SHORT HISTORY

SHORT HISTORY

OF THE UNION OF BULGARIAN FILM MAKERS

81 YEARS

The beginning of CINEMA art in Bulgaria is like this of other small European countries. Just a year after the historical film-show projection of Lumiere Brothers in ‘Grand coffee’ in Paris, the ‘cinematograph’ penetrates in Bulgaria. The continuous way of the seventh art has been marked by events, which are not too different from the same in Europe at the time – foreigners filmed the first chronicle - documentary films in 1903, and around 1905 there appeared the first movable cinemas. Three years later in 1908, the first Bulgarian Cinema Theater ‘Modern Theater’ opened its doors. Around 1910 took place the realization of the first Bulgarian films and started the cinema business, which first realized the necessity of unifying in own commercial interest. 

In such a way in 1915, the owners of cinema-theaters in Bulgaria decided to unify and registered their first Statute. In the summer of 1924 in the town of VELIKO TARNOVO was carried the first, constitutive Congress of the Union of Bulgarian Cinema halls Owners. In 1920, the cinema-projectionists organized in their own union. In 1924 under an initiative of the magazine ‘Our cinema’, was founded ‘The Society of cinemagoers in Bulgaria’ and its branches were quickly opened in the towns of Yambol, Stara Zagora, Shumen, Rousse, Gabrovo, Pleven, Bourgas, Varna.

Two years later in 1926 was founded the ‘Union of friends of film art’ by prominent Bulgarian intellectuals. The aim was to help the right understanding of the cinema as an art. Among the founders were professor Asen Zlatarov, the producer and journalist Dimitar Azmanov, the editor Pantelei Karasimeonov, the writers Dobri Nemirov, Elin Pelin, Chavdar Mutafov, Emanuil Popdimitrov, Ludmil Stoyanov, Stilian Chilingirov, Angel Kraliichev, the artists Aleksandar Bojinov, Ivan Milev, Dechko Uzunov, Ivan Petkov and other prominent Bulgarian intellectuals.

Thus gradually was realized the idea of the pioneers of Bulgarian cinema  - Vassil Gendov, Boris Grejov, Alexander Vazov, Petar Stoychev, Vassil Bakardjiev, Vassil Poshev, Simeon Simeonov, Stefan Popov, Minko Balkanski, Velko Stoev – to be created the first organization of Bulgarian film makers. In the end of July 1934, the Sofia newspaper “Slovo” reported: “At the General Assembly of The Union of Film Producers there were taken important decisions of great social significance. For instance, The Union was renamed to ‘Union of the Film Makers in Bulgaria’. The aim was as Union’s members to be attracted our public figures, writers, journalists, composers, theatre critics, actors and others.” Then for the first chairperson was elected the director of the first Bulgarian feature “Balgaran e gallant” (1915) Vassil Gendov and was constituted a presentation to the minister of education. This presentation explained the needs for keeping and supporting of the general cultural interests of Bulgarian film producing.

With the engagement of a wide intellectual circle and authors, this initiative created the first image of the current structure of Union of Bulgarian Film Makers – the Board of managers and Sub-unions of the different film professionals.

At the same time was born the idea for the creation of a printed organ of the Union. This aimed to ‘light up’ the Union’s activities and tasks. This idea was realized in 1946 when was printed the first issue of the magazine ‘Kino i Photo’ (‘Cinema and Photo’), renamed later to ‘Kino’ (‘Cinema’), to ‘Kinoizkustvo’ (‘Cinema Art’) and renamed finally to the current printed issue of the Union of Bulgarian Film Makers – KINO magazine. 

 During the first half of the twentieth Century, the pioneers of the Bulgarian cinema using the newly created Union started the ‘battle’ for recognition of the Cinema as Art and as a competent part of the national culture. Perseveringly they addressed the state institutions with proposals for the creation of a film-producing base, for state support of the film industry and for the creation of a Fund for national film production on the base of tax striking from incomes of the film distributors.

 Observing these processes from our today's point of view we could see the perspicacity of the first Bulgarian film makers, who founded the Union of authors. They had foreseen not only the strong growth and dissemination of audiovision in the following decades, but also its very considerable cultural role during the second half of the last century including the economical and financial mechanisms, which currently are the base of the huge film production today in the world.

  However, the history of the Union did not elapse without concussions in the years immediately after the established in 1944 communist dictatorship. With a Council of Ministers enactment in 1948, the Union was broken and transformed to ‘Cinema House’. The organization was restored six years later – in 1954. At the same time, during the socialist period 1944 – 1989 because of the ideological aims of the communistic government, there were created very good conditions for the institutional consolidation of Union of Bulgarian Film Makers.

 To honor of the greater part of its members, the Union did not allow to be an instrument only of the communistic propaganda. As early as the 1950’s it started to offer intellectual resistance of that propaganda and to defend independent author's creativity. Thus, the Union covered very serious place in the life of Bulgarian society and played an important role for the accomplishment of the democratic changes asserting the principle of creativity freedom in the Art. Union’s bright representatives were among the first people who took part in the process of democratization of the Bulgarian political system and its opening to the achievements of contemporary civilization.

The Union of Bulgarian Film Makers has an important contribution for the development of contemporary structure of Bulgarian cinematography, the organization of film industry and authors' qualification.

The Union of Bulgarian Film Makers carries out great activities for strengthening of Bulgarian cinema art, for the development of film theory and film criticism. For many years, it has been the publisher of two very valuable film magazines – 'Kinoizkustvo" (‘Cinema art’) and ‘Filmovi Novini’ ('Film News') - among the Bulgarian culture periodic. 

The Union of Bulgarian Film Makers is an initiator, organizer or co-organizer of all film festivals in Bulgaria.

In 1970 attached to the Union were founded a Society of the young film makers and Experimental Studio for film debuts. That in a great degree contributed to the creative development of the next generation film authors. 

During the years, the Union did much for rising up the film culture of the cinemagoers. The Union carries out important international activities, realizing contacts with the world’s cinematography. The Union sends its members to international festivals and organizes international meetings, conferences, symposiums and discussions on the art of cinema.

Due to its international authority the Union of Bulgarian Film Makers was accepted as a member of the most authoritative international film organizations – FERA, FIPRESCI, ASIFA, CIFEJ, UNI-MEI/EURO-ME/.

Among the members of the Union of Bulgarian Film Makers have been and are the most prominent Bulgarian film directors, dramatists and writers, cameramen, composers and sound directors, animators, artists, film editors, film critics and theoreticians, producers. Among the Union members are the favorite of Bulgarian public actors and actresses.

Today the Union has almost 1000 members. UBFM's Presidents till its transformation in 1948 had been the pioneers of the Bulgarian cinema Vassil Gendov, Alexander Vazov and Ivan Fichev. After its restoration in 1954 that position was held by the director Dako Dakovski, by Christo Santov, by the literature and film critic Emil Petrov, by the known in the whole world with his animation pictures academician Todor Dinov, by the prominent film directors Christo Christov, Gueorgui Stoyanov (the present President - for a second time), Christo Totev (cameraman), Pavel Vassev, Michail Meltev and Ivan Pavlov.  

After 1989, The Union of Bulgarian Film Makers participated very actively in the process of social changes and democratization. Today the Union contributes to the development of new rules and laws of film industry and film dissemination and many of its members are among the most eminent public figures in Bulgaria that lead the nation towards the society of democratic values.

(Based on investigations by Peter Kurdjilov and by Alexander Yanakiev and on information by Kamen Todorov)