I don’t see the point in watching [them]. But this one really touched me. It grabs you until the last minute when everything is revealed.” (Woman, 16, Kazanlak)

“The last film I watched was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)… I watched it on the Internet on some platform… it most certainly wasn’t paid… I don’t remember which one. I remember that the Internet was slow and I watched it two days in a row because it took a long time to load… And the last time we went to the cinema, it was with my boyfriend, we went to see Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018). Everyone made fun of me for going to the cinema with my boyfriend to see not a romantic film but an animation.” (Woman, 16, Stara Zagora)

“The last film I watched was a children’s film. I watched Madagascar (2005) yesterday with a friend of mine. Before that we watched SpongeBob… and some other children’s films… We had bought some chocolate and just watched some children’s films. There were a lot of things that I did not understand when I was younger, certain lines and character’s [dialogue], why they do certain things and so on… Now when you listen… I watched it in English too… Some lines were entirely different [to the dubbed version]. And I realised certain things that I did not understand at all before… We watched it on Netflix… I like it. I like that there are not just Netflix films on but all kinds. I like that you can choose whether it’s subtitled (in English or in Bulgarian) or no subtitles, that the quality is very good and that, when you search for a film, you get a lot more similar films [recommended], you don’t have to search for them [individually] by the title. Also, as soon as you open Netflix, on its first page you get the newest release[s] and that’s how I watch new films.” (Woman, 16, Stara Zagora)

Ideal future

“I don’t like [popcorn in the cinema]. Whereas for a drink, I could bring a little flask with rum in my back pocket, with a little straw… With whom? With a kindred spirit, someone you can discuss with afterwards, someone who likes the same genre… As to the genre, a serious film, at this point [in my life]… Drama, for instance… I don’t like the phantasmagoria on TV and even [in the cinema] here. That’s all they show here! How would [the experience] go? In complete silence…” (Man, 66+, Botevgrad)

“I imagine that I am in the cinema hall… there is a big screen, so that I can see everything that the camera [has captured]. Who with? With someone close, someone you can share with… We’re going – where? To the cinema. But I am not alone… I think of [the old] Cinema Bulgaria [in Kazanlak] straight away.” (Woman, 66+, Kazanlak)

“I imagine [it] in the cinema hall with someone but with a [small, restricted group]. Smaller cinema halls, not huge, like they used to be, with so many seats… With so many [viewers] present, it’s difficult… 40-50 people [maximum].” (Woman, 78, Kazanlak)

“For me… the shopping mall is the ideal place for watching films, mainly because they live stream opera and ballet directly from the Royal Opera House in London. We are a group [of friends] who go collectively and watch the performances, because going to London and buying a ticket to the Royal Opera House is a very difficult task, primarily from a financial point of you. Whereas here, for a small amount of money, you get a direct broadcast from the Royal Opera House with an introduction of the actors, the director, the conductor and the opera [itself]…” (Man, 67, Plovdiv)

“There should be more free [screenings]… My biggest wish is to have the open-air theatre restored. Because we have one… It’s right here, very close… Everything is falling apart… It already exists, it just needs to be restored.” (Woman, 64, Gabrovo)

“Contemporary technology presupposes exactly that. And I do it. I download a film, I watch [it], I [might] have work… why should I go to the cinema… yes, it’s a ritual [to] go to the cinema [but] in the meantime, something might happen, someone might be looking for you – [at home] I [can] pause [the film]. Or I’m emotional, the film is a bit too much, I stop it, I pause [and] I sit down and finish watching it. It appears that it’s better at home. Of course, there are advantages to going [to the cinema], you’re out, you unwind… The whole ritual of going to the cinema… [But] I find [popcorn] too annoying! Popcorn, soft drinks, chewing on bread sticks… At the end of the day, I [can’t] accept that. You go somewhere and you should be paying attention to what you went there for. Popcorn… and sunflower seeds… [should stay] at the football stadium. These sorts of things can be at the football stadium. And it’s not appropriate even there.” (Woman, 60, Karlovo)

“The perfect option… the perfect option is perhaps being able to watch it at home. But at home it’s unlikely that everyone can find the same conditions as a cinema hall can offer, in terms of sound… screen… Home cinema is, how should I say, cinema for everyday use. In terms of quality of the performance, if you want to watch a high quality film, I think you should go to the cinema theatre, which involves special conditions to be able to watch the film and perceive it better, sonically, visually and with the various special effects which might feature. The film theatres are places where you can watch more quality films nowadays. It’s difficult to create the same conditions at home which a cinema theatre can create. I don’t have preferences [in terms of company]. If it’s a good film, you could go and see it by yourself as well. I’ve also gone to the cinema by myself. You could go with someone who is also interested in the film. I have no preferences whether I would be by myself or with company. In the cinema hall you focus on the film… I think in cinema theatres… ok, popcorn won’t be as distracting… although popcorn is a bit relative as well… it probably comes from the American cinema[-going tradition]… If it’s an interesting film, there’s no need for popcorn, in my opinion.” (Man, 59, Kazanlak)

“For me, the perfect place for watching films depends on the film I’m about to see. If it’s sports-themed, I prefer for it to be with the… fan group. If it’s romantic… dramatic/romantic, I prefer to watch it by myself or someone very close. If it’s a comedy, I could watch it in a family environment or in the cinema theatre… It’s very important to have someone afterwards to share what you experienced with. Shared experiences leave more lasting traces in one’s emotional life. So, for me, it depends on what the film is. If I have a look at Cinema City’s programme… in order to go there, I’d choose a film which I would watch in that particular cinema hall. But if I prefer some other specific film, for example, The Shawshank Redemption (1994), I prefer to download it and to watch it… [while] at home, I would watch it by myself. I have favourite films. I have favourite comedies. I have favourite films which I watch again and again, by myself or in a very small circle of very close ones, because we have the same interests. I prefer to watch these films in an environment which [privileges] common interests.” (Woman, 58, Plovdiv)

“At home, on the sofa, in front of the TV, with someone close, someone I can [speak to]… and if I could cover myself with a little blanket and have [a cat] purr next to me… And for there to be someone to share what we like and dislike [about the film]… You can watch the film at any time. If you go to the cinema, you have to come back home at some point. You have to go there, come back… When you are there, you can’t choose [who surrounds you] or [to turn down] the air conditioning.” (Woman, 55, Kazanlak)

“At this stage if I come across a title that wins me over whilst at home, I will gladly give my money legally to go to the cinema and watch it on the big screen. I am far from thinking that it’s not worth watching something on the big screen. But, as I said, if I like it whilst at home. Because it’s too big of a risk when you go into the cinema, as I said before, to come across something which will leave you not only indifferent but even angry that you ended up there. And that’s why my friends and I look for titles that at least one of us would find a way to watch at home and tell [us]: “Watch it! It’s worth it!” Or: “Watch it, bearing in mind that… but it’s still worth it.” I ask myself, when different festivals and thematic film screenings take place, why do they attract enough of an audience? Because they put together lots of different topics, different interpretations… even if it is the same topic… which is very respectful towards the audience… And someone has already given their recommendation to people with a similar kind of thinking to enter the cinema hall and stay there even until midnight… Of course, it’s a completely different experience to what we talked about in terms of everyday [cinema-going], anything outside of a… festival programme… People who come into the cinema hall should have the feeling that… similarly to [watching films] at home… that you are going to encounter something meaningful. And you [should] even [feel] like you are going to a [special] celebration…. It’s something which began to happen on the theatre and music stages and it’s about time it happened [when it comes to] the big screen.” (Woman, 52, Stara Zagora)

“I would like to be able to afford to go twice a month… not that I can’t afford it right now but it will be a bit difficult to recalculate my budget… and to cut off something else, because I don’t go to the cinema alone. In other words, I go with one or two more people, whose expenses I need to cover and so on. I would like to go specifically with the purpose [to watch a film] and not… whilst I’m cleaning these lentil seeds to [meanwhile] watch that film… to go, to sit down, to watch it, to have some coffee afterwards, to meet my friends… an occasion to go out [outside of] the usual everyday activities. Because, all in all, when I watch a film nowadays, it’s like a background… when I am at home… at the same time I am talking on the phone, doing something, doing house chores or I am doing something else on the computer and it’s just a background…” (Woman, 50, Sofia)

“Depending on my mood, sometimes I want to be alone, and the ideal [place to watch films] would be home alone. Depending on my mood… with no one… or with a group of friends… or to go somewhere together, if there is an occasion… It all depends on how I’m feeling. Sometimes I might want to watch with popcorn on my sofa, [lean back] and feel good. Sometimes [I might want to watch] with friends. It all depends on [my] mood… on what I want to nourish within myself, what I need at the moment. The more luxurious and comfortable, the better, of course. In a nice cinema salon, if it’s in the cinema… and so on.” (Woman, 46, Pleven)

“Cinema always takes priority. The big screen… it always makes a difference. You somehow have more of an opportunity for immersion. For example, a film like 300: Rise of an Empire (2014)… I also have the Blu-ray… but it’s more influential in the cinema… especially the battles. It’s important for an action film to be sold in cinemas. Dramas… are more [appropriate] for home [viewing]. I don’t think that a cinema ticket [which costs] 5-6 leva is [expensive]. That’s how much it costs here. I think that the price is extremely accessible.” (Man, 26-45, Kyustendil)

“This leads us to the repertoire politics of cinemas, as a whole. Since cinemas don’t do ‘art’. We, as more high-minded, let’s be honest… we need this type of cinema but, unfortunately, for us this perfect place would be a chamber hall. [Or] even a gallery. Do you understand? Because there the interaction between people would be different, more [intimate] and the access and the understanding of the film would be more fulfilling. For commercial production, of course, a cinema, a big hall, a lawn, if you wish [would be great] – yes, I agree. But every film must have a specific place for screening. I am excluding [what is normal] for each one of us to watch a film alone in front of the TV or the way that I do – on my computer.” (Man, 41, Gabrovo)

“In the cinema, alone in the theatre, in absolute silence. I want nothing else… Because I’m annoyed by the noises the audience makes, whether it’s leaning off the chair, lighting up their phones to look [around], not to mention conversations, popcorn, and so on. I want to be by myself in the screening hall, to feel cool and to hear nothing else but the film… It could also be at home with a [digital] projector.” (Man, 30, Botevgrad)

“On a big lawn with lots of people and on a huge screen. I have no preferences for genre. How would it go? I think it would be a lot of fun, there would be a lot of people. It would be ideal because, firstly, you wouldn’t be in a closed off space, secondly, you would be in nature, and, thirdly, because it would probably interest a lot of people. And there shouldn’t be any buildings around, just one big, wide space, some huge lawn. For me, that’s the ideal place for watching films.” (Woman, 30, Gabrovo)

