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25 reviews in total 
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123 out of 137 people found the following review useful:
Complex and thought-provoking, 19 March 2008

"The Edge of Heaven", original title "On the other side", takes up a number of ideas from Faith Akin's previous film. But it takes them also in a new unexpected direction - with a political view (on Kurdish problem, on Europeans), with additional protagonist types - now the conflicted German Turks are joined by 'naive' Germans proper and 'seen-too-much' Turkish (Kurds) proper. All of the characters were very well constructed and, as representative types of their social groups, offered much material for the audience to reflect upon.

Indeed, a knowledgeable audience would find this film to be replete with commentary on our social and political reality, the Anatolian and the European, and on the respective preconceptions and stereotypes. Some of the commentary is tragic, some is ironic. Here, in Bulgaria, the audience laughed and applauded when the German granma said with all her conviction to the Kurdish girl that everything in her country will become alright once they join the EU. On the other hand, an émigré Kurdish audience will probably applaud a very moving and full of suspense depiction of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey, which is however frank both to Kurds and to the Turkish authorities. It included small cameos from the conflict that are for the first time openly publicised: for example, the revolutionaries as they are taken out of their hideout to be arrested by the police, announce their names to the street and the world, in apprehension of being disappeared by the authorities; minutes later the crowd of passer-bys claps to the departing police vans in a popular approval of the suppression of kurdish struggle...

Still, the myriad political and social themes are only a setting to a much more personal story. The opening of one's soul, the crossing of inner walls that separate us from those who love us. This story is repeated three times, in different context, for the three characters who remain alive to cross 'to the other side': the German mother who accepts her daughter's ideals, the German-Turkish son who forgives his father, the Kurdish girl who takes the love of her friends over her revolutionary commitment. However, the director allows no one of them to consume their redemption within the film's running time - their characters remain tragic.

It is a very powerful film. As a friend said after the screening, it tramples over you like a steam-roller. The emotional mix of the previous film "Head-on" had me cry, but crying releases the pain. This one doesn't let to release the tension even at the final scene. It will stay with you for days after.

25 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
A Sofia story, a human story, 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?

17 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
War is larger than man, 6 November 2006

Another post-yugoslav film defending the humanity of the Balkan peoples in the light of European accusations that they are innately violent and blood-thirsty. It attempts to prove instead, that War is larger than man! The War easily defeats him into a monster that plunders his own house and seeks the murder of his own best friends.

The film follows the fate of a group of besieged Serbian soldiers coping with their imminent death in parallel with the stories of how they ended up as soldiers. Yet it manages to do this in more light-hearted way than one would expect! Maybe because humour has been always the last resource of the downcast, at least in this part of the world!

Balkan people may not be murderous savages, but they are masters in fashioning absurdity, and they appreciate absurdity when it happens to them. In this, the film characters stand next to the director, even when facing their own deaths. Absurdity of a fine sort fills the entire film, one might guess what is expecting him from the witty title itself properly translated as "Beautiful villages burn beautifully". I am only afraid it might lead the audience to believe that Bosnian war is portrayed here with more artistic license or exaggeration than is the truth...

"Lepa sela lepo gore" shares the same theme as the bosnian film "No man's land" and ends (very movingly at that!) with the same message - an outsider is not in position to judge or qualify those who have lived through the conflict for their actions. He has no moral right neither to blame nor to forgive. While "No man's land" relates this issue directly to the habit of international media and western audiences to qualify sides in conflicts they do not understand, this film remains less committed to the contemporary. Instead it poses the same question to all of us as humans.

