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Iztochni piesi
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Reviews & Ratings for
Eastern Plays More at IMDbPro »Iztochni piesi (original title)

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51 out of 56 people found the following review useful:

A great work of art

Author: goya-1 from France
12 March 2010

It has been quite some time since a film genuinely moved me. This past week or so, I have sat through and enjoyed, to varying degrees, Scorsese's Shutter Island and Polanski's The Ghost Writer. Both were polished, well-made, clever films (the latter perhaps slightly more than the former), but I will soon forget them. I don't think I'm going to forget Eastern Plays anytime soon. This Bulgarian film by Kamen Kalev is, well - why beat around the bush ? - a great work of art. Superbly shot in a Sofia filled with graffiti-covered buildings and vacant lots, Eastern Plays tells the story of Itso, an addict on methadone who has to drink beer more or less constantly to dull his pain. Quite by chance, he intervenes when a family of Turkish tourists gets attacked and beaten by a gang of Neo-Fascist thugs (led by a terrifying Alexander "The Indian" Radanov). This gradually leads to a relationship between Itso and the breathtakingly beautiful Isil (Saadet Isil Askoy), whose innocent, optimistic spirituality gradually begins to lift Itso out of the painful doldrums of his beery existence. I don't know what to praise most about this film : its portrayal of a modern Bulgaria adrift between racist youth gangs and football hooligans, the parents completely out of touch with the world of their children ; the incredibly true-to-life performance by Christo Christov, who died of an overdose before the film was finished shooting ? I think finally it is the luminous presence of Saadet Isil Askoy, who brings a sincerity and optimism to the film's grim context, as she tells Itso that we are all living in a time where people are sick inside, but that she feels a change is coming. This is not just a film about contemporary Bulgaria, although it is that as well. It is a film that captures a certain Zeitgeist of the early 21st century, in which, especially in post-Communist Eastern Europe, a restless youth with nothing more to believe in attempts to fill the gap inside them as best they can : with drugs, alcohol, headbanger rock, neo-fascist thuggery, or, in a few precious, fragile cases, with art and music. I have not recently seen a more deeply moving scene in a film than the one is which a desperate Itso consults his psychiatrist : all he wants to do, he says, is find the goodness within himself. He wishes he could radiate light like a crystal, and love all human beings, but he does not know how.

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35 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

A humane, tender film

Author: viharg from Bulgaria
24 October 2009

This is probably the best Bulgarian film in a decade. There are a couple of things that must be said about it. 1. “Eastern Plays” is first and foremost a humane story. I cannot underestimate the importance of that fact given the long-standing tradition of Bulgarian movies (and European cinematography in general) to intimidate their characters and to dissect them with horrifying bluntness. 2. More than that, the film is a really, really good contemporary narrative. The story is told in a subtle, calm and compassionate manner. 3. This film is a rare display of the importance of each and every human existence. The idea is presented without the help of complex existential constructions or intellectual roundabouts.

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25 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

A Sofia story, a human story

Author: gospodinBezkrai from Plovdiv, Thrace, Bulgaria
15 November 2009

This film is real, touchable; and at the same time poetic, touching! It reveals the condition of a lost soul of Sofia (the city), a young man who is leaving narcotics behind but there is nothing else in our modern life here to replace them. Boredom, inertia, dissatisfaction, pointlessness, emotional routine plague the souls in Sofia of all generations, young or old. Only love might give hope...

The character is looking for this one little piece of love, maybe hidden somewhere in his heel...

The film makes keen and exact observations at people, at the cityscape, at the relations in Bulgaria. Although it tells about drug addiction, about skinhead groups, it felt like it is coming from my own life! I could recognise friends, parents, the apartments i've lived in. The details are 100% there. The actor play is very very strong (with the exception of Stefan Danailov's student, maybe on purpose?). The young man is himself, not an actor. He is showing his own life, his guts, which makes 'Eastern plays' even more dramatic.