“I imagine that there would be VR films in the future. [It’s] the ideal future, for me, specifically. I imagine that it would be quite cool. It could still be like a cinema theatre. You just have some space in which you can move. And you can interact with the film. That would be [great]. To interact, to enter different chapters of the film, depending on what you like or what kind of mood you are in right now… Otherwise, if it must be 2D or 3D cinema, I imagine a nice, wide [open] space, in which you can comfortably sit down. It might have cushions or hammocks and chairs. That’s how I imagine watching cinema. That for me is [the ultimate] pleasure… Because otherwise, when you’re closed in… Or maybe it’s just me… It’s happened that, when we go to the cinema, I constantly think about where to leave my popcorn and water, instead of focusing on the film more… whether I might be disturbing the people behind me or the people in front of me might be in the way… “Oh, and why is that child over there so noisy!” You somehow lose a bit of the comfort. That’s why I watch [films] predominantly at home. That’s why I don’t go to the cinema that often. But, if it must be [a] mass [event], I imagine it with more space between people, with a comfortable space, conveniences… so that you can put everything around you… In terms of genres and topic, I’m not sure what would be interesting in the future. It would certainly be something which further develops the most current issues, giving more points of view for the things in progress. Every [historical] period has topics which are important for society… for particular nations… in the family, in society and [more] globally. I suppose that they will change in the future but the films which are interesting which definitely be linked to this… Who with? With my mum. And with my brother. Yes, that’s somewhat what I imagine.” (Woman, 30, Sofia)

“If we have to take into account the specificities of the town [that we live in], I think the summer is quite an interesting season and there could be… it doesn’t matter if it is a festival or five different evenings with different films… there were companies, mobile services providers and so on, who [organised this] before… on the beach… [or] the way IKEA organises Block Kino there will be this year, I think… That’s just a few different options but the films need to be aimed at a slightly bigger part of the audience… Because I also like European, Bulgarian and all kinds of cinema but the films that come here, at least… because Sofia International Film Festival in Sofia in addition to the dramatic films that are, obviously, compulsory, but there are also films like… The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) I think it was, about those elderly people, yeah… these films also provoke the audience to think but they contain something attractive. I remember the cinema halls being full. We bought tickets a month in advance. And the films with so much drama, they become too heavy to watch, people have a thousand other problems… for me and the people around me, who, I dare say, [have a reality check and are self-aware] and we try to facilitate cool things happening in this city, whether it’s in my profession or wherever, we feel pushed away… all this drama… I think there is a moment when only the director knows exactly what is happening [in the film], it’s so dramatic, it’s so deep that you hear people starting to huff and puff [around you]…” (Man, 28, Burgas)


“I think that [a film] can attain the most effective influence over [one’s] senses precisely in the cinema theatre. After all, the big screen, the good quality, the good sound… are the best for presenting a film. But I’m just the type of person who doesn’t like big groups of people, so [I’d prefer] a small number of people and, if possible, no one eating… Because I just think that food shouldn’t be an entertainment… in the sense that one shouldn’t be doing something else whilst eating, for example, watching a film. In addition, because I work for the Philharmonic Orchestra… during a concert… not that there are any people who want to eat… but there are young people who think it’s normal and acceptable to eat during a theatre performance or a symphony concert… I think that this negative influence comes from cinema theatres.” (Woman, 25, Shumen)

“In my opinion, it depends on whether one is an introvert or an extrovert… Whether they like to watch by themselves. It’s also down to the [particular] mood… One could go through different periods where they prefer this type or that type of films… In my opinion, 4D and the like are very different from watching film. It’s a type of attraction. It’s like calling a Rammstein concert a gig – it’s more like a festival. There is fire, there is… It’s a completely different… experience… It has nothing to do with going to the cinema and watching a film. It’s still nice but it’s very different.” (Woman, 21, Kyustendil/Sofia)

“It depends on the people you are with… there are times when you’ve spent time with your family… but you won’t sit down with them to watch a film or be together again in another way… [so] you go out with friends, you go to the cinema or to the theatre… it depends on the group of people and who you want to be with…” (Woman, 18, Karlovo)

“For me, the ideal place is in the home environment, either on the computer or on the TV. It depends on where there are newer and more famous films or old ones. Who with? With my family and friends… to get together… to relax… to get immersed in the film… in the script, in the syuzhet… In terms of genre, I suggest action… action comedy… I know that women don’t like murders in films too much but it makes the film more… Dynamic. Otherwise, those romantic [films]… it’s all about looking at each other, talking… For me, that’s pointless. If it’s a film, it should be more dramatic… I would go [to the cinema for the special effects], because the screen resolution in the cinema is bigger and you can truly see them better, while at home [the screen] is smaller and you can’t focus on that.” (Man, 17, Pleven)

Bulgarian Films

“The last Bulgarian film which I saw in the cinema was Heights (2017)… And [I saw it] thanks to the good advertisement. There was a very strong [marketing campaign]. I don’t watch Bulgarian films otherwise and the main reason is that the sound is very bad… It’s tragic!… The last focus for students taking acting at National Academy For Theatre and Film Arts [seems to be] articulation, diction and so on… I can’t understand what they are saying in Bulgarian films. Have I grown old? Is the recording equipment poor? Or is that the last thing on the actors’ minds? Where is Simeon Vladov? Where is Ivan Balsamadjiev?” (Man, 66+, Botevgrad)

“I used to never miss Bulgarian films before. Out of the older ones perhaps there is none that I have not seen. Out of the new ones, I try to watch [them] on TV, of course, and I have almost seen [all] the ones that have aired on TV but I don’t finish watching them because they can’t infatuate me, they can’t attract my attention. I don’t like everything out of the new [films] screened… I, personally, really like… Stolen Life (2016-2021). [It’s] contemporary and perhaps it’s one of the good films because there are almost no other films… There are a few success cases in terms of Bulgarian TV series recently. There are good ones. Whereas in terms of feature films, I have not been particularly impressed by any. The ones I have seen on TV [I mean]. I really wanted to watch Directions (2017) but I couldn’t. I heard really nice things about it but I have not heard if they would be showing it [on TV].” (Woman, 66+, Kazanlak)

“In recent times I notice that there are [Bulgarian] films being made [about the past and history] and I think that’s very good because the younger generation, for instance, is not acquainted with a lot of things from the past. These films are interesting for me as well, even though I’m already of a certain age… I like them, [they make me] remember certain things. I didn’t know a lot of the things, even though we are in Bulgaria… the different parts of the country [feature] things we are interested in but we are not aware of. I support these films, I find them very interesting and I follow them when they are on [TV] and I catch them… because I am interested. Even [documentary films] about the lives of elderly people, ordinary people… who you think are ordinary but they have done more than some who think they are something [more]. So, you can learn something from the most ordinary people when you watch such a film… I think there should be [Bulgarian films focusing on different ethnicities]. There should be, because if you are unaware, you cannot state an opinion. When you watch a film like that, you start reasoning in a different way about these people when you have learned about them. Up until then: this person says so, the other person says differently – you create the wrong opinion. And you assume that the film presents it authentically.” (Woman, 68, Kalofer)

“I watched a film by Adela Peeva very recently − Long Live Bulgaria (2017), which impressed me exceptionally… Same as Georgi and the Butterflies (2004), I can’t remember the director. I think that Bulgarian documentary film art truly deserves admiration but it is not very well known… [Bulgarian feature film actors] recite… They freeze. You feel like it’s a line. They don’t go organically into… I don’t know if it’s the director’s [fault]… I watched a really bad children’s film… It was the last Bulgarian film which I saw – The Curie Case (2018).  A horribly bad film!… I went to see it because I watch Bulgarian cinema in general, all sorts of genres. But there are some magnificent Bulgarian films which are not characterised by what I said – the bad acting. I’m very sorry but the majority of films which impressed me a lot somehow don’t reach the mass audience. Perhaps because they are made for a [chamber type of] audience. Unfortunately, Iglika Triffonova’s films pass with almost no audience, which I find deeply offensive and hurtful… Perhaps it’s the lack of advertising, perhaps it’s the lack of information… Or Corpse Collector (2015)… I recommend them… To my close ones. I say straight away: “Go and see this film!” But unfortunately…” (Woman, 67, Sofia)

“I watched The Foreigner (2012) today. I really liked it because it has a good ending… I just switched to the [bTV] Comedy channel. There was nothing interesting on the other channels. When I figured out it was a Bulgarian film, I decided to [watch it]. I’ve seen it before but I’ve forgotten it. Despite all, I found it very interesting. I remember going to [see] Bulgarian films that have no ending. You wait for something to happen and, all of a sudden, the film ends. So, there were periods when I was disappointed by Bulgarian films… Some time ago, perhaps it’s been 20 years now…” (Woman, 64, Gabrovo)

“On the internet you can download the last film about Levski… by Maxim Genchev, an absolute pasquinade, a shame that he calls himself Bulgarian, a shame for everyone who takes part in this film. They take money, they benefit financially from it and at the same time, the film is nothing at all – an offense to all the Bulgarian people, not to mention to the people of Karlovo… I’m emotional! When it comes to this topic I’m emotional… Because when such a film is made, they ought to have seen Time of Violence (1988) ten times, The Goat Horn (1972) fifty times, Manly Times (1977) and so on. They should [have] watch[ed] Bulgarian films, judge[d] the basis on which they are [building this film] and then make something new… Otherwise, in terms of newer films, Heights (2017), yes, it’s very good… [Other contemporary Bulgarian films] try to impress upon the Bulgarian psyche [values] from the Western world, which are simply not intrinsic to our folk psychology… not just loanwords, the way of expression, cynicism… It’s the same with XIa (2015)… I first watched it on one of the platforms on the Internet. Then they recently played it on TV. It’s a syuzhet that is completely taken from an American film and made into a Bulgarian one with Bulgarian actors. With Yana Marinova and who was it… with the battles, the dancing and so on. It’s not typical of us [Bulgarians]… We are talking here about cinema which imports a model of behaviour to Bulgaria from abroad. What I am saying is that they don’t import the good practices in Bulgarian cinema. But they import something elementary which leaves an impression on at least fifty percent of the young generation and they start to imitate that behaviour. Be it drugs, slang, cynical words, [bad] behaviour and all that…” (Woman, 60, Karlovo)

“The last film… I forgot its title now though… About the ones on the island… Holiday Makers (2016), yes. The last film which left a more serious impression was Holiday Makers. It’s a comedy but not exactly, because it’s a bit, how should I say it… Comic and dramatic. Yes. I think it’s one of the good Bulgarian, the very good Bulgarian films [made] recently. It’s not as heavy, there are some funny moments but it’s also very current. Unlike the other film which I remember seeing recently, Monkey (2016), which was very heavy. It really is good but it’s heavy for the atmosphere [here] in Bulgaria. [I saw] Holiday Makers – on TV and Monkey – in the cinema… As it turns out, other people from work saw Holiday Makers as well and they were also very impressed by it… They also think that there have been some quite good Bulgarian films lately. I think that Bulgarian film is experiencing a renaissance right now. There are quite a few good Bulgarian films released… I definitely like Bulgarian films right now. They reflect reality [but] with the disclaimer that reality is a bit difficult at the moment. Life in Bulgaria is a bit difficult. And they focus mostly on the difficult part[s] and maybe they should, in my opinion… there should be some more cheerful and joyous films, which were made back in the day. Back then reality also wasn’t that… pleasant. Despite that many cheerful and joyous films were created which, when you [went] to the cinema, simply lift[ed] your spirits up. There are such films now as well, but most of them, in my opinion, exert a burdensome influence. When you leave the cinema theatre, you think more about [your] problems. They definitely influence society as well. Maybe that’s why society is so… negative… despondent… Years ago… perhaps during the transition from totalitarianism to democracy… there were some really good Bulgarian films made which then seem to have disappeared. There was The Racket (1982) with Ivan Ivanov, which was very good but it seems that such films have disappeared lately. Back in the day, they were hits… how should I say it… box office successes. They exposed the shortcomings of society but they gave us a problem to solve. Perhaps such films should be made [now] again. Films definitely influence society… Bulgarian films which focus on different parts of the country don’t seem to be [made], I can’t say. In terms of specific ethnicities though, yes, there are [such] films. There are films that are definitely made for particular ethnicities or about particular social strata. In terms of people with different physical abilities, no, I doubt it. And about ordinary people… They usually focus on ethnicities and social strata. There are also films about history and the past. But often times these [films] which are about history and the past try to influence [and distort] some facts and events. Perhaps it depends on the producer and the [source of] financing.” (Man, 59, Kazanlak)

