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THE INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FILM FESTIVAL (IAFF) GOLDEN KUKER - SOFIA, started its activity in October 2010 in Sofia and is the first festival of the art of animated films in Bulgaria since the new century. It is held every spring in May and is one of the most attractive cultural events in Bulgaria! The festival is a bridge between professionals from all over the world and succeeds in showing the best of Bulgarian and world animation, aiming to stimulate the creative expressions of animators from all over the world.


IAFF GOLDEN KUKER - SOFIA plays a key role in the animation industry because it is organized by animators who produce animated films themselves which are interesting for people of different generations. IAFF Golden Kuker - Sofia shows a high level of professional performance and a huge international participation with plenty of works of talented people from all over the world. During the festival and throughout the year, animators and audiences have the opportunity to attend professional master classes led by world-renowned directors and animators, exhibitions, seminars, round tables, presentations and impressive events related to the art of animation.


Each year the festival focuses on the preservation of the environment, a traveling festival is held in the country as well. It is organized by the animation studio ANIMART Ltd. www.animart-bg.com and the Bulgarian Association of Independent Animation Artists (BAIAA) “Proiko Proikov “(Legendary Bulgarian animator) www.baicaa.org/en/gallery/ - a nonprofit organization. The Association was created and chaired by Ms. Nadezhda Slavova (animator, director and screenwriter of many animated films), she also created the festival as she its director. Festival guests from all over the world have the opportunity to participate in tourist trip destinations in order to see the sights of our beautiful and unique country Bulgaria. The grand prize is “GOLDEN KUKER”, the Special Prize is in the name of “Proko Proikov” and there are also other awards in different categories.


IAFF GOLDEN KUKER - SOFIA is supported by the National Film Center, the Sofia Municipal Council, Sofia Municipality, the National Culture Fund, the Bulgarian National Television, the Bulgarian National Radio, the American Embassy, the Czech Cultural Center, the Hungarian Cultural Center, the Polish Institute - Sofia, the French cultural institute and by business companies in Bulgaria, who became its partners.bravely rolled up her sleeves and together with her colleagues from BAICAA organised The International Animation Film Festival Golden Kuker-Sofia. She then became an Art Director of the festival and carried out its 1st edition.



The truth about the festival - Article by the newspaper Kultura

Success and ... scandal. Golden Kuker- Sofia



Bulgarian animators and lovers of animation have been patiently waiting for many years (exactly twenty-one!) for an international festival of animated films to be held in Bulgaria again. From October 13 to 17 this became a fact and at the International Festival of Animated Film "Golden Kuker- Sofia" in the "Lumiere" hall of the National Palace of Culture we had the pleasure to watch 214 films from 29 countries.


The Golden Kuker - Sofia Festival managed to exceed all expectations with its second edition and became one of the serious animation festivals - both for the quality and the quantity of its films. The festival became a cultural event. The 80 films of the animation program were a hard task which was decided by the international jury, in which we were with Chaba Varga (Hungary) and Zlatin Radev - in some categories the awards were simply not enough to celebrate all achievements. The unusual thing in this case is that the festival was held without any subsidy or financial support. An exception is the Bulgarian National Radio being a media partner. In our country this is tantamount to a miracle and it is no coincidence that the whole animation and art guild  wondered until the last moment if such an event would really happen.


Like any large-scale initiative in our country, this caused confusion, controversy and scandals. The organizer of the event is BANHA (Bulgarian Association of Independent Animation Artists) with chairman and director of the festival Nadezhda Slavova. However, the Animation Guild at SBFD (or at least part of it) was very jealous and tried to boycott the forum. The apple of discord became the dispute over the name "Golden Kuker". This was the name of the grand prize of the World Festival of Animated Film in Varna, the last edition of which was in 1989. It is curious that the guild did not react in the same way when two years ago Dim Dukov announced in the media his intention to revive the "Golden Kuker" festival in the sea capital of Varna. His project is not being implemented. The negative reaction against the festival in Sofia was so strong that the chairman of the Bulgarian section of ASIFA (International Association for Animated Films) Pencho Kunchev allowed himself to write an open letter, published on the association's website, calling the festival's management a "suspicious organization", which "behind the back of ASIFA-Bulgaria" had sent invitations to artists from around the world, and categorically states that SBFD has not "given permission" to hold the event. The tone is nostalgically reminiscent of the old socialism days, when every endeavor had to seek the highest favor from the relevant party body. I suppose that if Nadezhda Slavova could predict what strong resistance she would provoke, she would be hesitant to register the Golden Kuker brand, which later changed to Golden Kuker - Sofia. The scandal has already subsided for a bit, but a number of prominent Bulgarian directors still did not visit the festival and - much worse - did not allow the films of their students from NATFA and NBU to appear at a successful international forum. Disputes and opposition seem to have become an established national sport. But in this case, sports are harmful to the national culture. I can only hope that the next edition of the festival will succeed in reconciling the warring sides of the dispute, especially since the realization of an international animation festival in Bulgaria has long been a dream of all Bulgarian animators.