The camera work is incredible - its an art photographer's capture of Sofia. Some will say it is ugly, for me it is ravishingly beautiful, dignified. Sofia becomes a serene participant in the story. The music is a participant as well! 'Inject me love' was not composed for the film yet it fits it perfectly. Maybe the movie will put the "underground" Bulgarian electroacoustic group Nassekomix on the world stage?

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24 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

The Most Honest BG movie :0)

Author: mgeorgieva2007 from Bulgaria
4 December 2009

This is the most honest Bulgarian movie made in the last 20 years. Bravo Itso, Kamen and the rest of the team! It is a movie that resonates on the same wave as the contemporary BG people. It shows the heart...and the really important things in life - hope, love, tolerance, dialogue, the continuity between the generations and freedom - the choice to live your life as you want and to be its real master... Well, it is difficult for me to come up with 10 lines for this movie (as the guidelines indicate) since this is a movie that needs to be seen coz it is a movie to be felt...because it is simple and that's why it is a work of genius!!! It's absolutely worth seeing!

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17 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

A quite Bulgarian film which provides a good look at racism and human relationships.

Author: FilmCriticLalitRao from Paris, France
3 March 2010

Bulgarian cinema is witnessing a new resurgence after the demise of communism.This change can be seen in films made by new generation directors who are quick to observe realities around them and depict what they have personally experienced.Bulgarian director Kamen Kalev is a lucky person as not only he got a chance to study at prestigious French film school FEMIS at Paris but also got a lot of critical as well as commercial success with his first film "Eastern Plays" which was part of "Quinzaine Des Réalisateurs" section at Cannes International Film Festival 2009.It can be surmised that Kamen Kalev's film "Eastern Plays" has been a success as it looks at mundane issues haunting Bulgarian society albeit from an international perspective. It is true that all nations are plagued with problems like racism, skinheads and unemployment but there are very few films which are able to combine a local point of view with that of a much broader international dynamism.This is the reason why this film's lead players speak some of their dialogs in English.Although "Eastern Plays" is a film about tough themes,it is good that it has not ignored its lighter side.This is the reason why Kamen Kalev's film does not appear as a serious film preaching hard to follow moral values.Film critic Lalit Rao got a chance to see this film at 14th International film Festival of Kerala 2009.

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10 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Love, hatred, violence

Author: Pascal Zinken (LazySod) from Maastricht, The Netherlands
7 April 2010

Staged in current day Sofia this film portrays the effects of an all too known and all too frightening blind hatred toward anyone that is different. Two brothers, one an artistic drug addict on the mend, the other a racist. Once divided now brought back together by a single event that forever changes the lives of all.

Dark and dreary, scary and painful. Films that tangle with racism in the way this film does always are like that. It settles like a huge weight on the stomach and doesn't lighten for many long moments. It never gets too heavy though - it's just right.

The acting work is fitting, the characters displayed are real. And this makes it all the more scary. It's all too easy to feel a form of compassion for all of them, which adds a lot to the film.

8 out of 10 life altering choices

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

movie made in the streets of the city

Author: Boris Todorov ( from Seoul, South Korea
7 March 2010

What I particularly liked (and I know friends of mine who did as well) in this movie is that it is not a movie about a person, or a story, but mostly an aesthetic vision of a city... which happens to be my city. The storyline is almost missing: apart from the sad coincidence that one brother took part in the beating of another, there is not much of a narrative thread and the entire movie is just a sequence of impressions of present-day Sofia, including the people living in it. Hristo Hristov became the focus of the film because he represented a particular type of Sofianites (actually he was born in Burgas but that does not make him less of a Sofianite since this is the city where he painted): artists who have received serious formation, have developed their own style, have reached the level of creators of unquestionably valuable works, and yet have found no chance to live on their art and be successful. Hristo was not the first, and will not be the last of generations of creative persons who had to find various exits from the difficult situation the last twenty years placed us all in. He chose drugs and in the real life passed away even before the movie was finished. But his sad story is one of hope, too, since the real-life Hristo, even posthumously, proved that recognition can come (and we are now expecting the long-postponed exhibition of his art), while the movie-character Hristo showed to his younger brother that there is alternative to violence and hatred, and that there is enough beauty around us to save us from despair.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Perhaps my favorite Bulgarian movie