“I’m interested in Bulgarian cinema [and] in cinema, as a whole… I follow contemporary Bulgarian cinema. I find it interesting. In terms of films I like… I like films which carry an emotional charge and embedded moral values. Just like with any other art, in my opinion, cinema’s main role is to educate. It should give good role models. I like such films which give good role models. I’m happy that Bulgarian cinema moved out of the stagnation which it was in. Perhaps about 15 years ago, there was a period of about 10 years when there was no talk of Bulgarian cinema. It had simply collapsed. However, after that, certain films which brought be exceptional pleasure began appearing. One of these films is Footsteps in the Sand (2010). I simply can’t describe the satisfaction I felt when the film finished. I was delighted because I went with [low expectations] and preconceived ideas. After that film, my… expectations were exceeded. I also like Love.net (2011). I like Mission London (2010), which, in my opinion, is of very high… of European standards. I like films with meaningful stories which are presented in an interesting way and feature good directorial work and acting… The last film which I remember seeing this summer… I exclude what I watch on TV every evening… Nowadays I started watching Stolen Life (2016-2021) every evening because there is nothing else to watch… But the last film which I saw in open-air cinema “Orpheus” was the Bulgarian XIa (2015). I’m disappointed by the film. What disappointed me was, unfortunately, the widespread vulgarity and ruthlessness which apparently is reality… I, personally, didn’t expect things to be this way… One of the things which disappoint me when I watch Bulgarian films lately is that there is again a team of actors formed who are always repeated in all the films. It appears that directors and producers are influenced by already established names and they start inviting the same people… the same artists in the[ir] films. These personas become tiring, at least for me. They get tiring when I watch them on the screen [all the time]. In relation to this, I’ll say that Stolen Life impressed me precisely with this: in it I saw very good Bulgarian artists… whose names I hadn’t come across and I hadn’t seen them before in Bulgarian films.” (Woman, 58, Plovdiv)

“Rumena Voevoda is a historical figure linked to our region, the film stayed [in the cinema] here longer and enjoyed mass attendance. The cinema hall was full. There weren’t enough tickets. They left it on for 2-3 weeks so that everyone who wanted to could go and see it. The provocation was that Rumena Voevoda is from here… Gyueshevo, a village nearby, in the Kyustendil region… No one in Kyustendil liked it just because there were a lot of things not particularly well made in terms of dialect… in terms of even the costume, some details which could be double-checked. You can base your work of art on these things so that it corresponds… It’s compulsory. Because there are some who don’t put in the effort into the décor, costume and so on. The focus falls on the content, the acting… Perhaps they think that people don’t pay attention to this. But, in this particular case, there were critical remarks in that respect… [Bulgarian films] increasingly reflect reality [but] I think they are less likely to influence some sort of social process[es] because our society is very well-informed nowadays, whereas before the changes… before 1989… perhaps there were films which could cause a more mass reaction. They could change attitudes [and] reactions. For instance, I remember All Is Love (1979)… Perhaps it caused mass rebellions, an expression of one’s own opinion, standing up for some sort of points of view… because the mere appearance of the film was [an act of] rebellion already. And we remember how the premieres went, how [the cast and crew] were welcomed, how many times we went to see it, how impressed we were… it was the first time someone dared create a protagonist who comes from labour educational school and gets involved in such a love story…” (Woman, 52, Haskovo/Kyustendil)

“[I like] Dear Heirs (2018- )… With Orlin Pavlov, [Darin] Angelov, Valentin Tanev… not Ganev… They are both very good actors… I don’t [usually] watch TV series… When a new Bulgarian TV series is released, I don’t give it my vote of confidence but I wait… (and sometimes that never comes)… [for my friends] to say: “Watch it, it’s worth watching.” I usually don’t find Bulgarian TV series to my taste but I somehow came across this one. It made me feel good, I don’t know why myself. I watched a few episodes. Otherwise… [the last feature film] in the cinema was Directions (2017)… With colleagues from the office. We planned for a special evening of cinema. And it was very pleasant. It’s one of the reels which did not disappoint [or make me regret] that I put aside some time and money to give [it my] attention… Same as Footsteps in the Sand (2010). I even own it, completely legally, on DVD. One of my favourite titles… We cannot escape our small-town mentality. When you pick up even a topic [with a] small [scope] but [develop] it properly, with universal human messages, it will also attract other [foreign] audiences as well. For example, The Goat Horn (1972) by Metodi Andonov. What would the French know about what happened on Bulgarian territories back in the day?… But there you have it. I’m not sure, purely chronologically, whether it was the rocket which carried Bulgarian cinema to the big [international] film forum… film market… But if one can put together a team of like-minded people who can work together to create something local, [perhaps] incomprehensible, but in a way which captivates the hearts and minds of people across the globe… that’s what Bulgarian cinema is lacking. And the fact that… I am aware that TV series, feature films and theatre plays are [all] made differently… but very few Bulgarian actors speak with a normal intonation. You go into [the hall where the event takes place] and, [as you start watching], you feel like someone somewhere is staring at a mic and reciting [their lines]. And you’re annoyed by it because people in the street don’t talk like that… It appears that something fishy is going on with the [actors’] academic education.  Or it’s both the actors and the directors. I’ve read that if you are handled by a good director, they can bring out the good in a[n otherwise] weak [actor]. At the same time, if a strong enough actor meets with a weak directing style, it won’t work.” (Woman, 52, Stara Zagora)

“Bulgarian films are regularly advertised on TV because a part are produced by them. The last thing which impressed me in a Bulgarian film was the presence of Andrea in Mission London (2010). Speaking purely as a man… I thought her performance was the best because it was the shortest. I’m sorry! I think that, despite the mentality and imposed restrictions, Bulgarian cinema prior to 1989… used good Bulgarian resources. Bulgarian authors are quite good – Ivan Vazov, [Yordan] Yovkov, [Elin] Pelin, Emiliyan Stanev, Pavel Vezhinov… It feels like [filmmakers] lost their affinity towards literary sources nowadays. Scriptwriters strive a lot to say 20-30-50-100 [different] things in a [given] film. The last [Bulgarian] film I saw was Heights (2017), based on a highly acclaimed novel, even though the topic has long been exhausted… Perhaps the worst Bulgarian film which I have seen in the last few years… isn’t Heights, even though I saw very little of it… Do you know what annoyed me [most] in the film? The way the characters spoke – it was forced, there was nothing natural [in it]. But the film[s] which made me see Bulgarian cinema with disgust w[ere] Levski (2015)… and Voevoda (2017). Firstly, Rumena Voevoda was active in the Kyustendil area. She was somewhat plump. She wasn’t the hunchbacked Zornitsa Sophia we know. [Secondly], they didn’t speak our dialect. They didn’t use any original music. This film lacked originality! … They didn’t come to shoot in Kyustendil at all. They weren’t interested in Kyustendil… We have a song about Rumena Voevoda… we have a few… one by the late folk singer Blagovest Porozhanov… And their speech wasn’t [authentic]. And the shots [swapped between] summer and winter all of a sudden… Levski was “cream of the crop”! It was Kung Fu Panda(2008) in Bulgarian, let’s say. I have nothing against [him]… But Maxim Genchev was only somewhat good as the villain in Seven Hours Difference (2011-2013)… Otherwise, the last Bulgarian film which left a good impression… even though it stole freely from Sister Act (1992), Dangerous Minds (1995) [and] Freedom Writers (2007)… was XIa (2015). But [it’s starring] Yana Marinova… Yana Marinova looks great, so one forgives… when they see that the film is nothing [special]… The last Bulgarian film which I saw which contained an ethnicity element was Monkeys in Winter (2006) and the best part [of the film] was the performance of Boni… When one is talented… as I say, talent is important, ethnicity should be left aside… When it comes to ordinary people… it was quite overplayed… about the women who stripped… the Bulgarian version of The Full Monty (1997) but with women… with Paraskeva [Djukelova]… Time for Women (2007), yes. I just remembered, I watched it… The only film which I have seen about people with disabilities was the one with [Yuliana Kancheva] and Katsi Vaptzarov… what was it called… Oh, God, it was one of the first films… where she reverted back to being disabled in the end… I always forget [the titles]… but apparently I’ve seen a lot… La donna è mobile (1993), yes! It’s one of the few films which I have seen about [people with] disabilities. I haven’t seen Godless (2016). They say that there are people with disabilities there… but it’s a bit more to the side line… About ordinary man – I haven’t seen Glory (2016) yet either. It’s meant to be centred on the ordinary man but… Ah, yes, I watched The Lesson (2014)… I remember another Bulgarian film which I have seen. With the actress Margita Gosheva who, I think, is from Kyustendil. It’s meant to be about the problems of the regular person but it’s presented very sketchily… Let’s rob a bank in order to solve our financial problems because my husband is a sponger and so on… An ordinary person doesn’t solve their problems like that… There should be [films about regular people]! Except for Monkeys in Winter, I haven’t seen a film in which the main protagonists are Roma. But there are some in Hungarian cinema. There are some in Serbian cinema [too]. Black Cat, White Cat(1998) was it? Or the one with the orchestra… I can’t remember. Either way! For example, I haven’t seen any films about the gay community. They’re scared to make one… There are no films about people with interesting professions either.” (Man, 26-45, Kyustendil)

“Out of the contemporary Bulgarian films, I can’t say that I have favourites. Perhaps a film that touched me [was] Stolen Life (2016-2021)… Only this one. [I didn’t like] Glass Home (2010-2012) or Seven Hours Difference (2011-2013), no… For me they are… the last two films… I don’t want to use an ugly word. I don’t like this type of genre which tolerates violence and shows violence. I don’t think it’s educative. They always programme [the original] and repeat showings (whether it’s on bTV Comedy or the other repeat channels) at such times when they can always be seen by… all sorts of ages. Otherwise, out of the older films, [I like] all the children’s ones – A Dog in a Drawer(1982), The Hedgehogs’ War (1979), Vasko de Gama from Rupcha Village (1986), all of them… Contemporary Bulgarian films definitely [influence society]… Rather negatively. Because they impose this reality which I said that I do not want to see at the beginning… The focus of the attention [shifts] and makes you think that there’s nothing good in this life. It imposes a pessimistic [outlook]. Films and news are manipulative… [They make us believe] that we are at the bottom, nothing good happens, nothing is within our power [to change]…” (Woman, 44, Karlovo)