The program of "Golden Kuker - Sofia" was extremely diverse and included films from different continents - from Europe, America, Asia and Australia. The variety of genres and styles delights connoisseurs. The festival featured films by three Oscar-nominated authors: Paul Driesen, Geisa M. Toth and Zlatin Radev, as well as four award-winning animators from the world's most prestigious Annecy Animation Festival. Not to mention that films by 47 of the participants have already been awarded at a number of respected international forums, including category A festivals such as Hiroshima and Zagreb.


A really fortunate circumstance for us is that "The Kuker" was won by a Bulgarian author.The award went to "Felinichita" by Andrei Tsvetkov. Jury member Chaba Varga (whose film "The Wind" is among the top 10 in 20th-century European animation) said he had never seen such a well animated and well drawn film in years. Andrey Tsvetkov proposed a new, tighter and shortened version of "Felinichita" aside from the one shown last year at the "Golden Rhyton" in Plovdiv. This is a poetic film aimed at connoisseurs of Fellini. In it, the maestro's famous works, such as "The Road", "Nights of Cabiria", "Sweet Life", "8 ½", "Rome", "Amarcord", etc., are carefully presented with hand-drawn animation. The main key in the visual concept is the combination between the memory of a living actor and his painted incarnation. Andrei Tsvetkov did a very interesting experiment, balancing between the free animated image and Fellini's film universe. The author is shown in time in the screenshot of Juliet Mazina, but it serves specifically to create an association. And in the action itself, Mazina is replaced by the image of the Clown, where no portrait resemblance is sought. The film is beautifully drawn and recreates the sense of carnival that is leading Fellini. Andrey Tsvetkov follows the associative and emotional logic from the maestro's films and manages to maintain the sadly funny lyrical tone. At the same time, the author is not deprived of the specific animation tools that synthesize and summarize his association. The fashion show of church vestments, shot with such irony by Fellini is represented only by the performance of pompous costumes without the people in them, and the sweeping of the marching soldiers in the shovel of the janitor is a concentrated image of the messages in Amarcord.


In addition to "Felinichita", the festival screened 9 other Bulgarian films in the competition program, as well as retrospectives of Rumen Petkov, Zlatin Radev, Boyko Kanev, Vitko Boyanov. However, it turned out that not the entire animation guild from SBFD boycotted the festival and some of the best films of the last two years worthily represented Bulgaria. "Anna Blume" by Vessela Dancheva received the award for best film in the category up to 10 minutes. This is a very unusual film that bridges the gap with the European avant-garde. The film is based on a poem by Dadaist Kurt Schwitters from 1919, and the visual style is surrealistic. The author explores the depths of the subconscious, the dimensions of sexuality, the vague impulses that overwhelm human beings. The visual style is in elegant black and white, combined with one main color, and is based on symbols that are both familiar and unusually presented. The feminine principle is an element caused by the bright spot of lipstick on a cup of coffee, and the masculine one is represented by one of the favorite symbols of the Surrealists - the bomb (remember Magritte with his bombet). Avant-garde and modernism have a continuous development in the history of Bulgarian culture. In the 1950s, they were persecuted as a "declining" phenomenon, and later again subjected to ideological criticism. The authors of "Anna Blume" take us back to Europe and manage to embody in their film the feeling of freedom - spiritual, creative, mental and at the same time to organize their film in a strict musical rhythm.


Mr. Nedelchev's "The Fly", Yonko Donev's "Civilization", Yavor Kalachev's "Fireflies", Miroslav Mirchev's "Conquerors", Hristina Petrova's "Lost", Dalibor Reininger's "How to Cross the Street" (diploma for best educational film) and others worthily presented the work of Bulgarian animators.