Author: mstav48 from Pittsburgh
4 October 2012

Being a Bulgarian who has all but a few years outside of Bulgaria, I am always interested in watching Bulgarian cinema. Most of the time i am disappointed. Its always the same actors playing more or less the same role in the very cliché Bulgarian way; rigid and straightforward so that you cant buy into their character and you can tell they are acting. Oftentimes the roles of the characters don't change much. Characters are bland, Men are either dopey drunken alcoholics with a sense of humor or far too serious, while women are either whores or overly needy

I watched the movie and I was shocked, The characters were so vibrant and original, in fact a lot reminded me of friends I have in Bulgaria, the acting fluid and I didn't see them acting instead they looked so natural as if they were playing themselves.

The movie is about growing up in Bulgaria. One brother rebels against his parents, starts hanging out with soccer hooligans, and slowly beginning to become detriment to society. The other older brother is emerging from that lifestyle, fighting a drug addiction, and trying to put his life back together with art. Each battles on their own, but maintain an active relationship. The two worlds and brothers meet one fateful night and their paths are altered forever.

So I watched the the entire credits hoping to see a friend or someone I knew in them( as many of my friends work in film studios in Bulgaria), and at the end there was a dedication to Christo, The guy who played the main character also named Christo. Turns out the reason that the actors seemed so natural is that most of them were not actors, including Christo,(the main actor, who died of a drug overdose in the middle of filming) but rather the people in Christos life, including his girlfriend. In fact the movie was more or less based on his life, and when the director couldn't find anyone to play Christo, he just got Christo to play himself.

All in all the movie is really worth watching...whether you are Bulgarian or not.

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A Strong and Powerful Story Somewhat Marred by the Delivery

Author: Muldwych from South Korea
11 January 2011

The long, twilight struggle of existence in a violent, directionless world is the premise of 'Eastern Plays', a Bulgarian film that comments as much about that country's society as it does about society in general. The story is told from the perspective of two brothers, Christo and Georgi, one in his thirties and recovering from drug addiction, the other young and impressionable, yet both staring into the abyss with only impenetrable darkness staring back. By turns, they fight and fall into meltdown as the chaotic world around them offers little meaning to guide them toward happiness and purpose. The premise of Kalev's tale is certainly sound, however in practice, I found the delivery fairly disjointed and listless. It is peppered with touching and thought-provoking studies of human frailty, but ultimately does not really pull together as an entertaining whole.

One of the principal difficulties I had with 'Eastern Plays' is its lethargic beginning, and a fairly rudderless one as well. A raft of characters is introduced; all pursuing their own paths to destruction, but there is no real clue as to either whom the story will principally focus upon, or what that story really is. Possibilities include a young man's descent into gang violence, nationalism and politically-supported anti-immigration riots, family breakdown, and the generation gap. Then there is Christo, an unpleasant, self-loathing, chain-smoking artist, staring oblivion in the eye and desperate to pull himself away from it yet lost as to how. Ultimately, it becomes clear that 'Eastern Plays' is his story, and as he battles his inner demons, the many layers of his character come to the fore and a more sensitive, highly-pensive character is revealed.

One could certainly argue that there is no reason why a film couldn't contain all the above elements with multiple character arcs lightly intertwined with each other and the sum of the parts being a comment on some aspect of the human condition. The Bolivian film 'Sexual Dependency', to name but one, manages this sort of approach fairly well. However, whereas 'Sexual Dependency' triumphs because all the parts slot into place within the greater commentary, 'Eastern Plays', attempting to do the same, fails because the result is hazy and the various sequences somehow more drawn out and dull in the process. In hindsight, it seems far clearer that Kalev's approach to the first half of the film was to fill the canvas with the wider problems of society so that the viewer will see Christo's pain as a microcosm of that shared by the nation as a whole. Seemingly germane, there is however too much of this, thereby causing narrative incoherence: is the film about him or is it about Bulgaria? It is in the second half, when Christo's story becomes the dominant narrative, that things begin to pick up. Love interests and family become soundboards for attempts to make sense of everything, and these prove to be the more interesting sections of the film. It is the character interactions themselves rather than merely the occasional philosophical debate that shows humanity finding understanding and balance that are especially touching, although those brief philosophical debates do sum up the themes quite nicely.