“Many people in this [business] make or try to make something but it all boils down to money in the end, which is probably a problem of our culture. Perhaps someone needs to unite [the filmmakers] so that these finances… or to sponsor them so that they can make something… But it should be good and of high quality, because if it is a mediocre production, it’s not worth it. What was his name? Niki, Niki… Iliev also makes really good [films] with his own funds. As far as I know, his actors are friends, acquaintances [and] relatives [of his] and so on. De facto, he gives them almost nothing, if he gives them any money. That’s praise-worthy because all of his [films] that I’ve seen are good… Some Bulgarian [filmmakers] won something last year, if I’m not mistaken… We learn it from the news… by accident… One doesn’t dig around that much [when it comes to festival awards]… It’s good to note these things because, at the end of the day, Bulgarians need to support each other… When a Bulgarian has achieved something, it should be reflected [in the media] well enough. Our [national] self-esteem and spirit need elevating a bit.” (Man, 43, Kazanlak)

“I watch, but I watch selectively. There are things that I would never go and watch. Even if they are Bulgarian cinema. I know what they would cause me… There was a film in the survey questionnaire, XIa (2015)… I won’t go and see it. It has a different type of audience. That’s why there should be all kinds of films because… in Bulgaria there are all types of audiences and just like all around the world… It’s just the quantity of films made in foreign countries is much bigger and that’s when there are more films of quality [as well]. Whereas here we produce a smaller quantity [of films] and so the films which are valuable and important, which raise and educate an audience… and teach people how to watch cinema… are very few… The last Bulgarian film I saw was The Infinite Garden (2017) by Galin Stoev. For me that film is not Bulgarian at all. I had the feeling that I was watching French cinema the whole time. A lot of people commented on it being slow and so on but for me that film is so magical and authentic, it’s the last role of … Nikola Anastasov… I chose it because I knew there was no other place that I could watch it. I went to see it at the Sofia Film Festival. In the first years of new Bulgarian cinema, they leave [for abroad] and get screened at festivals. In Bulgaria the first screening is always at a film festival… In the last few years Bulgarian cinema has been very different. I have very different observations in terms of these topics because Heights (2017) was much anticipated… by people who had read the book and wanted to go and see it [adapted] in the cinema. It was a big change in the whole audience. We can talk about it in a different [category]. Same with Voevoda (2017), it’s a completely different film… Directions (2017) is a completely different film. That’s why there should be completely different films because the audience is different, it’s not one [uniform] audience that likes everything. If it liked everything, it wouldn’t be an audience, I think that’s a person who has no opinion whatsoever.” (Woman, 38, Burgas/Sofia)

“I, specifically, most of the time when I go to the cinema, go to see Bulgarian films. There are rare exceptions when I go to Hollywood screenings. Usually, when I go to such [films], they are children’s films, because I go with my daughter. As a whole, [when I go] to the cinema, I mostly [watch] Bulgarian films. [Out of] the contemporary Bulgarian cinema, I try to watch all films that have been released since 2000, even though some of the films are, how should I say, not very accessible. You have to pay to watch them which I am not saying is a downside because, after all, this is why people made it for… That’s how I try to reach most films… Online. Because at the cinema after two weeks of its premiere, the film is stopped and you can very rarely watch films from two or three years ago. Now, in the last few months, maybe a year, [I’m not sure], HBO Go started uploading Bulgarian films as well which is really good. The last thing I watched there was Monkey (2016), the film… I have somewhat mixed feelings because I’d read the synopsis but, in my opinion, this films needs to be watched by people who are, how should I say, emotionally stable. In the end… I had tears in my eyes because the film was a bit heavy for me, in particular. But it was very moving. But what I am trying to say is that it’s good, now [Bulgarian cinema] is accessible and can be watched by whoever uses this service. And there are more Bulgarian films, perhaps another 40-50… I have this service, HBO Go, through my mobile phone operator… and it’s actually online streaming… I think [contemporary Bulgarian films] should reflect reality to a certain extent and some films do that. In certain situations they also affect society. One of the ones which left a [somewhat] bad impression was [one of] the last film[s I watched], XIa (2015), with Yana Marinova… [Something which I did not like there was] them showing children in school buying drugs, weed [and] how freely they can behave in this private high school, which, to a certain extent, might have influenced society as well… They’re a bad influence. It’s easy to reflect reality to a certain extent but it’s not the reality in the whole country, Bulgaria. There really are children who do that [sort of thing] but, in the end, this probably exerted a negative influence over the children who don’t, because they say to themselves: “Look at the ones in the film! There are children who live like that!” Ok, let’s not say “children” but “teenagers”. They can exert a negative influence because [they send the message that] to be cool I have to do this. So, from this point of view, I say that [films] should reflect reality [but only] to an extent… I haven’t read specifically what awards Bulgarian films win. I usually learn from the news and the media about specific films which will or have received awards. But I don’t have a special interest to learn the details about what film is nominated where and so forth.” (Woman, 30, Gabrovo)

“I watch Bulgarian cinema. I don’t always like everything… Bulgarian film actors are good in the theatre but not in the cinema. It’s like a theatre play but slightly better shot. There’s some sort of script and editing, and there’s no [good] sound. There’s nothing that stands out for me in the last few years, in terms of Bulgarian films. Something that I have watched more than once is Footsteps in the Sand (2010), if I can point to something at all… Whereas before, I remember… going back in time quite a lot but… I used to watch on TV and my parents rented out VHS cassettes… With Children at the Seaside (1972), King for a Day (1983), Warmth (1978)… I would find these films entertaining even if I watch them now. The people in them and the acting [are] a lot more… natural… There’s always something that makes me believe [them]… In terms of the sound quality, in my opinion, there aren’t [enough] people who can use such equipment professionally… Directors of sound, that’s it. Because [in our cinema] cuts are made from… one of the important factors… because it’s not just important to have a good picture, you need good sound as well. With us, that is totally ignored. I dare say this as someone who has some experience, I have been taking care of sound at events for a few years now… I have acquaintances, they are not professionals, they have no idea how to hold the so-called boom mics, which record sound from above and the side. They have no idea how to hold it to capture what they should. They are given 15 leva per hour [to work on film sets]. I don’t accept that! That’s where the other problem comes from… People who make Bulgarian cinema hire non-professionals to do professional work. That’s the big problem of Bulgarian cinema! Then you also add the [overly] theatrical performance, which is shot in some sort of way, because the cameraman[‘s services] probably also cost 2 leva from a total film budget of 5 [leva]… I have no idea how many of you watch short Bulgarian films… or whether you have seen any… because they are especially and only on the Internet. They don’t want to show them anywhere else. But I will mention the film by Orlin Milchev, it’s called Dobry (2016). It is definitely a well-shot film, it has a good script, good acting [and] good sound. And there’s no other place to watch it but on the Internet. [The director] released it himself on the web. And when we talk about festival cinema, outside of Bulgaria (because it doesn’t have much chance for exposure in Bulgaria)… he showed it outside of Bulgaria. [The film] has three or four awards… ” (Man, 29, Botevgrad)

“The last Bulgarian [film] which impressed me was Omnipresent (2017)… with Velislav Pavlov… I think that was his name. A really cool actor, I like him a lot. He stars in Stolen Life (2016-2021) [as well]… I learned of its existence… I’m not sure when the first time was… It was all over the media… there were a lot of commercials on Nova [Television]. I heard [about it] on the radio as well… it was all over Facebook [too]… In general, it was [advertised] in many different ways. I watched it at home… perhaps it was… with my flatmate. We discussed it afterwards. What impressed me the most? I was impressed by how well made it was. To be honest, when I start watching a Bulgarian film, I’m slightly prejudiced that I’ll be watching something… Bulgarian… you know, ours… a bit slow, a bit unfinished… whereas this was a good thriller which kept you on the edge of your seat for the whole time. The shots were terrific, I really liked them… It just really pleased me in terms of camerawork, direction, acting… To be honest, I was very pleasantly impressed by the film… In my opinion, films don’t necessarily have to reflect reality very specifically, but it’s good to reflect something close to reality so that they can… influence society… Whether Bulgarian films [actually] do it… I don’t think they reflect one hundred per cent… they do what I think they should be doing… not reflecting as things are one hundred per cent but also not completely out of context. Whether I like them and what I like and what I don’t… Overall, I have this feeling that contemporary Bulgarian films don’t have good sound. They don’t put enough of an emphasis on the psychological effects of the film through sound… it’s not been calculated when it should be quieter… or the dialogue is super quiet and then all of a sudden there’s really loud music… or vice versa. And sound is important. Sound is very important for films. I think about fifty-sixty per cent of what we perceive comes through our hearing… in addition to visually… Otherwise, I like the actors. They have been doing really well recently. There are some very cool actors [nowadays].“ (Woman, 29, Sofia)

“For example, I recently watched the Swedish film The Square (2017), it’s also quite difficult, but there are two or three moments where, just as… the film is so stretched in time… it should be 1 hour 20 but it’s 2.5 hours… it becomes so tedious… the director thought of it and interspersed two or three moments which cut sharply into the action to wake up [its audience]. While with Bulgarian cinema… it won’t only dissuade you from living in Bulgaria but it would dissuade you from living altogether. I think it’s its only problem. Otherwise, there are [interested] viewers. I don’t think it needs to [imitate] American cinema, to be like popcorn. But it needs to find a balance at the beginning… to attract them and then gradually… Just like it was with the theatres back in the day. They were empty but now when I go to the theatre, it’s full of young people. But comedies and [other plays] are reflected so that they can draw in the young and it leads to a gradual shift… the drama that features in Bulgarian films is absolutely impossible to find anywhere else… I managed to endure exactly 18 minutes of Godless (2016)… And that film wins all the awards… At the same time, Losers (2015) is also classed as [a festival film], it’s also dramatic, I think it was black and white but there is a subtle note that makes you smile, ties you in… It is not like Mission London (2010), which is the first film that caused a furore and brought the whole of Bulgaria to the cinemas, but we know that, all in all, it was stupidity… But at the end of the day, there should be a film like this as well, so that it brings [them] in. Afterwards, even though [this one] was stupid, there were a few more films… TILT (2011), Love.net (2011) and so on… which managed to generate some interest. But at the very moment when cinema in Bulgaria was elevated a bit, those really dramatic films started. [They] give you a lump in your throat at some point and the cinema hall empties up. I went with my friends. It was four of us and about fifteen [other] people. We were the only ones left at the end. And we could not endure, we probably left at the 50th minute… And the marketing campaign for very few Bulgarian films is correct, in my opinion. There is definitely some chasm. In the sense that, the people who make the films and those who watch them, between them there is [this chasm].” (Man, 28, Burgas)

