Post­man with a no­ble mes­sage

Sleepy Bul­gar­ian vil­lage a mi­cro­cosm of refugee drama in Hris­tov doc screen­ing at TDF

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY HARRY VAN VERSENDAAL

Ivan, the post­man of a mostly de­serted Bul­gar­ian vil­lage on the bor­der with Turkey, is run­ning for mayor on a rather un­con­ven­tional mes­sage: If he wins the elec­tion, he will wel­come Syr­ian refugees, who now creep silently through the ru­ral ter­rain, so they can set­tle in the vil­lage’s many va­cant, di­lap­i­dated prop­er­ties and breathe new life into the set­tle­ment.

Golyam Der­vent (pop. 38) – known as as the “great gate” due to its lo­ca­tion – is the set­ting of Ton­islav Hris­tov lat­est doc­u­men­tary “The Good Post­man,” which is screen­ing at the on­go­ing Thes­sa­loniki Doc­u­men­tary Fes­ti­val and re­sem­bles a mi­cro­cosm of the drama that has been un­fold­ing in Europe since the out­break of the Syr­ian refugee cri­sis. Bul­garia has joined other na­tions in the Balkan re­gion in tak­ing a hard­line re­sponse to the in­flux of mi­grants and asy­lum seek­ers into the con­ti­nent. Less than two decades since re­mov­ing a mas­sive bor­der fence de­signed to keep peo­ple in, au­thor­i­ties in the for­mer Soviet satel­lite have built a new one along the bor­der with Turkey – this time to keep peo­ple out.

Shot over the course of a re­gional elec­tion cam­paign, the cam­era fol­lows Ivan, a gen­tle-man­nered, silver-haired man who lives alone, pit­ting his in­clu­sive, pro­gres­sive vi­sion against the xeno­pho­bic, we-had-it-bet­ter-un­der­com­mu­nism al­ter­na­tive put for­ward by his ri­val, who re­sem­bles a washed-up Hol­ly­wood has-been. (In what is prob­a­bly the film’s most fun­nily sur­real mo­ment, the lat­ter de­liv­ers a con­fused speech from the vil­lage cafe pa­tio over­look­ing a va­cant field to the fu­tur­is­tic sounds of a vin­tage Ca­sio key­board syn­the­sizer). The elderly vil­lagers’ re­ac­tions are mixed.

“The Good Post­man” pre­miered in 2016 at Am­s­ter­dam’s In­ter­na­tional Doc­u­men­tary Film Fes­ti­val (IDFA), where it was nom­i­nated for Best Fea­tureLength Doc­u­men­tary, be­fore screen­ing at the 2017 Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val.

Beau­ti­fully crafted, with stun­ning wide-screen cin­e­matog­ra­phy and a won­der­ful score by Pe­tar Dun­dakov, Hris­tov’s doc­u­men­tary, his fifth, ex­poses the strange world of small-town pol­i­tics, the es­trange­ment of the po­lit­i­cal elites, the sting­ing poverty in the EU’s backyard, the har­row­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion sur­round­ing the mi­gra­tion de­bate, and the nu­ances of the hu­man char­ac­ter.

“I heard on the news that they’re bad peo­ple who kill Bul­gar­i­ans,” a young girl is heard say­ing on a TV news bul­letin play­ing in the back­ground. “But maybe not ev­ery­one is bad,” she adds.

One thing bound to draw protests from purists is that the Bul­gar­ian film­maker, and writer Lubomir Tsvetkov, ap­pear to have staged at least some of the scenes. “Min­i­mal in­ter­fer­ence doesn’t mean max­i­mum re­al­ity. It can ac­tu­ally be the to­tal op­po­site. Some­times you have to in­ter­fere to get as close to the truth as pos­si­ble,” Tsvetkov said in a re­cent in­ter­view.

The elec­tion re­sult (spoiler alert) is not what any of them would have hoped for. Although it’s hard to see how things could change in Golyam Der­vent. Ten years af­ter join­ing the Euro­pean Union, Bul­garia re­mains one of the bloc’s poor­est and most cor­rupt mem­bers. Mean­while, pub­lic op­po­si­tion to im­mi­gra­tion is strong. In a re­cent sur­vey, 73 per­cent of Bul­gar­i­ans said they would back a to­tal ban on cit­i­zens of Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity na­tions en­ter­ing their coun­try. The same poll found that 77 per­cent view im­mi­gra­tion as a threat to the coun­try, up from 47 per­cent in 2015.

The Swiss guards of EU bor­der agency Fron­tex seen pa­trolling for mi­grants traips­ing through the ru­ral ter­rain are un­likely to move out any­time soon.

Ivan, the post­man of a tiny, poor Bul­gar­ian vil­lage on the bor­der with Turkey, is run­ning for mayor in lo­cal elec­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Greece

© PressReader. All rights reserved.