Sofia International Film Festival
Put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic
CHAPTER 1: What is SIFF?
Sofia International Film Festival (SIFF) was created in 1997 and, since then, it has attracted 85.000 spectators annually, becoming one of the biggest film festivals in the Balkans.
From that moment, the festival has been growing, including more categories and competitions, and receiving further international recognition. In the year 2003 the festival included the Jameson Short Film Award, a competition for regional films and national short films and the International Competition for first and second films, which is included in the FIPRESCI calendar. In 2009 it also introduced the International documentary competition.
In 2007 Variety placed Sofia IFF among the Top 50 world unmissable film events for industry. In 2010 Sofia IFF was accredited by FIAPF as a competitive specialized feature film festival and became the only Bulgarian film festival recognized by FIAPF nowadays. SIFF is the only Bulgarian film festival recognized by FIPRESCI.
The purpose of the festival is to show the best contemporary cinema to local audiences, as well as to present regional Bulgarian and Balkan cinema to international audiences, therefore, creating a space that allows and encourages the cooperation between local and international filmmakers.
Despite the fact that the 24th year’s edition of SIFF was scheduled to happen from 12th to 31st of March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival has been put on hold in order to ensure the safety of the audience, participants and organizers, until the outbreak of the virus gets under control.
Although the festival is postponed a great job was done by the festival team and volunteers.
CHAPTER 2: Who are they?
Sofia Film Festival works with around 100 volunteers to help during the festival. CVS-Bulgaria has been coordinating the volunteer team since 2010 and a lot of young people after the first participation stay in the team for many years. The aim of calling volunteers is to allow young people interested in cinema to participate in the organization of this important event while having access to screenings, master classes, international debates and networking possibilities that the event and the parallel programs offer to industry guests and participants.
Before the starting of the Sofia Film Festival, all volunteers follow a training that basically covers how to handle all of the situations described in the roles. Regarding it, the training is structured by games, introduction and t-shirts and badge distribution.
Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 we couldn’t continue with organizing process, but the volunteers have already managed to contribute a lot to the festival. It’s impossible to underestimate their role in the logistic work. Near 20 of them were involved in a distribution campagne where they picked up different kinds of promotion materials and took them to loads of locations. The most important thing is that they did it very selflessly in spite of the snow, the rain and the wind.
CHAPTER 3: Inner opinion
During the quarantine time everyone has plenty of free time, so we have talked with Svetly Damianova, head of press office, about the festival in general and the movies included in the festival.
Sofia Film Festival – it’s really a vocation. Most of my life I’ve been a huge fan of everything about and around Cinema and after 18 years of experience in television, I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation from the founder and director of the biggest and most prestigious festival in Bulgaria. At first Stefan Kitanov offered me to assist their team for distribution of “The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner” – the only Bulgarian movie ever to ma it to the shortlist for Oscar’s nominations in 2009. The team of Art Fest, which is organising Sofia Film Festival, produced the film and I joined in the last phase – promotion and distribution. After few months Mr. Kitanov offered me the position of Head of Press Office and ever since then, almost 12 years now, I’m responsible for the written materials, distributed and published from our office.
During several month before the start of our festival – each year in March – we deliver different themes and accents from the festival programme almost at daily basis – to the huge mail-list of journalists and personalities that are interested in cultural and cinema events. Plus I’m responsible for the image of the Festival in social media channels – mainly Facebook, but also Instagram, Twitter and Youtube; several months before the start and during the period of the Festival also I have a specially selected team of people that are working on publications, coordination of press-conferences and interviews and the whole tons of work that needs to be done in order to tell the audience what an awesome festival we’re offering to them!
I believe that’s amazing and inspiring because most of the films in our programme are offered with one or two screenings and after that they’re not available; most of the films in the International, Balkan and Documentary competition are presented by members of our press team and by their directors, producers or actors – and that’s a really unique opportunity! I really love my work in spite of the sleepless nights before the start, because we all know why we are doing it – for the love of CINEMA and with one particular mission – to EDUCATE the audience! People need gorgeous, provocative, meaningful, interesting, moving films from all over the world – and we’re ready to show exactly those type of films in our programme. They have awards – Golden Palm (from Cannes), Golden Lion (from Venice), Golden Bear (from Berlinale), Oscars and Golden Globes, awards from Sundance, Toronto and many more international film festivals – you cannot see that type of films in general distribution at cineplexes, because they don’t go well with popcorns and they definitely cannot ‘beat’ the big blockbuster movies. But we – Sofia Film Festival – can ‘beat’ the indifference of the audience when we offer them options to meet with the art of Cinema! And we make that happen every year, with lots of energy and passion. Because we love what we do!
And when the time is changing in a blink of an eye – like this unfortunate situation with the spreading of new COVID-19 virus all over the world, I would definitely recommend the option to stay close to the cinema with the programme of Netflix. They have a great variety of classic, modern, blockbuster titles – most of the great works from 90-s but I would be glad to point out the option to see (almost) all marvelous stories, made by the famous Japanese animation studio Ghibli. They are amazing, fascinating and you’ll be inspired!
In order to be aware about the main news of the festival we recommend you to follow their official website. There you can find all the movies involved in the festival.
The festival team is trying to move audience and everyday, or almost everyday, they publish descriptions and trailers of the best movies on the website. In addition, you will get acquainted with friends of SIFF and you will listen to interesting music. You can join them and take off on a cinema journey.
Further more Sofia Film Fest together with Cinema house have prepared a gift for their fans – free access to the art-movie platform MUBI. In order to get the permission you should just text about your desire to firstname.lastname@example.org, after that you will receive a link to the rich library. Who knows, maybe you will find something incredible and fabulous!
CHAPTER 4: What can we watch?
We also created top movies list from out volunteering team. Hopefully, that list helps you to brighten up gray everyday coronovirus-life.
By CVS-volunteers: Daria Chernyshova, Anna Farriol and Sara Coll.