“What types of films do I watch? The least number is Bulgarian. I watch mostly British, I really like them, and a little bit of American but I attempt not [to choose] really… ordinary ones… In terms of [Bulgarian] TV series… I think there are more… I had heard from my classmates that Undercover (2011-2016) is a really interesting series. I decided to watch it. I really did like it. I followed it with great interest. And [my reasoning was]: “If this one is good, let’s try another one”. I started watching Seven Hours Difference (2011-2014) but the action was very sluggish and I could figure out from the commercials what was going on. After that I watched The Tree of Life (2013- ). The first season really was very interesting. It was exactly [a] historical [series]. Based in a period… at the beginning of 20th century, I think… It was very interesting but the second season… there were some very explicit moments… and, in my opinion, it wasn’t that realistic when it came to Bulgarian reality… and they lost me then… When a Bulgarian film is released there is always some sort of scandal [surrounding it], whether it’s good or bad… It demotivates me from watching it… It appears that most [contemporary Bulgarian films] reflect reality. I don’t think that it is a compulsory element [of a good film], because, for example, The Tree of Life reflects a past reality and it’s still interesting for Bulgarians. They should watch… There should be such Bulgarian films as well, so we can watch them. I think, in a way, it does influence society because… I don’t watch Stolen Life (2016-2021) but everyone around me does and claims that [it’s authentic]. They have an opinion and observations as well that it reflects reality… My best friend is of Turkish ethnicity and she isn’t ashamed of it. But when it comes to films, the Turkish industry is currently thriving and she watches such [films] a lot… Many Bulgarians also watch Turkish TV series because they think that they reflect normal human interactions. It’s just that [Turkish people in Bulgaria] are capable of comparing and probably put the Turkish [productions] on a higher level, as better [quality]. And they have a much bigger diversity. They really produce films which cover more… topics…” (Woman, 25, Shumen)

“For me, personally, Directions (2017) really reflected the way of life in Bulgaria, the stressful everyday life, which affects family relationships and the fact that we transfer the stress at work to the home. What left an impression for me, specifically, in this film was the arrogant behaviour between [the characters]. There was no way that I wouldn’t notice it… That’s the real life of Bulgarians for me, the intertwined events taking place in those six taxis.” (Woman, 24, Gabrovo)

Stolen Life (2016-2021)… I remember that a curfew never got me home as much as the 8 pm broadcast of Stolen Life. I was a student… class tests started at that time… I became organised because I knew that whatever I do, the film starts at 8 pm. I like Yoana Bukovska the best there – both her character and her acting. That’s of lately… It’s the most recent film which got me so hooked. Even my friends remembered me [as a fan of] Stolen Life. Going back to the previous slide, the good thing is that the scriptwriter is apparently very good because… You have normal conversations and monologues by different characters, depending on the episode… they are just unique. I sometimes paused to write some things down in a notebook. It influenced me a lot, as dicta… So, yes, Stolen Life. “Nova Television supports Bulgarian films and TV series.” That’s how I came across the film… I watched a very strange film. I can’t even evaluate yet whether I liked it or not. With Julian Vergov… Monkey (2016)… It was quite an interesting film. I can’t even say “yes” or “no”. It looked at the question of whether it is morally acceptable for the close ones of a person in a coma to turn off life support. It is no doubt a heavy topic but it was also an interesting film. I can’t state [a clear] opinion and say: “I liked it a lot” or “I didn’t like it at all”. I don’t know. It was just a very interesting film. And that is exactly why it made such a huge impression. I prefer something like this which leaves me questioning… than [something] like Forbidden Love with… Niki [Iliev] in it… Whenever I see his girlfriend, I just start disliking the film [which they are in]… Sanya Borisova. So, she’s beautiful… But I don’t like her acting at all… When I saw that some of the things [in Voevoda (2017)] were not as they should be, I switched to an American wavelength… At least there is [Bulgarian] cinema. It was attention-grabbing. I watched all of it. I didn’t pause it. I didn’t fast-forward. It was on TV though. But it ended in a messed up way. If you are going to create such [a historically inaccurate work] and not put in any effort, at least give it a happy ending!” (Woman, 21, Kyustendil/Sofia)

“Our reality and contemporary life are overtaken by capitalism, commercialised… at a time that is meant to be forward-thinking, digitised… which, in fact, deprives us of many values… I mean family values, respect, dignity, all sorts of things… Watching lots of films, like the film Directions (2017)… I was going to comment on it… it is, more or less, an Americanised point of view, in terms of [the story of] the girl, at the beginning of the film, who is a hussy… then the man who tries to jump [off] the bridge and Assen Blatachki who tries to bring him back… the man who comes from the airport and the taxi-driver lady who picks him up, then starts beating him up and screaming at him… all those different things which are part of the syuzhet of many American films. In an interview, the actress who played the hussy, Borislava Stratieva, says [that] regardless of nationality, we are pre-set for women to be prostitutes and men to be from the mafia, let’s call it that way. Perhaps it’s a mistake of contemporary cinema and of our time. We see this all the time and, as a result, we repeat it.” (Woman, 18, Karlovo)

“The last Bulgarian film I remember watching… it was the one which was released last year… or this year… I don’t remember. [It was] Heights (2017). I really liked the topic of the film. The action happens in nature. It features many famous actors. And this film brings you back to old [times]… to Bulgarian [topics]… To history… [I saw it] online, on [a pirate website]… I watch American films most often because they [feature] more action [scenes]… There should be more [Bulgarian] films made about the history and the past so that the young population knows what we used to be like, what our history was like, what type of rulers we had, who liberated us… Right now, these questions are [not sufficiently addressed] and we are sinking [in lack of self-knowledge]…” (Man, 17, Pleven)

“As a whole, I don’t watch a lot of Bulgarian films… because… well, yesterday, I wanted to play Heights (2017), I really wanted to see it. I’ve seen the trailer as well but I didn’t go to the cinema when it was on. I wanted to watch it but I couldn’t find it anywhere so I ended up watching an American film because that is what is available… I would [have paid to see it online]. Well, it’s not like I am the bread-winner of the family but I would tell my parents: “I really want to see it, can we pay?”” (Woman, 17, Stara Zagora)

“In general, I watch all [types] but I wish I watched more Bulgarian films. And I sometimes do but I’m not always impressed. But actually my favourite film is Bulgarian. It’s called The Judgment (2014)… with Assen Blatechki. I really like it.” (Woman, 16, Stara Zagora)

Cinema & Alternative exhibition

“Back in the day we talked about ticket prices with my [cinema] manager. He said: “Back in my day, cinema tickets cost as much as bread. Now it’s completely different.” But it’s unusual to give 8-10 leva to go to the theatre and the same amount of money for the cinema. It seems like the price isn’t very realistic.” (Man, 66+, Botevgrad)

“The democracy destroyed every single cinema in Kazanlak. Starting with [Cinema] Bulgaria – quite a big cinema, featuring an open-air cinema as well… They started with this one. The open-air cinema functioned at some point but they closed it too. They left [a shop] that sells beer or something… There was another functioning open-air cinema. At some point they turned it into a warehouse or something and destroyed it… Cinema Iskra had a big hall and a small hall. I have been to both (when I could go) and they always played good films. At first they destroyed the small hall – I have no idea what they did to it… Then they destroyed the big [cinema hall] as well. I don’t know what they have done inside, [but] they started a [fast-food] restaurant on the side for tripe and lamb soup… I don’t know who allows them…” (Man, 71, Kazanlak)

“If there is [an] open-air cinema [screening], I would go. I have gone. We used to go regularly back in the day, we never missed it when we were young. If there was [one] here… but there isn’t. But we went to Karlovo one evening, it was raining and it fell through… It depends on the weather. It rained a lot this year… First of all, they closed the cinemas in Sopot and in Karlovo. In Karlovo they restored it and people started going [again] regardless of the ticket price, they still go. They have no problems. But now that I am a pensioner and alone… Everyone says that there is an outflow from cinema because tickets are expensive. They used to be dirt-cheap, such were the times. Bigger towns don’t tend to notice the prices because people earn well there. Whereas here, people can’t go buy bread. Especially now there are anxieties in Kalofer because the price of bread has gone up… There are people here who can’t go and buy bread. They buy it on credit [at the shop]. I don’t know how many people there would be… [The community centre] organises [some screenings]… Perhaps [it would be] mostly children, as they are usually interested and feel like going. Whereas grown-ups don’t feel like spending the money. Just like me, I have the opportunity to go but I won’t because my pension is small. I prefer to put petrol in my car so that I can travel, go somewhere, instead of go to see a film which I am unsure that I would like… If the ticket is one, two or three leva, I would go.” (Woman, 68, Kalofer

“Looking at it… a part of us are at a particular age already and a price which is [too high]… I can still afford to go to the cinema because I work and also receive a pension. But if I depend only on my pension, it would be difficult.” (Woman, 67, Sofia)

“I also think that the ideal cinema hall… [Cinema] isn’t mass art. It should be more elitist, more restricted… so that everyone can experience and feel what it is by themselves… Less people, a smaller cinema hall in terms of seats… I think in this area [we’re all] of a particular age and… younger people would probably not agree with something like that.” (Woman, 46-65, Sliven)

“The idea of restoring open-air cinemas is very good. Years ago there were open air cinema theatres in all towns. They required much less expenses for maintenance and they were super busy during the summer. It was difficult to find tickets for the good films in these open-air cinemas. There were two open air cinema theatres in Kazanlak, which currently don’t exist. I think there’s not a single one at the moment. That’s why people are so interested in the travelling open air cinemas which are sponsored by the Bulgarian [National] Television. Automobile cinema… As I said before, back in the day there were automobile cinemas. They screened [films] in villages and in smaller towns. I think [people in] villages nowadays would still be interested… The travelling ones are open-air cinemas, perhaps. It’s possible that such a travelling cinema can also go to [community] halls in towns and villages, which can screen films from time to time. Film clubs? Perhaps film clubs are also quite specialist and the people who gather there have special interests. For example, documentary or musical [films]… Film clubs are more, how should I say… with a more specific audience… niche. They are aimed at a specific audience. Whereas open-air cinema is for the wider audience. For more ordinary people… I think, nowadays, cinema theatres should be located in more densely populated areas, so that they can have a bigger audience… larger attendance… There should be, perhaps, in the city centre as well as in the respective residential neighbourhoods – “Vasil Levski” [and] “Iztok”. In my opinion, there should be cinema theatres in, at least, three places in Kazanlak, so that it’s more convenient for people to go. If they have to go from “Vasil Levski” to “Iztok”… it’s a bit far away. It’s similar in other towns as well. In my opinion, there should be cinema theatres in bigger residential areas. On the other hand, smaller settlements would suffer… But it would be difficult to gather enough of an audience [there]. In my opinion, a nice cinema theatre should be able to fit at least 100-200 people inside, so that [screening films] is economically viable as well… The programme… it still depends on the audience. Back in the day, as I said before, they screened children’s films in the morning, aimed at the children audience. In the afternoon and in the evening, [there were] more serious and heavy films, aimed at a different audience. Perhaps the programme should be similarly adapted again. The cinema theatre should play films for children in the morning and around lunch-time. And there would be bigger attendance. In the evening, definitely heavier and more serious films for an older audience… In my opinion, the structure of [programming] needs to be diversified. There should be new [films] alternating with old films, so that the audience can instantly choose. In other words, people would go to the cinema more often if it is alternated between older good [films] and newer good [films]. In my opinion, there would be a bigger audience then. From my point of view, ticket prices shouldn’t be more than 5 leva [each]. And what should film theatres be like… An example is the cinema theatres in big [shopping] malls. They are very well built. They have very good acoustics. They are meant for exactly such good, contemporary screenings. If they could build such film theatres not just at the malls but… perhaps special cinema theatres… then there would be greater attendance.” (Man, 59, Kazanlak)