17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
festivalous!, 16 February 2006

this is a lovely portrait of the patriarchal balkan society of ottoman times! (it is set in late 1880s, some 10 years after Serbia acquired the Nis area, but European modernity hasn't quite come yet!) or a myth about it. beautiful myth of the festivity and colourfulness of the bygone times, a myth that every people on earth needs! I am so glad that we also acquired one, and so well made (the dialogue, the set, the costumes, the soundtrack!), and done true to our own spirit (the dialogue, the body language!!!)! Indeed, being an internationally overlooked region has this among its advantages - we didn't have Hollywood making our myths! cf. Braveheart for the Scottish and so many other examples

and I say "we", because this portrait will easily be recognised as "own" in any of the Balkan countries! When I was showing it to a friend from far off Cyprus and she exclaimed in surprise "oh! your countries are really like this? but it looks the same as us!!!". yes, unfortunately the walls of hot and cold war have been impenetrable ever since those 1880s until very recently! today we have the first chances to rediscover our neighbours.

I think bulgarians will especially enjoy listening to the language. It is much lighter to understand for the unaccustomed than standard Serbian, yet familiar words are delivered with a charming softening of the consonants and the quince-taste intonation patterns of the Serbian language! (some local commentators mentioned that the dialect is not performed very well by the non-native to the area actors.)

Heh, almost everyone discusses language! Indeed, as colourful as is the visual, twice as much is the beauty of expression! This is typical for the XIX. century Balkans and for our "national classics" of literature. Unfortunately, it is not humanly possible to translate, but still I warmly recommend Zona Zamfirova to foreigners! Even if you miss on everything else, the brave eye-flirt between the two young, and the excited help of their friends for the good of love will make you remember your own first 'falling in love' and it will have your heart beat!

PS: I speak of myths, but the film is based on a novel of the time (looks like a satire on the then contemporary patriarchal society?), and I am very excited to read it soon!

18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Very calm and very real film., 5 March 2005

One should be in a relaxed mood when going to see this film. Be there to tranquilly cherish the moments of life and the film will open itself and offer you all its hidden prizes.

Someone mentioned the landscapes are bleak... The film is isomorphic to its landscapes. Bleak and lovely at the same time. Little bit depressing for those who choose to stay at a distance, to look at (film or landscapes) as at exhibits. For those who step in, it becomes precious in its touching ugliness. As you enter, ugliness is redefined. We are able to adore and love what we thought ugly before when we lived in the world bombarded by artificially selected beauty. We appreciate the naturality, the simple yet awkward reality of landscapes, of characters and of situations. The directing and actors are both excellent and succeed to achieve this reality so difficult to balance on screen!

There isn't more talk than necessary, more expression of emotions or velocity of thought than a real living person would allow - not any of the tricks directors have to use to keep us interested. Yet the film is not boring. Because we can feel and understand the characters on screen as fully as we can a human being next to us! We can recognize little parts from the happening in the memories of our own life.

Memories otherwise we'd never pay attention to.

11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
A humble, monumental and so necessary!, 17 August 2007

Watermelons, boats, boats from watermelon rinds - clearly this is a film about childhood! About that special kind of childhood of the East or maybe of the Past!

In childhood every detail is full of meaning, full of amusement, the near future holds grand plans and dreams, in childhood myths can have very real appearances, and there are many many summer minutes to spend with your friends, on the dried meadows of the village or maybe on the imaginary sands of the coast...

A childhood in the East: where townsmen are too poor but have their pride, where they still pay a lot of attention and appreciate the small details, where life repeats its slow rhythms and the future is blissfully far away. In the East myths still can have very real appearances, and there are many many daily moments to spend enjoying the simple blessings of God while waving off the flies in the hot air, chatting with your watermelon customers, or taking a nap!

I should warn you that just like our childhood, the film has no specific finale, it ends unexpectedly, taken away by the circumstances. One day we realise it has been gone for some time already, while we had still so much more plans and business to do with it...!

A humble, monumental and so necessary memory of times that will one day pass, and places that will soon change! Ashkolsun arkadashlar!

The Kite (2003)
11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Bizarre, bizarre, bizarre, 11 August 2007

Bizarre, humorous, touching and again - bizarre! A girl is married by her family to the cousin just across the border. Everything is done by the rules and custom! far as possible when the aunts have to shout across the no-man's land with megaphones! ...The future husband is extolled, the virtues of the prospective bride are enumerated, ...the soldiers manning the watchtowers are blushing.