There is much to recommend on the acting front. Ovanes Torosian as gang member-wannabe Georgi does a very good job of portraying the confused adolescent whose inner turmoil is more evident in his eyes and quietude than his dialogue. Highly memorable also is the lovely Saadet Aksoy, a young and intelligent woman able to bridge the gaps between worlds despite fear and who is able to put voice to the social discord. The scenes between her and Christov are among the most engaging of all in Eastern Plays, save for some other touching moments where Christo puts voice to his fear and aspirations, and a scene near the end where he encounters an old man filled with the tranquility of understanding that Christo so desperately yearns for. The late Christo Christov is eminently believable as his namesake: bored of social expectation, longing for something more, and frustrated when it fails to materialize. It's a great shame that 'Eastern Plays' is both Christov's debut and finale to the acting world, and an even greater shame that the film's narrative disarray can't fully match up to his performance.

The character of Bulgaria itself, as depicted, is cold, lifeless and bleak. It is violently insecure as it struggles to define its own national identity, its citizens borne of both the Soviet nation it once was and the unsure republic it is today. The elderly cling to the orderly past, the young embrace the chaotic present, yet neither are happy. A line from Georgi, however, implies that the changes are for the better, implying that the Bulgaria of today is perhaps simply experiencing the birth pains of a new nation, though a generation will be lost to the uncertainty of transition as a result.

All of which brings us full circle: there are plenty of great and interesting themes explored in 'Eastern Plays', with the actors more than able to realise them within their believable and fragile characters. The lack of a tighter, more focused narrative, which dulls the pacing and fogs up the intent of the piece, is the biggest culprit. That Kalev is passionate about the subjects presented is very much in evidence, as is the fact that when it comes down to really exploring them through his characters, he is quite skilled at doing so. Here though, he tries to say too much at once, enshrouding the result in fog as a result. When he masters clarity and restraint, however, there is much to suggest his work will be something memorable indeed.

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A token of realism and truthfulness

Author: benign_hypocrite from Greece
15 July 2010

Eastern Plays, directed and written by Kamen Kalev a young and rising director, is set in Sofia the capital city of Bulgaria. The main character is a former drug addict Christo played by Christo Christov. Christo confronts many problems in his life as he is searching for some meaning in a strange and unfriendly world.

The main characters Christo and his brother Georgi worry about their umeaningful lives. Christo finds resort in alcohol and his art on the other hand Georgi joins a fascist skinhead gang because he just wants to belong somewhere. Obviously the two brothers have very much in common and they are trying to find a meaning in a world that seems so volatile and sometimes hostile too. The film shows to us that human beings deserve a better way of life without hostilities between men, a life where love and respect will reign and this can be achieved only by young people such as Christo, Georgi and Ishil because most of the adults are lost in their problems and totally compromised with this unfriendly way of life.

Eastern Plays covers many of the problems young people face in society today. Drug addiction, racist gangs, generation gap, the need to belong somewhere. This is all done in a realistic way with which most of us can identify. Christo Christov and the other actors too are brilliant in their roles and convincing in the emotions they portray throughout.

Of course there are some flaws in the film. Moreover the absence of a concrete and stable scenario. To a certain extent the film is predictable and it doesn't surprise you with sudden changes. The dialogs also could be better and more extensive in ideas.

Overall the film was good and it's a pity that many of s don't know about the Balkan cinema scene and particularly the Bulgarian cinema scene. I think and I hope that job such as that film will encourage new directors from Bulgaria to express their ideas and their feelings through filming.

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