“[Going to the cinema is] a holiday, because it happens rarely. For me, it’s a pleasure… A special occasion. I go [there] in high spirits. But the tickets are expensive, in my opinion… If they are just a little cheaper. They lower the prices every day… the day before changing the programme… they release the new film on Friday and Thursday is the cheapest… But [it depends on] at what time it’s on, because you have to go to Stara Zagora… but, yes, if [tickets] were cheaper, I would go more often… [We used to] go to Nessabar [at the seaside]… they played open-air films outside… It’s nice, it’s entertainment. You learn something and you socialise at the same time… In terms of location [the ideal cinema would be] closer [to where I live]. I can’t go to Sofia [for example]. Capacity? Not too big… Why not luxurious? It should be comfortable… Ticket prices? We discussed [that] – 5 leva, right? … It shouldn’t be [too] cheap or it would become meaningless, it would depreciate in value… People deprive themselves of a pack of cigarettes, to make some sort of sacrifice [or] gesture, so that they can go and appreciate the art. If it is that accessible, you would find it indifferent… And with your 5 levs you contribute so that they have the means to make another film… [A maximum of] 50 people… The cinema halls in the Stara Zagora mall are OK… I’m talking about the small ones… For all sorts of audience.” (Woman, 55, Kazanlak)

“I wish that there was a cinema theatre which, in addition to purely technologically and in terms of interior design… amenities, modern screening technology… conveniences… ergonomics and so on… so that if the guy [in front of you] is taller, he doesn’t prevent you from seeing… good sound… you know, the technological side of things… for there to be not just the technology which reproduces the film and the cinema [experience] but also some sort of logical continuity when it comes to the contents side of things and the selection of films… Some sort of [dedicated special] programme or, as it was back in the day, a month of this [or that] cinema… or a week of this [or that] cinema… for there to be cinema lectors… I don’t know if someone remembers these things… but with cinema lectors you obtain some sort of education in a different environment… If you want to educate yourself, it’s no problem, there’s all sorts of information nowadays. However, when there is some sort of channelled, programme-based awareness, education [and] consistency. It’s precisely film lectoria – it might not be called like that anymore because the term is quite heavy with the ideology of the old time. But there could be something created which establishes commitment to some sort of genre or all the problems which we commented on in our conversation so far, subject to purposeful education. People who are interested [could] build on what they have obtained in self-education… They used to be very useful… This type of education is all coming back now. Of course, it’s updated, with interactive approaches… It’s not as directly presented… There are many modern ways of teaching and education. They could [incorporate] demonstrations, film excerpts… Or [something] dedicated to an actor as [they do] on bTV or some of the other TV channels which I watch. It’s three or four of them. [They announce] a week of the films with so-and-so… or a week of so-and-so cinema, in terms of nationalities. It could be an additional commitment… But it requires that someone who manages or determines the programme of a particular cinema… is able to do it as a project so that it’s financially accessible… so that the tickets are accessible… so that the people who are interested are not hindered by [financial considerations]… And there should be a wider circle of people who watch it.” (Woman, 52, Haskovo/Kyustendil)

“It’s a lot more accessible nowadays – there are all sorts of channels for reaching a film, including different exotic (mainly in terms of origins) [films], which, unfortunately, won’t find any way of presentation in the two cinema distribution chains in Stara Zagora, in this particular case. Mainly due to mainstream considerations. Which is a great pity. It’s also a pity that Stara Zagora… I don’t know the reasons why… it’s very rarely included in the programme and calendar for distribution of more unusual titles. At best, they [are screened] at a few large cinema theatres in Sofia, Varna, Burgas, Plovdiv, occasionally Ruse and that’s it. I don’t know why… and maybe there is a reason why… our city is not included in this category… For example, British Council films. I accidentally came across a film screening this spring and I could not believe my eyes, as they say… that this was screened in Stara Zagora. I must say, there weren’t few people in the cinema hall, which completely puzzles me – why don’t such [films] make it to the Stara Zagora screen[s]? A few years back, Sofia International Film Festival had a slightly delayed… not parallel… film programme [in Stara Zagora but] it was dropped out. Perhaps it’s [because] of the lack of a municipal cinema theatre… some sort of hall… it hinders the [possibility]…  Or there are some other sort of conflicts. I don’t know. But it’s very difficult. Usually, when I travel for work or pleasure around [Bulgarian] towns, I manage to steal such a pleasure – if I insist on watching something on the big screen… It’s exclusively blockbusters… some stupid titles… a summer selection… I don’t know why summer is the season where people, because of the temperature or something else, go dumb and can’t watch quality cinema? I can’t understand it. Years ago, there was… Lately we have not had the travelling open air cinema [with BNT]. Do you know how many people gathered on the High Street? … With the old light bulbs and a [white] sheet, literally like it was back in the day. And a [totally] rapt audience which is watching the title on offer. There’s nothing better! … The one convenience of this format of cinema theatres [the multiplexes] is that… it’s a[n American] concept, of course… the seats are comfortable, there’s no denying that. It’s not pleasurable to spend an hour and a half or two hours in a chair that is falling apart. I can’t lie, I can’t say it’s not something which has been thought of and isn’t OK. One of the cinema chains represented in Stara Zagora has significantly better sound quality than the other. That’s also an important element for any cinephile. I would definitely bring the capacity down because [otherwise] it creates the feeling that the cinema hall is empty. It’s not empty. It’s just that the people who enter the screening aren’t as many as the financial plan of the creators of these cinema chains dictates… It should be more like home cinema – comfortable, like a friends’ lounge… It’s not compulsory to go to the cinema with your friends… or to any [other] type of cultural events [for that matter]… If your friends don’t have the time or opportunity to come, you would still be surrounded by like-minded people. If all of you feel well and have come to the right place at the right time, there’s no problem. And if the price of the tickets is cut in half… And I’ll give you the reasons why straight away. It’s true that behind any film there’s a huge, huge team… copyrights and so on… But, in the end, the way a picture [comes into contact with] me, the living, breathing spectator, isn’t much different to the way in which a different kind of production also does… I pay almost the same price to watch/listen to something live or something on the big screen, which I don’t find OK, because it’s a mediated encounter.” (Woman, 52, Stara Zagora)

“[The ideal cinema theatre should be] somewhere convenient. There needs to be transport… and parking [facilities]… In Pleven! Oh, we won’t go to other towns. In Pleven [is fine]… I’m even sure that if there was… So, Pleven is divided into: centre, Druzhba – a neighbourhood far away from the centre, and Storgozia. If there was a cinema in our neighbourhood, we would have probably gone more often… Let’s say, in our neighbourhood. The programme? What should it be? We know [my son’s favourite] action films… Different types of films… Including old ones! All sorts of old films… [10 leva e ticket] is too much. It’s three of us. What if it were four? 40 leva! For an hour and a half… It would be 2D… Should I share about the cinema of the future, which I experienced when I was in the States? [It was] 4D… We watched a film about a ship looking for a [hidden] treasure. And in the same way… You put your glasses on. They move your seats as the ship tilts. You really are immersed. That’s the future! You go precisely to [get immersed]. It was in an amusement park. You go specifically so that you get a kick out of it, you feel something… But if you want something of quality, worthwhile, meaningful… that’s a different kettle of fish altogether, as they say, a completely different direction.” (Woman, 46, Pleven)

“I don’t think that a cinema ticket [which costs] 5-6 leva is [expensive]. That’s how much it costs here. I think that the price is extremely accessible… There’s a red carpet. Two Oscar [statues] are waiting for you at the front. It’s beautiful. I like it. The [main] problem is the quality of the films themselves. Lately there have been so many Avengers [films] and… despite the small exceptions, like Deadpool (2016)… out of the comic book films… one gets fed up with watching comic book films, sequels and wants to watch something which… I even feel that I’ve grown old in this respect if a film like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) appeals to me so much! … I’ve seen private cinema theatres. The ideal cinema hall would have very comfortable, wide chairs where you can relax your legs and tilt your seat back. It’s all about comfort! With a place to leave your drink. The screen should be enough of a distance away. The chair itself should be very comfortable – not leather but… The cinema hall wouldn’t be too big but the screen would be big. With low-key lighting… [A cinema hall] in which you can be personally comfortable… so you can ignore the others somehow. All types of communication should be forbidden. A luxurious cinema hall in the sense that… I imagine it in the burgundy colour… wine red… for example… Perhaps that’s the standard for cinemas and theatres, I don’t know. Or all black. When you enter, you should be made to feel somehow special. Perhaps there should be such cinema halls for film lovers where they offer particular beverages and things which are not on offer anywhere else. Films which are not widely seen but are considered to be of interest to this type of audience… There should be luxury and exclusivity. You should feel very special. For instance, when you leave the cinema hall, they give you presents linked to the film… The price could be high, yes. 20-30 leva for a particular film. But you know that you will receive special treatment. For a film buff, gifts are very important. A figurine or something of the sort. It’s about the attitude… the “treatment”, as the Americans say. On the outside, the cinema theatre should have lots of posters, statues, things linked [to films]… There should be large cardboard advertisements… It should be quite diverse, with changing interior. There should be a lot of cinema-ness in it, a lot of films. When you enter, you should feel like you’re someplace else altogether, a different world… It should be gourmet cinema, so to speak… Cinema could “feed” you… feed your soul, [if] it’s a good film. And the people [in the audience] should be handpicked. That’s very important. Popcorn should be forbidden, if possible… A cocktail or some sort of chocolate mousse. Or something [else] which doesn’t leave a mess but is very elegant [instead]. You should be able to order beverages which arrive to you noiselessly. You press a button and the screen in front of you changes… or if you have some sort of [special] glasses… or simply to be able to control your chair depending on your own comfort. Even being able to fall asleep peacefully without anyone bothering you. You should feel like you are in a hotel but be in the cinema. There could be some sort of film marathon which, when interrupted, [allows you] to go outside, meet the people and discuss the film. Sit down, order something, have a chat. The toilets should undoubtedly be clean. With golden handles… I’m joking! I joke but there are no such conditions for this type of cinema in Bulgaria. Bulgarians are not used to spending money for [high] quality… They are used to… if they are paying for good quality, it’s mainly to boast [about it] to their acquaintances.” (Man, 26-45, Kyustendil)

“Four years ago a cinema club ‘Tuesday Cinema’ was set up in Gabrovo. For a year I managed to present exhaustive lectures on the history of cinema in it… Last year, based on our film club, we organised a film panorama with classic comedy films at the House of Humour and Satire museum… How did we get to found our Tuesday Film Club, which currently functions sporadically, as we don’t have the time? Based on the initiative of informal education centre Alos six years ago and funded by a Ministry of Culture project, in a small private gallery on Orlovska Street we created a panorama of thematic films. [It included], for instance, the most scandalous films of their times, films about painters and similar [topics]. The project took place across nine months. We saw that people were interested, we had at least twenty people at a screening, which is great for such an alternative format of film-viewing. So, we decided to create something a bit more formal… However, at one point, we felt a decrease in interest, we couldn’t figure out why. Our town has a very chaotic cultural policy. We organise events [uncoordinated with each other]. One does one thing, another – something else… And all of a sudden, there’s nothing during the week and then there’s five [different events] on the same day. Go attend them [all]! After all, the audience is a fragile thing. It’s a nucleus. We know each other, the people who go to exhibitions, concerts and cinema [screenings]… What helps us is the fact that Film Society has taken an interest in us. Elena Mosholova invited us straight away as a partner to all [other] film clubs in Bulgaria. I’ve been at a number of meetings related to [film] club culture in Bulgaria. I know that there’s a new one in Sofia in November. So, that’s how you develop some contacts and you share best practice.” (Man, 41, Gabrovo)