However, Lamia is a very strong girl with a bit of a mind of her own.

While walking the dirt-track from the Lebanese to the Israeli checkpoint in a white wedding dress, she does not cry. In patriarchal societies the bride is given up to her new family for good (And allow me to stress here, not "Muslim" but "Patriarchal" society, for these customs did not differ much in many lands of Christian Europe at the time when people still extracted their bite of bread with year-long toil over the unforgiving earth). Thus, countless brides cried upon leaving their father's doorstep. So much so that mourning for the forsaken family has become a formal and important part of the wedding ritual (or "hadn't her family loved and cared well enough for her??" the neighbours will gossip!)

Lamia refuses to cry, leaving not only family but an injured yet proud fatherland behind the barbed wires. From now on she refuses to do many more things expected from her - by her relatives or by us! ...Because the white kite is still there - flapping with wings in her soul! It won't stay for long pierced on the barbed fence.

The whole film is built with lightedness, with enjoyment of life, with a touch of humour, despite the serious problems it centers on. This contrasts starkly with another recent palestinian film on a related theme - "Atash". But this is the lightedness of the young yet not roughened heart. It accepts everything without hind thoughts or preconceptions, it is still able to see the beauty in anything that surrounds it. This heart, thanks to an amazing director, transforms the film itself! It offers to us to see unprejudiced the beautiful characters, the striking landscape (the absurdist military border even adds to this!), the flying kites, the happy-despite-everything children and the great music!

The main story is braided with so many other important lines, though they may be barely noticeable! They are warm tributes of the director to the local life, to the locals, to their style. If I have to mention just one of these cameos that stayed with me, it is the deep and honest love between a sister and her small brother! Through the sum of all cameos this film becomes a fully fleshed and very loving portrait of a society in transition between Tradition and Modernity. Society that even put in the transitional confusion, and in the odd border situation, does not loose identity and character. Imagine your old mother coming to visit you, the emigrant to London, and on the airport clearing the baggage security with dozens of home-made jars of baked paprikas, mashed aubergines or quince conserve. This is the homey taste of this film! : )

Finally, it is a film about Love! About many loves, in fact. Even the man getting drunk and sleeping with prostitutes every night because his village was annexed by the Israelis on the day of his wedding and he never saw the wife he was married to! This was love too.

11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
The idea is excellent but is not fully exploited :(, 22 January 2005

The idea of this film is great and more productions should follow its steps of exploring and fitting together the Balkan tiles! Our nations have been separated by barbed wire and self-delusion for very long time - even during the "internationalist" Communism. For decades the world next to our immediate borders has been blackouted. We are well acquainted with the life of USA or Russia, but not of Serbia or Turkey! As result we have forgotten that until 130 years ago we all lived in one and the same country and so we share one way of life, of work and of merriment. This I discovered personally for the first time a few years ago when I first crossed the Border with a sinking stomach!

As a traveler myself, the first-hand-view of this film, a lot of it shot with a hidden camera, looked strikingly familiar! It is a very crude documentary - more like a diary of Adela (the film-maker)'s journey. I think such genre of film-making could have great future if intelligently produced!

However she had higher aims in mind, and I think she failed to achieve those. That resulted in a rather more grave depiction of the Balkans, present and future, than they really are.

The persons which Adela sought in each country were from different social backgrounds - from an educated actor or opera singer (Turkey and Albania) to vulgar rascals in the local pub (as you could conclude from their initial chat on "nowadays girls"; Serbia) to nationalists the biker type (Bulgaria). Clearly neither of those could represent the attitudes of a whole nation towards its neighbours. The author should have looked for some way to make this point. Note, that while outsiders might perceive this documentary as a depiction of the Balkans as a whole, the home audience will look at it as a sequence of separate reflections - one on every neighbour - and take those reflections home. However, they are quite onesided!

The two most embarrassing episodes both happen at the end so they set the grim concluding mood. Although there were moderate and some very intelligent statements (Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia), they are overshadowed by the emotional effect of the shocking. Unfortunately the same happens in our lives and politics as well, and that is precisely how we got the recent resurrection of turmoil.

