Stoyan Michalkovski is a Bulgarian writer, best known for his humorous talesLa Fontaine inspired the creation of the story about a snail and an Eagle. The story is tragic for the tiny shellfish. But, when their conversation takes places in the mountain, an astonished Eagle asks the snail He was so successful!. The snail exclaims, “By crawling.”
The culture of Bulgaria often looks like a snail. Let’s suppose that it hides a well-kept secret beneath its shell. Sometimes I draw a parallel between Bulgarian art, and the secret files of the old secret service. Bulgarian artists are very careful about hiding their art. They don’t like to show off. They often choose to stay at home, which is usually located between four borderlands. It creates something unique to their culture and is very interesting, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. Art is a bit isolated and does not follow any trend. It’s like the work of someone who wants to retire in the mountains. He would build his work each day while waiting for someone, who will then discover it.
It is also fascinating to see the reactions of the public, critics, and political classes to the success of artists outside their country. An anecdote comes from communist times: a short animated film in Bulgaria called “Marriage”, wins the Palme d’Or. The authorities protest: “The Cannes criteria are not those of Bulgarian cinematography. »And to initial the film:« without artistic value ». This story continues to repeat itself from every decade – most recently with “February”, by Kamen Kalev, (Official Selection in Cannes in 2020), and “Women Do Cry”. (Another Cannes selection)., Of the tandem Mineva/Kazakova. It comes to this point that some conservative politicians deem “demonic” or “talentless” the artists who have had “the misfortune” to be recognized in the West. These attacks, which concern many guests and guests at the festival, are often orchestrated by certain circles. They start with social media but also use official media until they reach full parliament. It is all allowed. It always ends with the same sentence. It’s as simple as that.
Media humiliation and “fiery persecutions,” feed a toxic environment that has decimated many talents, particularly among women. It is not just a climate of extreme misogyny but also racism and homophobia. It is impossible, for example, to find evidence of a member the gypsy community in any contemporary art. Gypsies are only good at making wedding music… Artists who display themselves publicly as LGBTQ +, that hardly exists. Intercultural exchanges can be rare. There is no outside influence. All that matters is the “official national culture”, which is often imitative and self-repeating.
This climate gives the feeling to Bulgarian artists of being immigrants in their country. Either they stay put, much like a snail in a daily, almost partisan struggle, or they migrate. The tree of prejudices branches out and bulgarian art is divided between its desire for Europeanity and its past. Both are marked by its absolute traditionalism and oriental roots. Does the idea of discovering this culture leave you skeptical? It would be a mistake to pass up the chance. Despite the unfavorable environment, there are still many Bulgarian artists that face reality with courage and a poetic style almost sentimental.
I liken Bulgarian art and forest treasures to little pearls. Parisians will be able to see this. The Balkan Peninsula’s art, with its melancholy depth, is a unique example of how the Balkan Peninsula can speak to everyone.
This event will provide a snapshot of what’s most important at the moment. I hope the festival will be held this year, despite any pandemics or other unforeseen circumstances. This is why I found it interesting that the Sofia edition was the last to be held. A virus has delayed an edition. This is absurd. The absurdity is a hallmark of Bulgarian art. Although the culture of Bulgaria may look like a snail to some, artists in Bulgaria are much more like an eagle. They dream big, and they also act big. Christo is an example. There is no intimacy between the Bulgarians because of their actions. There are no limits. And the fable ends here: the snail asks for the eagle’s permission to fly in the sky before it finishes in its beak. The little tour in the sky was completed and the eagle devoured the snail.
So, my best wishes for this weekend’s edition of A Weekend in the East dedicated to Sofia: A gastronomic adventure like the one of the eagle.
Theodore Ushev was born in Kyustendil (Bulgaria) on February 4, 1968. He is a Canadian animator. After making a name as a poster designer for his country, he moved from Bulgaria to Montreal in 1999. He is known as the “father” of the 5ThA Weekend in the East festival is celebrating the artistic vitality in Sofia, Bulgaria, this year with an edition. From November 24 through 29, Paris is open to cinema, theater, visual arts and literature. Information on https://weekendalest.com/