“The distribution in Bulgaria is the first and main problem… [There are] a few good initiatives, like Open-air Cinema with BNT, which travels around [the country]… [There is this] neighbourhood, Stolipinovo, in Plovdiv, where children in the fifth grade have never in their lifetime set foot in a cinema. There are numerous such places [in Bulgaria]. Even if we used to live in small places as children, [we] used to go at least to [the] open-air cinema. There was [usually] another [cinema] too. But nowadays a big part of Bulgaria doesn’t have cinemas. And a cinema could be a white sheet that you project on. I have seen [such initiatives] in Burgas and I know how important it is. Because you might have a child enter who really sees something that inspires them in this film. That’s the first and main problem. If you don’t have enough viewers, no matter what film you make… if there is no audience, it turns into an end in itself. Who are you making this film for?” (Woman, 38, Burgas/Sofia)

“Just over here, where the slide is, they had done [an open-air] cinema. You sit there, you spray yourself with some anti-mosquito spray, it’s so pleasant there, you hear the sea, you watch your film, it’s great! … I watch most of the films in the cinema, I can’t [do it] at home, I don’t have the patience. And at the cinema, I just know, whether it’s open-air or indoors, it doesn’t matter… I have not heard of [any] film clubs existing [in Bulgaria]… In Burgas it would be nice to have a cinema at the beach during the summer. There is a really nice place just over here, actually. If it’s cleared out… Where Nepture [Restaurant] is, on the side. I think it was some sort of sports playground before. It’s between [Grand Hotel] Primoretz and there. It’s a great spot for cinema. You watch the sea, it’s wonderful… I think it’s wonderful because at the Snail, it’s cool but… It just so happens there that when someone taller sits in front of me, I can’t see anything, whereas at that place, they can just do some rudimental metal seats… the point is that it becomes just like a cinema… amphitheatrical. Whereas at the Snail, some [people] are shouting at the side, the fountain goes off from time to time, on the other side some others are hunting Pokémons, someone tall stands in front of you and so on. Whereas this [place] is central but also more secluded as a spot. It’s more isolated… I would never leave open-air cinema, like at the Snail… but the Snail does not create any atmosphere. Even the most basic, there [could be] some light bulbs [for fairy lights], even this [creates] some atmosphere, it’s made to be cool… People are different but I don’t want to bring over chalga-fans… But to bring in the rest of the audience, you need something to attract it, whether it’s some modern tableaus and so on, it doesn’t matter. The way that it is advertised, it all matters… I think that if it’s an art form, it needs to be appreciated. Now, I don’t agree that watching 3D American cinema on Saturday or Sunday should be 11 leva. In my opinion, that’s a lot. Not because I can’t go, I obviously can, because I do. The point is that cinema needs to be an accessible element for the population, let’s put it that way… whether you are rich or poor…” (Man, 28, Burgas)

“Another problem, especially for our town… I go to the cinema in Sofia [because] the halls there [just] can’t be said to be empty even though… Yes, it depends, I was about to say that as well. But especially for our town, there’s a lack of film culture. We go to the cinema and wait for four people to gather so that they can play the film… It’s absurd!” (Man, 29, Botevgrad)

“I rarely go to the cinema. I’m happy that there is at least a type of cinema [in Shumen]. Many people say: “The seats are uncomfortable, that’s not cinema!” Yes, but it’s at least something. Still, I go rarely, perhaps because there is rarely a film which attracts me. The films in cinema right now are predominantly focused on the special effects. It’s some sort of action or fantasy with ultra-modern special effects and I look for human[ist topics]. I’m interested in the universal human problems – love, sibling [relations], parents-children… that sort. That’s why I visit the cinema theatre rarely… In general, yes, I would attend a screening as part of… alternative [film] distribution with pleasure, but such things don’t happen. BNT organise an open air cinema [tour] every summer [but never come]. Perhaps there is no place in Shumen to put it up. The conditions are not right. So, they always skip us. And every year I say to myself: “I hope that this year they decide to come!” But they don’t, so… I would go… I like it, in general, but it would be difficult to happen… I suppose [people] in film clubs watch films from different genres… I think that it would be difficult to gather a group of people with the same idea and preferences. Otherwise it would be a great idea. I would at least try it… [The ideal cinema]… I would prefer it to be in Shumen. Even if it is not in Shumen, at least not in Sofia, because everything… innovative is in Sofia and it’s difficult to access by [people] in other towns. In terms of capacity, I would prefer it to be small. For example, up to a maximum of 30 people. I don’t know [about] look and facilities… I find it difficult to say but… My biggest issue with contemporary cinema theatres is that people can’t just go to watch a film, they always need something to eat. One has nothing to do with the other. Can’t they just watch a film? A very important question is the ticket price. In my opinion, especially for the cinema theatres in the shopping malls, the prices seem really high. And if many years ago, when people used to go to the cinema very often… I understand that it was because not everyone had a TV or that there was only one [TV] channel, all in all, they did not have vast access to films and that’s why they went [to the cinema] for entertainment and they went to the cinema hall… But the ticket[s were] really very cheap. Nowadays there is both a big variety and the ticket[s are] expensive. It somehow does not seem logical. It should be the exact opposite. To ensure that people watch less on the internet, the prices need to be more accessible. About 7-8 leva, I think is [ok]. It also depends a lot on the city. For Sofia 15 leva might not be much but for other cities up to 7-8 leva I think is normal.” (Woman, 25, Shumen)

“I think open-air cinema is the best. Because in that case the council pays five times a year in the summer, they buy some films… That’s the thing, if it’s one day, a lot of people go. If it’s [only] five times a year, a lot of people would go. But if it’s permanent, there is no way [to maintain the numbers]… This time there would be five people, the next – ten. And they can’t make their money for expenses back. There are big expenses… And towns in Bulgaria are small and poor… And they can’t put the prices at less than 6-7 leva. They just can’t make their money back… The halls are big, the heating itself [costs a fortunte]… Open-air cinema is the only solution for something like this, in my opinion… At least for me, the ideal comfort is the cinema in the Ring [shopping] mall. The Tsar Lounge is ten or twelve seats, I think, with the comfortable extendable sofas, with the little table next to you. The comfort to put down a glass… your popcorn… Ten people… no one is making a sound the whole time. And it’s unique! … That’s in Sofia… Otherwise, it doesn’t matter where it [would] be, but it currently exists and it’s in Sofia. And it’s just the perfect place! The ticket price is a bit more expensive compared to other places but it’s worth it. I think it was 15 leva for 3D.” (Man, 25, Buhovo)

“I think the town has a growing need for [alternative cinema events]. Open-air cinema would attract [everyone], doesn’t matter if it’s drive-in [or not]. I’ve only seen drive-in [cinema] in films, I’ve never [been]… I haven’t attended [but] I would go [and] I would be interested…” (Woman, 24, Gabrovo)

“[My dream cinema theatre would be] with comfortable seats… They are more comfortable in [the cinema in] Blagoevgrad… What is good here is… probably thanks to the municipality as well… that the price of tickets is accessible. I tried [to go] in Sofia. Everything costs 10 leva or more. Not to mention theatre and so on. 30 leva to go [see a play]! I want to go too but I can’t. On average, I have 15 leva per day for food, part of the rent and all. How could I afford to spend so much money? That’s what I would prefer, not so much facilities but accessibility, at least for people who are studying… An accessible price and decent conditions… It might be nice if there were some sort of electronic platform… a tableau which includes all sorts of films, you go there and you request which film you would like for [the cinema] to play. When there are enough votes, the film pops up in the programming or there is an announcement that so-and-so film would be watched the following week. For example, there could be two films in the programme, chosen by the cinema, and one which is based on votes. Just like on [the musical] City TV [channel]… I came across a commercial today… [which said:] “Vote on our website for your favourite songs and you will hear them after 9 pm” or “after 6 pm”… Great!” (Woman, 21, Kyustendil/Sofia)

“What would make me go to the cinema [more often]? It’s the luxury setting. For example, we go to the old mall. At the beginning of the year they refurbished the cinema hall. It features luxury chairs. It’s not many of them, just a few. It’s like at the new mall over here. And it’s better because you don’t have crowds of people getting together and then there’s no space… It’s nice. And the best thing for me is that you can go by yourself or with a friend, no one says: “You need an adult with you” or something like that. The other good thing is that they don’t ask you about your age. In other towns they definitely ask about age. For example, if it’s a film rated over 16, [they ask] whether you are over that age… and you might be 15 and want to watch it. They even [ask for] IDs. I have a friend who told me that they asked him for an ID to go in and see a film, which I don’t think is OK.” (Man, 17, Pleven)

Advice & Recommendations

“To not be influenced by foreign actors [and] directors, especially by the American ones… to not go into something which is foreign to Bulgaria.” (Woman, 66+, Kazanlak)

“To put their feelings in th[ese] film[s] as Bulgarians, to be proud that they are making something from Bulgarians for Bulgarians and for Bulgaria. That’s very valuable. When there are feelings, that’s where strength lies.” (Woman, 66+, Kazanlak)

“To be themselves. So that the Bulgarian can come to the forefront… and a better [actor] diction.” (Woman, 78, Kazanlak)

“Bulgaria doesn’t lack an elite − role models. Right now Veronique Steeno, from Belgium, is making a film about Ognian Nikolov, an opera singer, who won the award of Karlovo… he won many international awards… [but] no one in Bulgaria has heard of him. Teachers [and] composers provided materials [on him]. Veronique wrote a book, made a film and so on. And not just [when it comes to] opera singer[s]. Recently a firefighter… or a policeman… saved a family, even though he was on annual leave. They give [us] the bad examples – who raped, beat up or robbed whom… There needs to be more talk about the people who can serve as role models, even if it’s a film that is 25 minutes or 25 seconds long but to give voice to the good in life and not to rascals who can swear in a foreign language, for example… or to look up to Rambo or the serial killers in America. It’s disgusting, truly disgusting!” (Woman, 74, Sofia)

“To have more such meetings because people like to meet the artists. I notice that when [touring] theatre [groups] come, there is always [good] attendance if there are famous actors.” (Woman, 68, Kalofer)

“When they make a certain film to think that it’s not just for today and tomorrow. May it have a future, to remain [in time].” (Woman, 71, Kazanlak)

“To express the Bulgarian.” (Woman, 68, Kazanlak

“More historical [films], educational…” (Woman, 65, Plovdiv)

“Not to make a film about Levski. Because everyone carries their own Levski in their heart. Everyone has a different interpretation. Levski cannot be unified and turned into a film. And, in general, [the same with] personalities from Bulgarian history. They abuse… Not to go on and on about past events… from the near past… I’ve had it with the films about the Revival Process. There are things that [are in the] past. Why do they need to constantly [focus] on them? It was a mistake of a particular system [and] era. There’s one, two, three, five… there’s already thirty films [about it]. There’s no point. And not just the Revival Process, there’s other similar [events about which they make similar films] but played by different actors. They should find some new topics. There are so many.” (Woman, 60, Karlovo)