And my last point: in the beginning one might be inclined to wrongly believe that the "true" history of the song will be relieved to him at some point. This doesn't happen and it leaves a certain degree of disappointment later. Although the pattern becomes somewhat clear for the viewer following the many partial information suggested, it is never explicitly summarised. Presenting the results from a dedicated scientific research in an epilogue would have been an invaluable addendum!

Despite the many drawbacks this film is very important for revealing the true Balkan world to the rest of the world. And to ourselves! I hope more film-making of this sort follows up. However, although it is 100% reality, it is still a tiny bit of a huge colourful mosaic! Please, don't draw your understanding of the Balkans only from it. The best way, of course, is to visit and study those countries for yourself! Believe me, you will enjoy it! :)


SPOILER: The following might be interesting for you after you have seen the film:

In some later interviews in Bulgarian media Mrs Adela Peeva said that Iranian and Lebanese colleagues who saw the film confirmed that this song also exists in their countries. There is a speculation that it may have been originally a Jewish song carried all over the area by the Jewish migrations - "because it sounds most impressive when performed on a certain type of Jewish flute".

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
i enjoyed immensely the exchanges between husband and wife, 27 January 2009

The film quietly touches on so many issues of living together with another, of having a family, of having an unfulfilled desire for creativity. Most of all, it is a very human story presented in a very human and intimate manner. The director is obviously a master of his art. The characters are very full, yet they are not revealed entirely and keep surprising us until the end. They are quite independent. In fact, despite a 12 year married life, they do not know each other that much either!

Even in translation, the dialogues between husband and wife remained brilliant and with some peculiar sense of poetry! I can only envy the farsi-speaking audience!

Roya has a vivid imagination for tales and stories, with which she entertains her cute young son and daughter. However, she is not satisfied with being just a mother and a housewife. She starts going to a film-writing course in the University. Her husband has his own apprehensions about the literary ambitions of his wife. The two of them try to keep their love and family together, while stumbling at their differing expectations, fears, and cracks of communication.

The central topic of the film is a much discussed one: the difficulties that face those women in the more patriarchal societies of the Middle East that want to express themselves publicly /artistically as independent persons. A number of now famous writers had to fight with the reluctance of their more conservative husbands to be overshadowed in public life by their gentler partner. Also, they've had to balance their individualist pursuits with the overbearing social duty to be devoted to the family. In this film, the husband is not conservative, their standings in the family are on par, but still issues pop up. This makes it all the more interesting for a European audience, as well as, showing a more realistic portrait of the middle-class family in modern Muslim countries.

Although this is a drama, somehow it had a light feeling to it (except for the final parts). It felt lyrical, a bit like a fairy tale, and the same time homey and very realist.

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Very authentic!, 7 June 2005

The very special in this film is the total openness towards us, the sincerity! We see those people in their world and they are not afraid to let us touch to their hearts in a something that to us might seem naivety. This sincerity and welcoming is something typical in the Balkans although it has been spoiled to a varying degree by the drive for modernisation and "Europeanisation" ever since the XIX. century. Yet it still bears its mark on the people here, and, in some spots it is preserved in its purest form! One of these we see in "Letter to America".

Although it is a feature film it feels like a documentary. Only the main characters in this story are actors. It is filmed with real people in real places that the author came upon in her search in the mountains. To a foreigner it might look as a fantasy, and the people we see are indeed living in magic and mysticism - but in their magic they are far more real than our civilisation!

You will see a lot of very old people who live by even older ways. I hope your soul will gain a little bit from experiencing this pagan-orthodox tradition where happiness, life and death are perceived in very different way from what we have become accustomed to.

One of the old heroines says to the main character, a visitor to the village just like the viewer, "I am not afraid of death! Why should I be afraid of death - I have made ready my newest and best dress! Here - come - I will show it to you! ...I am not afraid of death, I am afraid of people. Sometimes there are bad people..." These words reminded me about conversations with my own 92 years old grandmother.

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