The most contested was the battle in the 10 to 25 minute category. The award was shared between Victoria Matter's Stanley Pickle (UK) and Matthias Brun's Duck, Death and Tulip (Germany). "Stanley Pickle" is a film about the late maturation of a man, voluntarily locked in his claustrophobic home, obsessed with the memory of his parents. The work is pixilation (animation of actors), which further reinforces the allusions to real human behavior. Stanley, 20, still has the reactions of a child kissing his mother good morning and spending his days in the company of his parents. There is something strangely mechanical in this world of repetitive actions. The appearance of an unknown girl on the meadow in front of the house is a reason for change. Stanley begins to see his parents as artificial dolls, which he himself winds with a watch key. Their movements become more and more ridiculous and automatic until their very symbolic death, which frees the character for an independent adult life. Victoria Mater shows exceptional mastery in animating the actors - the movements in the house with their truncated phases differ sharply from the smooth dance of the girl in nature and the final feeling of freedom with Stanley. The simple story does not have a sentimental or melodramatic effect, because the author has managed to avoid the happy ending of the love made in this film about the spiritual liberation and initiation of the individual.


"The Duck, Death and the Tulip" is a gentle minimalist film that unexpectedly deeply makes us think about death and life. Matthias Brun's simple drawing is clean and slightly naive. In the philosophical conversation between the duck and death, it is not the loud moments that pup up but important things in life - to warm up your friend when he is cold, to notice and react to small changes in mood of someone. "Why are you following me?" The duck asks. "Just in case." - Death answers and together they go to the afterlife, leading the viewer to reflection.

A lot of movies were left unmarked in this category. For example: The "Seven Brothers" by animated legend Paul Driesen and his son Kai Driesen from the Netherlands is a parody of the tales of the Brothers Grimm (there are seven brothers in the film). The film is realized in the unique ironic style of the master of the cartoon animated image. "Mother's" portrait "of Svetlana Halkina (Russia) is a story about a son who wants to find a wife just like my mother's" portrait ". The story is unfolded in images on the verge of kitsch, which parody "Great Russian" nationalism. "Belly" by Philippe Gramatikopoulos (France) shows an anti-utopia of human self-eating, solved in his traditional style on the border between 3D computer animation and flat graphics, and "Makeup" by David Alapon and Luis Briseno (France) immerses us in an impersonal future in which every manifestation of human nature is ruthlessly persecuted.


One of the big surprises of the festival was the debut film "Angel" by Zalina Bideeva (Russia). The young author literally blew up the hall with her unusually rich painting on glass. Her work is inspired by the style of Yuri Norstein and especially by the technique of Alexander Petrov (for which he received an Oscar in 2000). In this case, however, we see a refined mastery, surprising for a debutant. The film tells the story of a boy whose life is filled with the ridicule of classmates, the cruelty of the teacher and the rude attitude of the mother, but also immerses us in the imaginary spiritual world of the hero through the image of a wax angel from the Christmas tree. Zalina Bideeva is a master of the art of moving realistic painting, amazingly mastering the effects of light to create a unique world filled with many people on the festive streets or with figures drawn to the whirlwind dance. This is extremely difficult to achieve with the means of animated films and the author deservedly received the award for debut.


The rest of the prizes went to Elena Rogova from Hungary for "Hear Me" (Special Award for Children's Film "Proiko Proikov"), to Anastasia Sokolova from Russia for "The Poor Ball" (award for a series of TV series), to Francois Vogel from France for "Stretching" and "After the Rain" (awards for independent film and music video) and with Svetlana Junakovic and Velko Popovic of Croatia for "My Way" (best Balkan film).


The International Festival of Animated Film "Golden Kuker - Sofia" became a cultural event for professionals and lovers of animation. It also included a children's happening with songs, movies and live painting. There were exhibitions with characters and sets from various animated films, among which stood out the exceptional cartoons of Tsenka Kuyumdzhieva, entitled "Sofia Studio" In Memoriam ". There were discussions and a round table, as well as useful meetings with foreign guests. We can only look forward to the next edition of the festival, wish it less scandals and most of all - financial support from the Ministry of Culture and the municipality.


 prof. Nadezhda Marinchevska