“To not give up!” (Woman, 64, Gabrovo)

“One single thing, it’s a bit difficult… But I can say it again, contemporary Bulgarian films are very good, but they should try to make them so that they can raise the self-esteem or… how should I say it… to lighten the atmosphere in society.” (Man, 59, Kazanlak)

“To be carriers of good example… of moral values, what we should be like and not what we want right now.” (Woman, 58, Plovdiv)

“To fix their sound. And to lower their ticket [prices].” (Woman, 55, Kazanlak)

“To organise pre-premiere [screenings] with [audience] surveys. And to not be haughty or arrogant when it comes to the respondents’ opinions. Not to ignore them.” (Woman, 52, Haskovo/Kyustendil)

“To purposefully seek contact with the film audience outside of big… mostly outside of the capital. It would show respect for film audiences… The attitude of Sofia’s film guild… [They] need to leave the capital and go on site. They could enter [a screening] as… a mystery shopper even… attend alternative screenings of Bulgarian titles in order to see and hear what people are talking about… But not to have one of the authors stand in front of the audience and then people freeze and wonder what to say… [They could] sit down quietly… bring a disguise, if they must… because if they are recognisable enough, it would compromise their cover… Just like wise rulers back in the day went to the markets to listen to people’s conversations and understand their problems.” (Woman, 52, Stara Zagora)

“To not misuse or play with history… For the critics to present things more realistically… Critics come from ‘that time’ as well. There is a lot of writing on how they were chased [and repressed] as well… dissidents… and at the same time they were lackeys and now they are the biggest dissidents. I don’t know the contemporary [critics]…” (Man, 52, Tran)

“To not maintain an elitist register (for the critics) when they are on the media, to be clear and easy to understand, to present in a balanced way the good things in a [film] production as well as what they disliked, not just giving light to the good sides and characteristics… [For] Bulgarian film makers, to be more present on TV, to introduce society to their problems or with their plans, what they aim to do… In general, to put an effort to popularise Bulgarian cinema. Not to just have it as a piece of dry news in a morning talk show or in a very [niche] specialised cultural programme, which exists on BNT and the other national TV channels. To pay more attention to forming a culture in young people, in adolescents. To find all forms and ways to increase interest towards Bulgarian film and Bulgarian cinema… To include various topics, our life is colourful, so when you bear in mind that art is a reflection of life, whether it’s about the future, the present or back in the past… just have a variety of topics… To have more awards for Bulgarian film art. To not focus everything just in Varna and Sofia… To have TV programmes about the technologies behind making a film, even if it gets into the [technical] details, to have such national clubs, so that more people can enter the sphere. To ask the audience, a closer relationship with the audience to see what topics concern it. And to work on this… To be accessible, just to be accessible. Not to limit people through high prices. It’s very important for our generation.” (Woman, 50, Sofia)

“To live with enthusiasm because they would need it. Because they are unlikely to be able to change reality. Otherwise… Should I mention what Pablo Picasso said about all artists in Bulgaria? The goal of every human’s life is to uncover their talent… their mission in life, in fact… And the goal is to share it with other people. And we thank them for sharing their talent with us. One can learn something [new] from every film and from every book, no matter the genre and so on… So, there’s no bad film or bad book. Depending on how [high] one has reached… and in what synchronicity one is with the creator… they would reach them. To dare and then, “whatever the sword shows”…” (Woman, 46, Pleven)

“What should I advise them? To be natural and real. To be able to admit when they are wrong. And to know where they make a mistake… not because of their ego. I’m sorry to say this but many Bulgarian actors have too great of an ego. Directors and scriptwriters as well. If you tell them that you didn’t like [their work], they [give you a bad look]. They have to learn the main lesson in film art and the acting profession – you can’t be liked by everyone. There are moments when no one might like you. You have to accept your failure together with your success.” (Man, 26-45, Kyustendil)

“Make films with [good] content! With really [good] content and a message! There are many [such] films, they should learn [from them]… And not to try and introduce a format from somewhere [else] and to turn it Bulgarian… They need to find a way, through films, to also educate young people in terms of tolerance and respect to the person next to you…” (Woman, 44, Karlovo)

“If they started playing old Bulgarian films in the cinema, it would be really good, because many people of the older generation would take the newer generation to watch something nice.” (Man, 43, Kazanlak)

“To dare!” (Man, 41, Gabrovo)

“Back in the day when films were distributed in cinemas there were such meet-ups. I see now how valuable this is. Because that’s when an audience feels special. The contact is very important. Otherwise, we can watch all types of cinema, not [necessarily] Bulgarian, but when we watch Bulgarian [cinema], people need to… and I am convinced artists need to speak with their audience as well. This is their audience. It’s not the audience in Germany. Because they might be adored in Germany but it’s the German audience. At home you need to have your own audience because you made this film with your soul for here. It tells a story that is here. It might touch [people] in Germany, but it tells a story that is here… There needs to be communication between the [people who] mak[e] and [those who] watch, producers, distributors, everything. So that there isn’t a separate audience structure and a separate film guild structure, they need to meet somewhere.” (Woman, 38, Burgas/Sofia)

“To make films for the audience and not for their drinking buddies. Absolutely, that’s it! Because if one made films for the audience instead of for themselves and their friends, it would make for great films. For the audience! Not to inflate one’s ego or to prove oneself. The way that all of the others, outside of Bulgaria, make it.” (Man, 30, Botevgrad)

“To continue making Bulgarian cinema.” (Woman, 30, Gabrovo)

“I’m not very well-versed [in the field] in order to advise other people… In general, I’d like to know more about Bulgarian history. Perhaps it’s my own problem that I didn’t receive particularly stable knowledge [of it] at school… It would be nice, at least a part of them… [to include] something about Bulgarian history.” (Woman, 30, Stara Zagora/Sofia)

“Perhaps it would be for the people who make films to surround themselves with [professionals] who know what they are doing and not mostly people from their circle of friends, whom you need to return a favour to… Just people who are professionals… I think there are enough good script-writers… who could produce an adequate script about our time and not about, as [my friend] said, the “mafia baroque”, so that we always go back to… 1989 to see what it was like… “And why not have a bit about communism?” There’s nothing wrong with that [of course]… But it’s the same every time.” (Man, 29, Botevgrad)

“Philosophically speaking, it’s what everyone who starts doing something [professionally] should [also] be – a good person. Good and honest to themselves and to their work. To try and be good professionals. To put everything which they have learned into their production in the best possible way, so that we can have high-quality productions and not some mediocre things which… Cinema is team[work]. Making a film involves a lot of people, so I’d like to appeal to every one of them to do their job in the best way possible, so that the resulting production is a high-quality one. Every film started as a good idea. Depending on its development within a given team, it becomes an amazing or terrible film. Of course, a huge part of it is connections as well but… If everyone does their job as a good professional… a good person… a conscientious person… in my opinion, the [quality] level of the productions could be raised and that would bring more pleasure to the audience.” (Woman, 29, Sofia)

“Just like for every [other] thing, from the design of the packaging to the type of store that would sell it and the size, there needs to be communication. As I said before, at every stage [bringing in] some different people to get feedback. They don’t need to be put in a cage but… just to have some sort of feedback. To see whether we are moving forward or in a different direction, whether something needs changing. And, all in all, those that make films need to think like viewers.” (Man, 28, Burgas)

“If possible, not to make films about socialism, neither with positive, nor with negative connotations. As a young person who has not experienced that time, I think that it’s gone [now]. I’m tired of listening about how good or bad it was. And, in the end, they expect me to side with one or the other, which I have no right to do, because I have not [lived through] it. I don’t want such an opinion imposed on me… in the sense that someone imposes their own opinion on me… someone who was happy [with it] or unhappy [with it]… It feels unnatural, everything is destroyed… I’m sure that there were some positive aspects but everything must be denied. If they so please. But I don’t want their opinion imposed onto me.” (Woman, 25, Shumen)

“To not make films about the past. And to criticise them more… because we are the only ones that understand them… That’s all the films we make, as if we are the biggest patriots… For me, cinema needs to be a bit more contemporary… to raise [Bulgarian film] at another level.” (Man, 25, Buhovo)

“To have more contact with the audience.” (Woman, 24, Gabrovo)

“I would also say to make the things which they feel are worthwhile and not to be too influence by what performs well in the market because it’s a two-way [process]. Whether a film is liked because it’s popular or it’s popular because it’s liked… I don’t have an answer to this question. So, they should look for the [deeper] meaning. They are artists, regardless of whether they are more on the technological or acting side [of things]… they are artists. When one is in their element, they have no idea what they are doing. But they do it. And it turns out great. To protect that and pass it over to us. There will always be connoisseurs. Usually, the people who determine the market are influenced by individuals. It’s a crowd’s rule: out of 200 people, 5 are the leaders. So, they should be genuine and they should show things as they like them so that we can like them too.” (Woman, 21, Kyustendil/Sofia)

“To make films closer to history, most of them based on chronicles and so on… linked to history… or based on different stories by our authors, as I said before, there are many very good writers… for example, one of the best [is] Elin Pelin… [writers] who have very beautiful stories… to adapt their stories… Because… nowadays… a certain part of young people don’t pay much attention to [literature], they would not sit down and read the story itself… they would find it more enjoyable to [sit] in front of the laptop or to go to the cinema with [their] friends and to watch [the] film [adaptation]. What is important is to enrich them, to help them. In addition, all these adaptations include actors. [It] would give new faces in cinema and TV a chance to display their talent to the wider audience.” (Woman, 18, Karlovo)

“A film is made for an audience. When they start to think of a film, they don’t say: “Oh, no one would watch it [but] our idea is great, let’s make it!” If they make it, then that must be what the Bulgarian audience wants… The question is that the mindset of Bulgarians needs to change somehow… We can’t just blame the people that make films for showing [darker matters] when [such films] are popular and many people, evidently, identify with the characters… The problem is that the whole [nation] is with a negative mindset. We can always find lots of ways to criticise films and whatnot… Perhaps the [authors] just need to be able to make their films. Because I am sure that there are great ideas for great films in Bulgaria but they just can’t make them happen, [because] of financial problems and whatnot… There should just be freedom for authors to express themselves. And for the audience to support them when they do something like that.” (Woman, 17, Karlovo)

“To make more historical film [and more different genres]… For the audience – whoever likes it can watch it, if not – there are other types of films, other genres… something different for everyone… with an educational aim.” (Man, 17, Pleven)

“We are already in tenth grade and music and arts are no longer in our curriculum. I think that it’s a mistake. Also, we forget that it’s a matter of film art not [just] a way of entertainment or of passing the free time, meant to make us feel happy, perhaps that too… Many people think that studying art in classes is a waste of time. For me, [the arts] are more valuable than all the general information which we have to [learn] and they should be a bigger part of the curriculum because they build us up as people and personalities. The culture relating to going to the cinema, reading books and listening to worthwhile music needs developing.” (Woman, 16, Kazanlak)